Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn and one of his challengers, City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, sparred last week over efforts to attract biomedical and biotech jobs to L.A.

The first shot came from Hahn's City Hall press office: a bid from the city for the headquarters of the yet-to-be established California Institute for Regenerative Medicine that voters authorized last fall when they approved a $3 billion stem cell research initiative.

The bid was contained in a letter addressed to Robert Klein, chair of the independent citizen's oversight committee of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. In the bid, Hahn offered up two downtown Los Angeles locations for the headquarters: the Banco Popular Building at Spring and Fourth streets and City National Plaza at Flower and Fifth streets. He also said he would be open to other locations, including possible sites near the USC campus.

The next day, Villaraigosa participated in a press conference with L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina and University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine Dean Brian Henderson announcing the formation of a joint county-city authority to expedite a long-stalled biomedical research park near County-USC Medical Center.

Nearly four years ago, after losing his first bid for mayor, Villaraigosa was hired by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad as a lobbyist and facilitator for a proposed biomedical park near County-USC. That plan ran into red tape because the land, which is now in Villaraigosa's council district, has multiple owners.

Later in the week, Villaraigosa's campaign shot off a memo to Hahn taking the mayor to task for being late to the stem cell headquarters game. The memo, titled "Maybe the Mayor Needs a Stem Cell Implant," said Hahn's press release and letter was a publicity stunt designed to pre-empt the Villaraigosa/Molina announcement on the biomed park.

"While Jim Hahn was been busy issuing phony press releases, other cities were hard at work putting together credible proposals to lure the headquarters of the Stem Cell Institute to their cities," the campaign memo said.

Hahn campaign consultant Kam Kuwata said the press release was not designed to pre-empt the biomed park announcement. "Earlier in the week, we finally secured some office space for this center, and that's why the press release was put out," Kuwata said.

Parks Goes to the Movies

It's no secret that the mayoral campaign of L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks is running short on cash. That could explain why the Parks campaign took the unusual move of putting a campaign ad in dozens of movie theaters.

"It's a very inexpensive way for someone to reach potential voters," said Richard Lichtenstein, a campaign and political consultant with Marathon Communications. Movie ads cost a fraction of broadcast ads, in large part because they reach far fewer people.

Parks campaign spokesman Bernard Parks Jr. offered a different explanation. "We chose this because no other candidate was doing it and because you have a captive audience that can see the ad," he said.

Until now, candidates have been reluctant to use movie ads because audiences have generally not been receptive.

Parks' 30-second ad has been appearing on 83 screens at seven AMC Theatre complexes; the campaign estimates the number of viewers at nearly 420,000.

Only three of the complexes are within L.A. city limits: the Avco Center in Westwood, the AMC 14 complex in Century City and the Promenade in Woodland Hills. They are also running in Burbank, Torrance and Santa Monica.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached by phone at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227, or by e-mail at hfine@labusinessjournal.com .

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