Hillel Aron

Hillel Aron is a writer living in Echo Park. His work has appeared in the LA Weekly, Huffington Post and Neon Tommy. His piece, "So Many Windmills," a profile of uber-gadfly John Walsh, was a finalist for L.A. Press Club's best online news story of 2009.

Born and bred in Los Angeles, California, he graduated from USC film school in 2001. He worked for a time as a video editor, before making his triumphant return to USC to study the burgeoning industry that is journalism.

He enjoys playing soccer and eating hamburgers. Have a pleasant day.

Recent stories by Hillel Aron

Who Runs Los Angeles?

Clockwise from top left: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (srd515); AEG's Tim Leiweke (ericrichardson); Fmr. Mayor Richard Riordan (daveblume); Councilwoman Jan Perry (RobHelfman). All images from flickr.Power in Los Angeles isn't what it used to be. Once, men like Harry and Norman Chandler, former publishers of the L.A. Times and economic oligarchs, wielded enormous political and economic influence across the entire basin. Today, power is diffuse, spread out, parceled out to different players and interest groups- unions, developers and neighborhood groups- who in turn form a perpetually shifting set of alliances. It's the reason why it's so hard to get anything done in L.A.- and perhaps why the city's political outlook seems so uncertain.

On the day after Christmas 1952, Southern California Republican Rep. Norris Poulson received a letter from Norman Chandler, then-publisher of the Los Angeles Times.

"Dear Norrie," the letter began. It went on to explain that Chandler, Asa Call (the president of Pacific Mutual Insurance) and a collection of powerful downtown businessmen had been talking, and they wanted him to run for mayor. They promised to "generously" bankroll the campaign and lobby for a salary bump that would include, as a perk, a Cadillac and chauffer for Poulson to "strut around in."

And so they did. Poulson won the election and served as little more than a puppet of a group that later became known as the Committee of 25, which, depending on your historical interpretation, was either an enormously powerful clique of the city's business elite or a shadow government running the city.

Read more at USC News 21.

Lobbying: An Insider's Take

Howard Marlowe in his K Street Office (John Guenther)Howard Marlowe is a lobbyist's lobbyist. That is to say, he's the president of the American League of Lobbyists. For 27 years he has also been the head of Marlowe & Co., a small firm with only 10 employees and about 45 clients that caters mostly to city and county governments.

We recently sat down with Mr. Marlowe at his office on K Street in Washington, D.C. He speaks in a soft, gentle voice, with a subtle twang audible on words like 'client.' He says the twang comes from his wife, a Southerner (he's from upstate New York). He's got big teeth and art deco glasses, the kind you might see on the cover of an Ayn Rand novel. He was once a teacher and later legislative director for Senator Vance Hartke of Indiana.

Marlowe said he takes ethics very seriously — more seriously than most other lobbyists. And he's proud of his job, proud to have helped his clients get things built — like better beaches and sewage treatment plants. What follows is a peek into the world of lobbying in the words of a lobbyist.

How to Run for City Council on $4,000

Rich GoodmanIn a small two-bedroom apartment in Van Nuys with brown shag carpeting and a cottage cheese ceiling, a French kid named Alexis sits at a desk with headphones, staring at his MacBook through black-frame glasses. As Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik plays from a boom box, Alexis' computer dials phone numbers until someone picks up. He speaks with a noticeable but not thick French accent, reading from a script:

"Hello, Maria? My name is Alex, I'm a volunteer calling about the important city council election on March 8th. Have you already voted?"

A pause, and some back-and-forth about mail-in-ballots.

"I would like to know who you are going to vote for for city council. Oh. Well, I'm supporting Rich Goodman. He's a good man for city council. He just received the L.A. Times endorsement two days ago. He's a Democrat with strong ethics and moral integrity, believes that our taxes should go to our neighborhoods and to improve our streets and sidewalks."

This scene, in this little apartment, this is how you run for Los Angeles City Council on less than $4,000. You get friends (including your dad) and perhaps a few random strangers to volunteer, making phone calls and knocking on doors.

Behind the School Board Races: Reformers With Deep Pockets

Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad gave $150,000 to the newly launched Coalition for School Reform. (Creative Commons licensed by flickr user <a href='http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelevanetarchives/4559018735/'>Michael Evanet Archives</a>)As we reported last week, independent expenditures in the four Board of Education races are approaching $1 million. The races are largely a pitched battle between the United Teachers Union of Los Angeles and a group called the Coalition for School Reform.

In three out of four races, the Coalition has heavily outspent the UTLA (see chart after the jump). As of the last filing deadline in January, they'd raised more than $1 million and still had more than $800,000 left. With the UTLA withdrawing support from two of their candidates earlier in the month the Coalition appears to be cruising towards an unexpectedly easy victory.

But where did all that money come from?

Rich people, mostly.

Bernard Parks v. Unions

(From Bernard Parks's Facebook page)No one was really expecting Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks to have much trouble defeating Forescee Hogan-Rowles in the upcoming city election. But that was before big labor got involved with the race for Council District 8.

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO has spent more than $80,000 in support of Hogan-Rowles, and the IBEW—the electrical workers union—more than $125,000. Through an innocuously named group, Working Californians to Support Forescee Hogan-Rowles, the IBEW is prepared to spend almost a quarter million more on the race. And Hogan-Rowles has drawn further endorsements from the SEIU local 721, the firefighter's union and the policemen's union, which just put in its opening ante on Friday: $47,550 for Hogan-Rowles and $54,000 for radio ads attacking Parks.

So why do the unions have it in for Bernard Parks?