WASHINGTON, July 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mitt Romney's known for not letting the facts getting in the way of a partisan political attack. Earlier this week at a press conference in Los Angeles, Romney used the backdrop of a struggling real estate development to hit the President on the economy. The problem with Romney's backdrop? The development had been badly damaged during a 1994 earthquake, went out of businesses in the earlier 2000s and then a few months ago foreclosed on by a maxed-out Romney donor's company.
And now, according to the parties involved in the development, it's on its way to becoming an "economic engine" in the community.
Please see below for national and California press coverage panning Romney's LA Press conference:
Daily News// Staff Writer
Democratic local officials predictably took issue with Romney's claim, but maybe it's Republicans who should be most disturbed about this performance by their party's 2012 front-runner. Apparently, nobody in the Romney campaign bothered to find out if the businesspeople in question would confirm the former Massachusetts governor's version of the economic history of the corner of Laurel Canyon and Victory boulevards. Before the event even happened, Valley Plaza's former owner said the company disagrees with Romney's assessment and doesn't "place the blame on Obama or his policies" for its loan default earlier this year. Later, the mall's current owner said it is in the design stage for a new project for the site. That's different from Romney's bleak description of "a development that is no longer going to be a development." Oops.
TPM// Benjy Sarlin
And contrary to Romney's assertion that development is dead at the site, iStar is working on a new investment in the location that they plan to debut in the next several months. Nor do they sound too pleased with the area's portrayal as a helpless victim of the economy: Sugarman's company put out a response to Romney's press conference pledging to turn Valley Plaza into an "economic engine" through "considerable investment in a modern, quality project" at the site. The company's stock has shot up over the last year. Democratic City Councilman Paul Krekorian held a counter-event at the site to slam Romney for belittling the area's ongoing "economic revitalization." "For Mr. Romney, Valley Plaza is just an easy backdrop for a cheap photo op," he said in a statement. "Even as Mr. Romney is dropping in to preen for the cameras, the new owner of Valley Plaza is hard at work preparing plans for a major new development on this site - a significant long-term investment in the bright future of North Hollywood."
Daily News// Dakota Smith
But it's unclear how much his campaign team vetted the site's more recent history and whether its lack of progress is tied to the policies of the current Democratic administration. Additionally, City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who represents that portion of North Hollywood, said Valley Plaza is an "easy backdrop for a cheap photo op." The storefronts at the once-thriving mall have been shut since President George W. Bush was in office, he added. After Romney's appearance, a spokesperson for the iStar Valley Plaza project said the company was already in the process of designing a project at the site that would be an "economic engine for North Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley." Additionally, a spokesperson for JH Snyder said the developer "respectfully disagreed" with Romney's assertion that Obama's economic agenda contributed to the demise of plans for the retail development. "The economy certainly contributed to the retail project not going forward," a company statement said. "But we don't place the blame on Obama or his policies."
Atlantic Wire// Elspeth Reeve
Romney told fans and reporters that, "sadly, as we look around us at this development, we see a development that is no longer going to be a development ... The Valley Plaza development program has been scrapped in part because of the challenges of the economy." Talking Points Memo's Benjy Sarlin reports the Plaza's problems were quite a bit more complicated than Romney made them out to be. But it's hard to fathom why Romney wants his picture taken in front of ugly Middle America modern ruins. If George W. Bush was supposed to be "the guy you want to have a beer with," then maybe Romney is aiming for "the guy who remembers where we parked the car."
Politico// Kasie Hunt
The mall's troubles began with a 1994 earthquake, and attempts to rebuild it over nearly two decades have all failed. Most recently, in April, the developer defaulted on a loan and the site was foreclosed by New York-based iStar Financial — where Romney donor Jay Sugarman is the CEO.
LA Times// Seema Mehta
City Councilman Paul Krekorian said Romney was misleading voters. The company that owns much of the property — led by a Romney donor — is working with Krekorian and city officials to create a new development proposal for the mall. A preliminary proposal is expected soon. The company, iStar, was not contacted by the campaign about the event. "In the San Fernando Valley, we make a lot of movies and we make a lot of television shows," Krekorian said. But "we know the difference between a movie set and real life. Today, Gov. Romney used my neighborhood as a movie set, and I'm a little resentful of that." When pressed by reporters, Romney said, "I'm sure there's going to be something done here, and if I'm President there will be something done in places across the country to put people back to work."
SOURCE Democratic National Committee