Gold Has Its Privileges

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

There are many ways to judge if a news item has legs – that it will stick in the city's collective memory, and not just fade away.

One way to know that a piece of news connects is if it brings into the popular lexicon a new word or concept.

Like: Gold Card Desk.

That's the name that the city and its vendor for collecting parking ticket fines uses for a special service.

If someone who received one of the city's very expensive parking tickets has a special case to plead, they can appeal to this special desk.

That is, If they know about, or if they get lucky with a sympathetic clerk on the phone.

In practice, the phone number of the Gold Card Desk is known to the city council offices down in City Hall.

There, as in most political offices in America, case workers receive complaints and requests for help from constituents.

A call to the Gold Card Desk could make a ticket go away. The constituent feels good. The elected official looks benevolent and powerful. And maybe, justice is done.

City Controller Wendy Greuel blew the whistle on the Gold Card Desk in an audit that said about 1,000 tickets in two years had gotten the special handling.

It turns out that the existence of this special privilege wasn't any surprise to Greuel. Or at least not to her staff.

When she was on the City Council, Greuel was chair of the committee that signed off on the desk. And her office apparently made use of it.

How much the council used the Gold Card Desk – and to whose benefit – is being investigated now. By the same City Council.

If this all sounds like jockeying for position in advance of the next campaign for mayor…well, I'm not going to disagree with you on that.

Greuel is one of the presumed candidates to move up in the post-Villaraigosa era.

Another one, the former deputy mayor Austin Beutner, has formed a fundraising committee and given a long interview to Los Angeles Magazine.

Rick Caruso, the shopping center developer, gave a speech recently about the failure of leadership that sounded like HIS getting-ready-to-run manifesto.

City Council President Eric Garcetti, his colleague Jan Perry and county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky – and others -- are all in jockeying mode.

Looking toward the spring of 2013, when the election will be held.

And since all elections in LA are intertwined, there are a couple of matters to be settled first.

City Councilwoman Janice Hahn is running for Congress against a Republican businessman named Craig Huey. He's a newcomer with Tea Party leanings who doesn't live in the district, so it's Hahn's to lose.

If she's elected, look for some scuffing of chairs in local political circles to fill her spot in City Hall.

And with Steve Cooley not running for reelection as DA, there could be an even bigger shuffling of ambitions.

If the City Attorney of Los Angeles, Carmen Trutanich, should somehow get elected to the bigger job, there could be some trickle up effects even on the race for mayor.

Don't you like how everything in LA is connected?

I hope you're having a good Memorial Day holiday.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.