Los Angeles’ City Elections: The Runoffs

Times City-County Bureau Chief

THE RACES: City Controller: Attorney Dan Shapiro faces Rick Tuttle, a community college trustee.

City Council: A rematch between Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson and challenger Michael Woo.

Board of Education: San Fernando Valley picks between Elizabeth Ginsburg and David Armor.

Community College Trustee: Incumbent Arthur Bronson is opposed by Richard Ferraro.


City Propositions: Adding 1,000 police officers, easing investment restrictions. (Page 3.)

THE VOTING: Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A proposed property tax increase for more police, a fight for the vacant city controller job, Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson’s struggle to retain her Hollywood-area council seat and two important educational races highlight Tuesday’s election ballot in Los Angeles.

Unlike the April primary, the June general election has not generated heavy campaigning, publicity or controversy.


That is largely because two of the hottest races in the city ended in the primary.

One was Councilman John Ferraro’s unsuccessful challenge of Mayor Tom Bradley. The other was Controller James K. Hahn’s primary victory over Lisa Specht in the city attorney’s race. Hahn drew 53% of the vote, winning the election outright.

The turnout in April was just 34.7%, and city election officials say fewer residents will go to the the polls Tuesday.

The turnout may be highest in Stevenson’s 13th District, where challenger Michael Woo has waged a strong campaign that his aides believe has put him within striking distance of unseating the incumbent.


The race for controller--the city’s top fiscal-auditing office--is the only citywide race. Rick Tuttle, a community college trustee, and Dan Shapiro, an attorney, are contesting for the job to be vacated by Hahn.

Two ballot measures also are before the voters. One is a major pocketbook issue--whether to raise the property tax to finance the hiring of 1,000 more police officers over the next five years. The other would ease restrictions on investment of city pension funds.

Voters also will decide the fate of a veteran trustee on the Los Angeles community college board who is facing a serious challenge from a former veteran of the Los Angeles school board.

A west San Fernando Valley contest could tilt the political balance of the Los Angeles school board.



Stevenson is trying for a fourth council term and, as happened four years ago, finds herself in a tough runoff against Woo, a former aide to state Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles). In the primary, Stevenson received 42% of the vote, short of the majority needed for election. Woo finished second in the field of five with 35%.

As is usual in a hot council race, the battle has featured harsh attacks and the use of endorsements by popular elected officials who might pull in votes.

In a flashy mailer to district voters, Stevenson made what has been the big attack of her campaign. It highlighted something disclosed in previous newspaper accounts--that Woo, among several other political leaders, including Gov. George Deukmejian, had received laundered campaign contributions from W. Patrick Moriarty, the Orange County fireworks manufacturer who has pleaded guilty to making illegal political contributions.


Stevenson offered no evidence that Woo knew that the disputed contributions, totaling $5,400, came from Moriarty. Nevertheless, she is making them a major issue in the campaign.

Woo insists that he did not know in 1981 that the allegedly laundered contribution, which came in the form of two checks from a firm called Condo Vest, might have originated with Moriarty.

After the source of the money was made known, Woo held a press conference to announce that he would give an equal amount to charity.

But Woo’s best effort to rebound from the Moriarty publicity came late last month when he gained the endorsements of two members of the Los Angeles City Council, Zev Yaroslavsky and Marvin Braude. It is rare but not unheard of for members of the council to publicly oppose one of their colleagues.


In announcing their support for Woo, Braude and Yaroslavsky repeated a main theme of Woo’s campaign--that Stevenson repeatedly has sided with real estate developers on controversial projects opposed by neighborhood residents.

Woo also has received the endorsements of Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner, Rep. Howard Berman and Secretary of State March Fong Eu. Stevenson has been endorsed by City Council President Pat Russell and by a majority of the 15-member council. Democratic state Sens. Art Torres of South Pasadena and Herschel Rosenthal of Los Angeles have endorsed her, along with city Planning Commission President Daniel Garcia.

Although he has stopped short of endorsing her, Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates has praised Stevenson at public meetings in her district and last week appeared at a press conference with the councilwoman, where he said that Woo was “lying” when he told voters that crime was up in the district over the last four years. The 13th City Council District, which includes Hollywood, extends from Laurel Canyon on the west to just east of the Golden State Freeway to the crest of the Hollywood Hills on the north to below Santa Monica Boulevard on the south.



