If diversity is what you crave in politics, you have it in this election. In the four candidates who will appear at the OurWeekly Mayoral Forum Saturday at Brookins A.M.E. Church, there is an African American, three White Americans, Jews, a gay, women and men. All but one of the candidates has a sizable track record in politics. The other is an attorney who has worked for one of the world's largest law firms and is a former U.S. prosecutor.
You can call her "Valley girl" if you like, because Wendy Greuel has lived in the San Fernando Valley all her life. She's proud of the 10 years she spent working for Mayor Tom Bradley, where she developed her love of politics.
"Everything that I am today was [from] that time working for Mayor Bradley," said Greuel. "My gut of what to do and how to solve problems came from him."
From 1993 to 1997, she worked at the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the Clinton Administration, serving under Cabinet Secretary Henry Cisneros.
Greuel then joined the corporate affairs department at DreamWorks Movie Studios from 1997 to 2002 [while there she met her husband-to-be, Dean Schramm], but her romance with politics never ended. Soon she was back in city government as Councilwoman for the second district in the northeast portion of the Valley. She took office in April 2002, and served on the Council for seven years, during which time she chaired both the transportation and the audit committees, and served on the budget committee.
Since 2009, Greuel has succeeded Laura Chick as city controller, a critical position as auditor and general accountant of the city budget. As controller, she's charged with watching over the city's finances, reigning in unnecessary spending and eliminating government waste.
Ask her what she sees as the city's major problem, Greuel quickly answers "jobs and economic development."
"Many of the challenges that the city faces--which are revenue and expenditure problems as to how you balance your budget--relate to how you create a job," she said. "Like Father Greg Boyle [executive director of Homeboy Industries] says, 'There's nothing that stops a bullet like a job.' If someone has a job, they're going to be able to go out and provide for their family; they're going to be able to buy things which, of course, means we have more revenue in the city, and we're able to go out and buy things for the residents of Los Angeles."
Greuel says working with Bradley she learned to encourage small businesses. "It was about providing them the resources," she says. "So that began my journey to address that. We did business tax reform--everything from cutting business taxes across the board 15 percent; small businesses with gross receipts of a $100,000 or less no longer have to pay business taxes in the city of Los Angeles."
Greuel's effort, according to her biography on smarttvoter.com, "eliminated the business tax for more than 60 percent of the city's businesses and made the tax system more equitable with neighboring jurisdictions. The reforms have saved Los Angeles businesses nearly $100 million since their inception."
In her three and a half years as controller, Greuel has sounded the alarm on all kinds of governmental laxity and financial abuse. One of the most startling concerned her release of an audit showing that millions of gallons of fuel had been consumed at city fueling sites with no record of where it was going. It meant that $7 million worth of gasoline was missing and had not been accounted for.