Candidates Raise Big Bucks

The race for mayor of Los Angeles is off to an early and vigorous start, with campaign disclosure statements showing that the principal candidates raised more than $2.8 million during 1999.

Commercial real estate broker Steve Soboroff was the hands-down leader, tapping thousands of donors and reporting $1.3 million in contributions, much of that from a single party at the home of Mayor Richard Riordan.

City Attorney James K. Hahn reported raising $638,073. Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, who announced his candidacy in October, made good use of his short time in the race, reporting more than $340,000 in contributions.

And Councilman Joel Wachs, a mayoral candidate in 1993, reported raising $534,000.

GM Revamps Hughes Investment

General Motors Corp. announced plans to restructure its investment in Hughes Electronics Corp., despite pressure from restive investors to spin off the subsidiary, which owns the fast-growing DirecTV satellite television business.

Moving to assure investors that it will further streamline and halt its sliding market share, GM also named President and Chief Operating Officer G. Richard Wagoner Jr. as chief executive. Jack Smith, who currently holds that title, will remain chairman.

In addition, GM will offer common stockholders the ability to exchange as much as $8 billion of their shares for GM Class H shares, which track the performance of El Segundo-based Hughes and have outperformed GM shares over the last year.

Disney Retooling Web Effort

Dramatically scaling back its Internet ambitions, Walt Disney Co. said it will no longer compete as an all-purpose Web portal with Yahoo Inc. and America Online Inc., but instead will refocus its lagging site on entertainment and leisure.

The strategy shift, which comes one year after was launched, reflects the difficulties Disney and other traditional media companies have encountered competing with nimbler rivals focused exclusively on the Internet.

Disney has failed to narrow the gap with those sites despite spending about $500 million to assemble its online properties and heavily advertise Disney executives said the move is not a capitulation of the Internet space to the likes of Yahoo and AOL, but merely a decision to retool the site to emphasize company strengths.

Skunk Works Targeted for Cuts

In another blow to the local aerospace industry, Lockheed Martin Corp. will cut more than 800 white-collar jobs in Palmdale and another 2,000 nationwide as part of a reorganization intended to save $200 million.

As part of the move, the famed Skunk Works in Palmdale officially known as Advanced Projects Development will no longer be a separate operating company within Lockheed Martin. Instead, it will have a general manager but will take direction from a newly created Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. based in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Skunk Works has a long history of developing top-secret aircraft for the U.S. military. Historically, the semiautonomous nature of the facility was credited with allowing it to keep a tight lid on development costs.

Plan Approved for Cigarette Tax

After 10 months of discussions and community meetings, a Los Angeles County citizens commission approved a plan outlining how to spend $87 million in cigarette tax revenue resulting from voter approval of Proposition 10.

Under the plan, $25 million would be spent on parent education, literacy programs and the panel's top priority, a parenting advice help line. Another $25 million would go toward improving access to social services through programs like a home visitation system with nurses to counsel parents. And $25 million more would go into child-care programs.

The commission gave its preliminary approval to the spending plan just weeks before voters will decide whether to repeal Proposition 10, which mandates that all cigarette tax revenue be spent in the interests of children up to age 5.

Inner-City Revitalization Eyed

Hoping to revitalize a community plagued by blight and crime, a coalition of Latino organizations formed a community economic development corporation for the Pico-Union/Westlake area.

The corporation created by groups that include El Rescate, a nonprofit legal aid firm, and Casa de La Cultura of El Salvador, a nonprofit cultural center will work to create low-income housing projects, education and health programs, and undertake efforts to bolster the business climate in the area.

It will be funded by private donations and government grants and will operate like The East Los Angeles Community Union (TELACU), an influential nonprofit community development corporation that has built thousands of low-income housing units and started a lending institution.

Water Standards Aimed at Projects

In a sweeping effort to prevent L.A. County beaches from becoming more polluted as the population grows, the region's water quality board approved standards to require new building projects to limit urban runoff that fouls ocean waters.

Under the hotly disputed measure, major new developments from shopping centers to gas stations to housing subdivisions will have to be designed to collect or filter most rainstorm runoff that flows from roofs, parking lots and other pavement.

The vote by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board came after months of conflict that pitted developers and officials from most local cities against local environmentalists.

Greek Theatre Vote Overturned

Under mounting public pressure, the L.A. City Council voted to rescind a controversial agreement that gave the Nederlander family the exclusive right to continue running the Greek Theatre without a competitive bid.

Lawmakers took the action after learning that a referendum sponsored by a Nederlander competitor, the Universal House of Blues would be placed on the November ballot. The measure asks voters to overturn the agreement and force the city to seek offers from other bidders.

For 25 years, the city has contracted with Nederlander to run the outdoor amphitheater. Instead of the lease going out for competitive bid when it came up for renewal, lawmakers have given extension after extension to the firm, which is owned by members of the Nederlander family.

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