Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Austin Beutner says ties to stadium developer won't mar independence of mayor's blue-ribbon panel

February 17, 2011 |  3:26 pm

Declaring that a new downtown football stadium could be “transformative,” Los Angeles First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner on Thursday defended the makeup of a mayoral panel tasked with examining the proposal despite some members’ personal and professional links to the developer, Anschutz Entertainment Group.

“Just because we know people in the community doesn’t mean we’re not going to do this right,” Beutner, co-chairman of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s blue ribbon panel, told reporters after the commission’s inaugural meeting at City Hall. “I couldn’t find a better group of civic leaders in this town that actually roll[s] up their sleeves ... [and does] the work, because they care about Los Angeles.”

Beutner, a former Wall Street investment banker, said he had known Philip Anschutz, AEG’s billionaire chairman, for more than two decades, and had also long known Tim Leiweke, AEG’s chief executive officer. AEG, an entertainment conglomerate that owns Staples Center and the L.A. Live complex downtown, is proposing to build the $1 billion stadium.

“I’d say my own independence and record [speak] for itself,” said Beutner, who serves as the mayor’s $1 a year chief executive for economic and business policy -- and has also been mentioned as a possible future mayoral aspirant.

Among those on the mayor’s blue-ribbon panel is former Gov. Gray Davis. His campaign received more than $93,000 in contributions from Anschutz-related companies in the run-up to his successful re-election bid in 2002, according to MAPLight.org, a Berkeley-based research group that tracks money in politics.

But Beutner said Davis and other fellow panel members with ties to Anschutz are “beyond reproach.” He added: “They’re going to do this right. Just because they’ve known someone in the past I don’t think prejudices them in any way, shape or form.”

Accompanying Beutner at the news conference was another panel member, Michael Lynton, Sony Pictures chairman and chief executive.

“I think it’s just a group of individuals who have had a variety of experiences, who believe deeply in the future of the city, and want to see what’s best for the city and its inhabitants,” Lynton said of the 10-member commission.

On Thursday, Beutner said, the blue-ribbon panel received its first briefing from AEG. The developer’s initial plan was posted on the city’s website. Previous knowledge had come solely from media reports, he said. The advisory panel’s objective is to study the stadium plan and eventually release a report with recommendations, Beutner added.

“It’s clear, I’m sure, to everybody here that this has the potential to be transformative,” Beutner said. “Anyone who doesn’t believe that I don’t think is a true Angeleno at heart.  ... Our charge is to make sure it is done right.”

Villaraigosa has been an enthusiastic backer of the stadium project and some have publicly questioned the impartiality of his blue-ribbon commission. The City Council is also studying the proposal.

AEG has vowed to build the stadium without any cost to taxpayers in a city mired in a deep fiscal crisis that has already resulted in layoffs and service cuts. However, the project would be situated on city-owned land -- for a lease payment yet to be determined -- and would require the floating of some $350 million in city bonds for construction of a wing of the convention center slated to be demolished as part of the stadium project.


L.A. stadium plan includes rent payments to city

City councilman questions fast-tracking of downtown stadium project

NFL stadium plan meets with questions, some skepticism from L.A. City Council

-- Patrick McDonnell at Los Angeles City Hall