All four candidates running for the job of Los Angeles city controller in April's municipal election are capable people who deserve serious consideration for public office. But the candidate with the strongest credentials as a financial manager for a city the size and complexity of Los Angeles is attorney Dan Shapiro.
Shapiro first became active in civic affairs as president of the Studio City Residents' Assn. While working with other homeowner-activists to lobby city officials on issues like high-rise development of Ventura Boulevard and expansion of the Hollywood-Burbank airport, Shapiro has earned a reputation as a moderate spokesman for homeowners, someone who is willing to look for areas of agreement, and to compromise, rather than staking out hard-line positions that leave no room for give-and-take.
It was this reputation that persuaded Mayor Tom Bradley to appoint him as chairman of the Select Committee on City Budget and Finance in 1983. That panel, composed of business and labor leaders as well as homeowners like Shapiro, recommended several steps that could be taken to cut the city budget and increase revenues. As happens with blue-ribbon commissions at all levels of government, the recommendations made by the citizens' panel were largely ignored after being formally presented to the City Council two years ago. But his service as chairman of the committee gave Shapiro a firmer grasp on the city's financial needs and problems than his opponents have.
The controller's job consists largely of unglamorous tasks like monitoring the city's tax collection and payment disbursements and auditing expense accounts. While some former incumbents in the job have stressed its watchdog functions--reviewing expense accounts with an eye toward catching extravagance or errors, then exploiting them for some quick publicity--the most important aspect of the job is a quiet, workaday dedication to efficient management.
All of Shapiro's opponents--Los Angeles city commissioner Alice Travis, community college trustee Rick Tuttle and bail bondsman Celes King III--are good candidates with records of public service and political activity. But the controller's job calls for someone who is not just a politician but also a financial technician. Shapiro is the candidate who comes closest to that formula.