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Americana comes back to Frommer

June 18, 2004

Josh Kleinbaum

As the controversy over the Americana at Brand progressed from a

whisper to a full-fledged brawl over the past year, Assemblyman Dario

Frommer (D-Glendale) refused to take a stand on the $264.2-million

retail and residential project.

Nothing has changed now that the project will be the subject of a

Sept. 14 citywide vote, forced by a referendum petition circulated by

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Glendale Galleria owner General Growth Properties. Frommer still

avoids the Americana debate. But the election will have a distinct

Frommer feel -- General Growth and developer Rick Caruso have hired

Frommer associates to run their election campaigns.

General Growth opposes the Americana, claiming that it will hurt

other downtown businesses, including the Galleria, and that the

$77.1-million public subsidy for the project is too great.

Paul Arney resigned as a Frommer field representative Wednesday to

take over General Growth's campaign. Joe Zago, who ran Frommer's 2000

Assembly victory over Craig Missakian, will run Caruso's campaign.

Zago did not return messages Thursday, and General Growth would

not release contact information for Arney. Arney's last name was

misspelled in a story that appeared in Thursday's News-Press.

"[Frommer] had nothing to do with my decision," Caruso said. "It

was all about somebody who, first and foremost, had enough background

of campaigns, and second, understood the area. That's why there's a

commonality with Frommer."

Caruso said he also hired two people who will focus on convincing

Glendale's Armenian-American community that the Americana is a good

project. About 40% of Glendale's population is of Armenian descent,

and several Armenian-language television hosts, including Vrej

Agajanian and Appo Jabarian, oppose the project.

Frommer, still staying away from the debate, declined to comment.

Councilman Rafi Manoukian described the Americana debate as a local

issue and said that Frommer should not be involved.

But a political expert said Frommer's ties in the Americana

election are indicative of a politician with a deep connection to his

district.

"Dario picks people that are connected in the community that he's

being elected from, so they're seen as people who can have an

effect," said Roger Bowerman, chairman of Glendale Community

College's social sciences division. "While I don't connect Dario or

what he does with the debate here, I see that it reflects the overlap

that there is between the economic powers and the political powers in

state government and local government."

Arney and Zago probably will become public fixtures in Glendale as

the Sept. 14 election creeps closer. Both will run the day-to-day

operations of their respective campaigns, working out of

Glendale-based campaign headquarters.

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