Council Names Friend to Organize Marathon

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles City Council members turned aside charges of favoritism on Tuesday and selected a firm headed by a politically influential businessman to organize a proposed Los Angeles marathon.

The council--hoping to stage a race that will rival the prestigious marathons in other cities--named Los Angeles Marathon Inc. as the group that will organize what is projected as an annual event attracting world-class as well as local runners.

The selection of an organization headed by Bill Burke, a Los Angeles businessman with political ties and friendships on the council, was denounced as politically motivated by some also-rans in the competition who questioned his group's experience in running marathons.

Joint Effort Urged

Several members hastily changed their vote after first calling on all three finalists in the selection process to sit down and work together on the event. In the end, council members voted 12 to 2 to begin negotiating with the Burke organization to set up guidelines for the 26-mile, 385-yard road race.

A joint council committee had supported Burke's group, and Councilman David Cunningham, who championed the selection, noted that most city marathons are organized by private athletic groups. He said Los Angeles will be the first city to name the organization that will run its marathon.

"We will indeed be breaking new ground, and I think the world is looking to see if we will be a success at this," said Cunningham, who added that city funds will not be used for the event.

Noting rocky attempts in the past to stage a Los Angeles marathon, council members said a major selling point for Burke's organization was his assurance that his group had negotiated a tentative agreement with Chevrolet to help sponsor the event.

Friendship, Political Ties

But some critics cited Cunningham's friendship with Burke, the husband of former county supervisor and congresswoman Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, and Burke's political ties with other other council members as being influential in the decision--a charge Burke denied.

Brad Malamud, executive director of a group called the Organizing Committee for the Los Angeles Marathon, which lost out to Burke's organization, said his group scored the highest technical rating, only to lose. "Politically, his was the only group in here who knew the City Council members," Malamud said.

According to a report by the council's chief legislative analyst, the Burke group finished behind both the Organizing Committee for the Los Angeles Marathon and the other finalist, the Marathon of Los Angeles Race Committee, in the technical scores. But the analyst added that the scores were considered "virtually the same."

Burke, the tennis commissioner for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, said his organization has other former Olympic committee members and would be able to stage a marathon--costing between $1.2 million and $2 million--as early as next February or March.

He denied that politics played a part in his selection.

"I don't know of a single council member who would vote for anything, including anything I would suggest, on the basis of friendship," he said. "If that were the fact, I would be down here everyday getting bigger projects than the L.A. marathon. . . ."

"The only reason I got the nod was I got the early start," added Burke, who said his organization has worked full-time for four months on the proposal.

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