Carmen Trutanich has complained that since he came into office as city attorney on July 1, he’s done little but cut.
He faced an immediate 18 percent budget cut. He cut 100 lawyers. Now he faces more cuts. The poor guy. He just keeps cutting and cutting. (Well, one thing he doesn’t seem eager to cut is his own $214,000 salary.)
But I’ve got a question. If he’s really hurting all that much, why is he spending so much time and creative energy on something as silly as his war on supergraphics?
Trutanich a month ago jailed a Hollywood building owner for draping a supergraphic on his building. The jailing was shocking enough, but Trutanich did it late on Friday so the guy would have to spend a whole weekend in the hoosegow. I mean, that’s deviously creative. And bail was set at $1 million. One million? For hanging a big sign?
It didn’t stop there. As you can see in the article on page 1 of this issue, Trutanich earlier this month sent out 20 notices to other building owners with supergraphics, saying they may have to cough up all the money they ever got for hanging their signs.
I mean, the City Attorney’s Office is spending some serious mind time on this. One guy said he’s gotten “multiple communications from the City Attorney’s Office” on this matter.
Personally, I kind of like the supergraphics. They cover up some ugly buildings and give you something to look at while you’re stuck in traffic – traffic that this city has done pretty close to zero to alleviate.
And supergraphics give building owners some income, too. Which helps in a city that can be hard on business people.
So I’m back to my question: If the City Attorney’s Office is really so hard-up for cash, if it really needs to perform triage and focus on doing only what’s truly essential, why is it spending an inordinate amount of time criminalizing what a lot of people see as a perfectly fine commercial activity?
If the answer is that Trutanich sees the fight as an important one, then the response should be to cut his budget more.
• • •
A little drama is playing out in Santa Monica, where activist investor Carl Icahn has stepped up his hostile takeover attempt of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. And there’s plenty to think about.
Was Icahn right that Lions Gate is way too indebted to consider spending $1 billion or so to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s collection of films? Icahn claims the idea was a boneheaded one because film libraries are in secular decline; we’re no longer in the heyday of DVDs. Since Lions Gate indicated it would drop out of the bidding for the library last week, the studio seemed to concede the point to Icahn.
Or is Lions Gate right that Icahn’s takeover bid of $6 a share is insultingly low? As Hollywood’s largest independent studio, Lions Gate would seem to be in a decent position to build up value in the future. What’s more, the company, which has most of its operations in Santa Monica, said it shouldn’t give in to Icahn in any case because he lacks vision for the company and he’s never actually run a company successfully. Good points.
One other thing to think about. Mark Rachesky, whose MHR Fund Management is the largest shareholder of Lions Gate, is a former Icahn ally. Lions Gate brought him on board as a bulwark against Icahn. And so far, he has supported management in its long fight with Icahn.
But what if Rachesky flips? If he puts his 20 percent stake with Icahn’s 19 percent, well, you can pretty much roll the credits on this little drama. Just something else to think about.
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