Jewish Journal

Leadership, the Autry, and the Bigger Picture

by  David A. Lehrer

September 10, 2009 | 4:37 pm

Our recent blog about the vacuum in municipal leadership must have struck a raw nerve. Councilman Huizar, the major culprit in the Autry renovation fiasco, had his press aide email Jewish Journal higher ups to complain about “mischaracterizations” in my piece. He didn’t copy me or bother to write on the blog.

He objected to the assertion, as reported in the Los Angeles Times and widely understood elsewhere, that Huizar demanded that the Autry support the Southwest Museum “in perpetuity.” The aide wrote that Huizar “never, not once, said this [in perpetuity].”

On countless occasions during this years-long process, Huizar made clear that the Autry needed to make a legally enforceable, long-term commitment to the Southwest Museum—-the financially strapped museum in his district. For a long period of time, Huizar was amenable to the Southwest being a mixed use facility. On the day of one of the last hearings in this six year drama, he insisted that the Southwest be maintained strictly as a museum.

Huizar used his considerable leverage to pressure the one source he could to invest in a facility that couldn’t maintain itself and for which there were no takers. He overplayed his hand and is now quasi- denying that he did what he did.

What the Huizar aide missed in his response, is the larger point in the blog—-real leadership would have made sure that a compromise emerged, that both sides got an agreement they could live with. Real leadership wouldn’t whine, as the aide did, that the Autry didn’t “follow up” after the Council committee made its excessive demand. A serious leader would have made sure that common ground was found—-not wait for the phone to ring.

Instead, the Autry lost, the Southwest lost, the public lost and the absence of leaders capable of making reason prevail remains glaringly obvious.

There are issues beyond the Autry that dramatize this vacuum in local leadership—-the City’s underfunded pensions and the failure to grapple with the implications of that looming disaster, the recent Measure B fiasco, the Metrorail rail car purchasing mess, even the inability to decide on a vendor from whom to purchase golf carts for the city’s municipal golf courses. Where is the leadership that says it’s time for a change?

Let’s all grow up and deal with the problems we face and not follow the politically expedient course that President Obama warned about last night, “the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road – to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.” We should demand that our leaders stop kicking (and whining) and start leading.

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