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"That's what people go to see. If I sound passionate, I am. That's the whole reason I'm doing this, because for me, when you take a property like this and you tear it down, you are tearing away your children's future. You are robbing them of the ability to feel a piece of who you are and who your grandparents were. All they will have left is these cold buildings that their only function is to sleep in and eat in. But they don't provide you with that sense of being that people really need."
He talks a decent game, but what about his track record? When Mintz decries the huge multimillion-dollar incentives being promised to developers, isn't he being a tad hypocritical? He's set to receive a total of about $600,000 from the CRA for his latest project, an $8 million, six-story office building. Over the years, he's benefited from numerous low-interest loans on which the CRA has paid half the interest. And since he began investing in Harrison Street, the city has added about $2.5 million worth of improvements there.
Yet he promises to stop giving developers large payoffs if he's elected. And, more radically, he says he'll put three planned Young Circle high-rise projects, worth about $200 million, on hold while the people of the city and architects decide if they are really what Hollywood needs. The city has already preliminarily approved those projects, which include about $20 million in public incentives for developers.
"What my incentives were or weren't has nothing to do with the future of the city of Hollywood," Mintz insisted. "I don't think we have to give huge incentives to developers anymore. There is a demand in Hollywood. Developers want to come here now. They come to me all the time.
"What the city should be doing right now is twofold: One is infrastructure -- streets, alleys, trees, sewers, flowers, parks -- and the other is the assemblage of land. You assemble land, the developers will buy it. You don't have to give away the city's future tax base."
Political foes will argue that Mintz as mayor would be a walking conflict of interest. Though he pledges that he'll retire as a developer should he win, Mintz still has no plans to sell eight properties he and partners own in downtown Hollywood. If he wins the election next November, he would automatically become chairman of the CRA; measures that would benefit his properties would surely arise. "I will ask for the opinion of the ethics commission on those matters and comply with whatever they recommend," Mintz says.
Good enough. To his credit, Mintz has proven to be what many might assume to be an oxymoron: a responsible developer. Harrison Street still has its history and original architectural integrity intact. The six-story office building is the tallest thing he's ever constructed.
His insider knowledge gives him an edge in the coming fight -- and he's almost certainly in for a real city hall brawl. "It is going to become a very, very ugly campaign," Mintz told me. "Maybe the ugliest campaign in history. But I joke that I've fought in four Israeli wars, got through a midlife crisis, and if my hemorrhoids don't kill me, I think I can win it."
Former councilman and city activist John Coleman, who lost his bid to unseat Giulianti in 1998, agrees. "The team running the city now is the mayor and Becker & Poliakoff," a supportive Coleman said. "Jerry Mintz is interested in forming a new team that doesn't include Becker & Poliakoff. The people on the inside who are with Mara are also with Jerry, so they are going to have to make a choice. He is going to have a very tough campaign -- he's a tough guy -- and it's going to be personal."
Even Mintz's partner in the six-story office building, developer Steve Berman, wouldn't comment on the campaign. Berman, after all, is set to receive millions in incentives from the city for his upcoming Young Circle project, La Piazza II. Should Mintz be elected, La Piazza II would be delayed. "All I can say about Jerry are good things" was as far as Berman would go.
Mintz, though, has always been something of a lone wolf in Hollywood, operating without lobbyists. He says he hired Becker & Poliakoff a few years ago for a matter before the County Commission, but other than that, he's always represented himself.
Not only do Mintz and Koslow not work together but they don't play tennis together anymore either (though Mintz says he beat the lawyer the three or four times they hit the court). A taste of the combative friction developing between Mintz and Koslow came last Wednesday, shortly after Mintz's visit to the Great Southern Hotel.
Both men attended an evening forum at Hollywood City Hall where Bernard Zyscovich, a consultant hired by the city, gave a long talk about his vision for the future of Young Circle. He seemed to leave people more confused than ever, with the low point coming when the Miami architect made an extended analogy about the similarities between building a city and making lasagna.