Ron Kaye: Educating Emily in a changing world

April 15, 2011|By Ron Kaye

Emily Gabel-Luddy knows a lot about politics — she has seen how politics works from inside Los Angeles City Hall as a high-ranking planner, and her husband, Bill, is West Coast political director for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.

But nothing prepared her for the education she’s gotten in the last few months while running for Burbank City Council.

Talking to voters put her in touch with the concerns of people struggling in a difficult economy: a woman who had to take in a boarder to pay the rent, a couple that had to close up shop because business had tailed off, people all over the city whose concerns are invisible until you're out in the community campaigning for votes.

“I'm in a transition phase from being a public servant in one role to another,” she said over a salad at Lancer's as the city clerk's office was preparing to certify her narrow victory in Tuesday's runoff victory over Police Commissioner Robert Frutos.


“I have so much to learn, so much I don't know. Listening to voters was a real education,” she said.

Part of the educating Emily story was how big-city politics came to Burbank with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 — which claims only 138 members from Burbank Water and Power, and yet which dumped more than $42,000 into an independent expenditure committee in support of Frutos. The union spent $18,000 to help re-elect Gary Bric in the primary.

“They mailed out hit pieces saying I was somehow connected to Big Oil, bank executives and Big Development, that this was behind the agenda I was going to set for the city. It didn't make any sense,” Gabel-Luddy said. “I talked to voters, I said, ‘Gee, I've been on the planning commission for 10 years. You know where I stand. There's 10 years of videos you can watch to see who I am.’”

What's going on with IBEW Local 18 is no small concern to residents of both Burbank and Glendale.

The union is led by Brian D'Arcy, an untouchable figure in L.A. politics who has used threats of closing down that city's water and power systems if he didn't get contracts with raises of up to 6% in good times and as much as 4% even in these hard times.

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