Welcome back to the best blog around! This writer (and fellow Leadership Academy participant) will gladly give you a behind-the-scenes recap of our Leadership Academy adventures this month.
Leadership Academy, an LAX Coastal Chamber program aimed at developing and enhancing the leadership skills of local professionals, had a successful 6th session on Wednesday, April 13 as they learned more about “The Los Angeles Halls of Power.” Our goal was to tour the Downtown Los Angeles area and learn more about our political system through meet-and-greets with local politicians and and inside look at the going-ons of City Hall.
The day started off exciting, to say the least. As part of the Los Angeles experience, the majority of our Leadership Academy students experienced public transportation. many for the first time, by taking the Metro Rail to make their way downtown (check out our blog post, “LAX Coastal Does Metro,” to read more about the public transit experience). After some confusion and miscommunication, and after missing their first train, they finally started their Metro journey on the Green, Blue, and Red Lines until finally arriving a few blocks away from City Hall. Personally, while I have been warmly accepted into this LAX Coastal community, I still live in South Central Los Angeles (spitting distance from one of the Blue Line stops, in fact) and have spent years taking the Metro. I completely understand the… experience that taking public transportation can be, and while I am appreciative of the ease with which it is available, it’s no secret that some of our options deserve a facelift for a more pleasant experience. This being said—and the fact that it is a much shorter distance between my home and City Hall than my home and the LAX Coastal Chamber—I drove myself to City Hall.
Once at City Hall, our group met our very own tour guides, Thomas Flintoft of Kindel Gagan and Kristen Lonner of Burns & Bouchard, who directed us to a City Council and Committee Meeting where we watched our Councilmembers (including our very own representative, Mike Bonin), residents, and professionals discuss topics such as beautification projects, education, housing, and homelessness. It’s wonderful to see firsthand how our government allows the public to not only speak upon, but also be heard, any subject that is important to them and impacts their community. Engagement is extremely important for a cohesive community, helping our residents hold their officials accountable and learn more about the political process as a whole. But, as Bruce Wayne once said, “
Gotham Los Angeles attracts some of the more… colorful citizens.” So while we learned a lot about local politics, we also got a bit of a show (where the highlight was one gentleman who came in braying like a sheep wearing sunglasses and a pillowcase). To each their own!
Our group then hopped on several elevators to go further up into the bowels of City Hall (seriously, you could get lost in this place) for a tour of the Tom Bradley Room on the 27th floor. City Hall is nothing if not grand—the view was spectacular and the elevator rides are endlessly amusing if you keep the right outlook. The elevator system doesn’t connect to every floor, so to make it all the way up you need to hop on a couple different elevators. We had a bit of a scare at one point when our group packed into one elevator only to hear a horrible ringing noise (speaking for myself, I was instantly terrified that we were going to be stuck), but true to form our amazing members helped alleviated the situation by adding a bit of humor to a tense moment when Jeff Russel announced, “Don’t worry, you’re with me… Nothing bad ever happens to me.” And nothing did! Thanks for the good luck, Jeff.
After the amazing view from the top floor, and a few photos ops (see Jose above… We would vote for you, Jose!) we spoke to Ron Galperin, LA City Controller. Did you know that, in an effort for increased transparency, the city has an online spreadsheet that details how much they spend? Seriously. You can go in and check the amount of money spent on dog food for the K9 pups. Or gloves. Or mops. Galperin even told us a funny story about a misunderstanding where a reporter once called, asking who on his staff drove a Rolls-Royce. Apparently the spreadsheet stated “Rolls-Royce” as an item number, failing to see that it was a plane engine! (That would be interesting to see how it could be driven on the freeway…) We also had the pleasure of speaking to Councilmember Mike Bonin, Kevin James of the Public Works Commission, and Cielo Castro Transparency Officer of the City of Los Angeles. It was great learning how these amazing individuals came into their current posts, and hearing more about their plans for our great city.
After hearing these wonderful speakers, the gang headed out to have cocktails at the California Club. This writer unfortunately had to skip out on this fun adventure (due to her complete and utter lack of sense of direction and an unfortunate encounter with one-way streets*), but she heard from the group that everyone had a great time and enjoyed the Downtown Los Angeles view.
All in all, it was a great experience, both informative and memorable, and on behalf of the LAX Coastal Leadership Academy we would like to extend a thank you to Kristen, Tom, and City Hall for having us! See you next month.
*On a side note, you know it’s time to upgrade your GPS when it doesn’t know Downtown Los Angeles is full of one-way streets. But lesson learned. Next time, I’m taking the bus with everyone!