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Who Really Runs L.A.? Nobody's quite sure...

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Last night, Zócalo L.A. hosted a panel discussion at the Central Library to explore the question, “Who Really Runs L.A.?” The discussion, moderated by Mariel Garza of the Los Angeles Daily News, featured panelists Kerman Maddox, who works for public affairs consulting firm Dakota Communications; L.A. Weekly city hall reporter David Zahniser; political scientist and Director of Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A. Jaime Regalado; and Los Angeles Magazine writer Jesse Katz.

The enigmatic (and possibly, pointless) question was debated for about an hour, launched by Zahniser’s comedic diatribe about who doesn’t run L.A., ultimately settling on immigrants as the real steam of the city engine. “Immigrants run Los Angeles, just not in the way we think they run Los Angeles,” said Zahniser. “It’s more like an object in motion stays in motion, and the people keeping the city in motion are immigrants.”

The primary difficulty underlying the panel’s discussion was the inability to define the nebulous concept that is “power.” Garza loosely suggested that power might be measured by one’s ability to get higher-ups to answer phone calls. Katz, echoing themes expressed in Los Angeles Magazine’s December 2006 list of the 100 most influential people in L.A., recommended going beyond “traditional notions of the business elite, the civic elite, the political elite.” To demonstrate that point, he offered up some more scrappy power folk such as Mark Lisanti of Defamer.