Four years ago, Los Angeles voters overwhelmingly turned down a proposal to increase taxes for expansion of the Police Department.

Tuesday, Mayor Tom Bradley and Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, who headed that losing effort, will try again, this time with Proposition 1, which calls for a property tax increase to boost the size of the department from its current 7,000 officers to as many as 8,000.

Gates said he hopes it will be different this time.

The 1981 election, he said, was too close to 1978, the year Californians approved Proposition 13, the measure that limited property taxes. Los Angeles residents, he said, were “suspicious” of government during that time.


But now, he said, “we have squeezed and squeezed and squeezed and squeezed” and voters might be convinced that the tax money is needed.

Bradley has assigned some of the veterans of his landslide spring reelection to the Proposition 1 campaign. David Townsend, a political consultant who directed Bradley’s mail advertising, has been doing the same thing for the tax increase. Deputy Mayor Tom Houston has been in the background, helping shape strategy.

They have had a difficult task. It takes a two-thirds vote for approval of a tax increase, and even Proposition 1 polls indicate that the measure is short of the mark.

In a telephone poll of about 250 people taken by the firm of Fairbank, Canapary & Maullin, 53% favored the measure, 25% were opposed and the rest were undecided. When pollsters read arguments for and against the measure, the favorable count went up to 60%, which campaign strategists say shows that they have a chance if they make convincing arguments.


However, four years ago, backers of the previous tax proposal also cited pre-election polls showing that the measure was getting 60% support, but the measure lost overwhelmingly.

New Strategy

The Proposition 1 campaigners say they have a strategy this time that may bring victory.

Campaigning was held to a minimum until the last two weeks on the theory that a strong early campaign would unite opposition. The Los Angeles Taxpayers Assn., a group of San Fernando Valley conservatives who have been battling tax increases since Proposition 13, and three council members--John Ferraro, Hal Bernson and Ernani Bernardi--are the major opponents. But they have not gotten together in a visible campaign.


Last-Minute Dispute

Second, the Proposition 1 team figured that there would be only 160,000 to 180,000 voters.

“The idea is to target the right people,” said one adviser, who said the mail will be sent to areas where polling and past voting behavior indicate there might be support for the measure.

Last weekend, 60,000 advertisements were mailed, and another batch was mailed late last week, the adviser said. “I’m not pessimistic; there’s definitely a chance to carry it,” he said.


But in the final days of the campaign, a dispute broke out over whether the proposal assures the city of an 8,000-officer department.

The measure’s opponents, including Bernardi and Paul E. Shay Jr., executive vice president of the Los Angeles Taxpayers Assn., have said that the plan does not require an 8,000-officer department, but merely calls for the hiring of “up to” 1,000 new officers.

The measure, Shay said, is “structurally defective.”

Gates defended the measure, saying that such language gives the department the flexibility to hire only as many officers as it needs. He said that not all 1,000 will be hired if they are not required.


Lack of Guarantee

The 1981 plan contained language requiring an 8,500-officer force.

That lack of a guarantee has prompted critics to raise another point. They say they fear that in the event of fiscal hard times the special tax funds could be used as a substitute for dwindling general fund revenue now allocated to maintain the department at its authorized 7,000 level.

Thus, they warn, cuts could be made in the 7,000-officer staff financed by the general fund. The 1,000 officers financed by the special tax would remain, but the overall impact could be a Police Department smaller than the 8,000 promised to the voters.


City Administrative Officer Keith Comrie said that would not happen except in the event of a financial calamity of Depression proportions. He said political support for the Police Department would prevent such a reduction.

Overshadowed by the commotion over the police tax is another measure on Tuesday’s ballot, which would allow three city pension plans to invest up to 20% of their assets directly in real estate and would encourage municipal portfolio managers to diversify their investments.


The race for city controller pits two relative unknowns, Dan Shapiro and Rick Tuttle, for an office that has had little public exposure. The winner will oversee municipal spending, monitor the city’s tax collections and audit the expense accounts of city officials. He also will oversee audits of various city departments as part of the $48,424-a-year job.


Both candidates have called for more city auditors and have promised to appoint an advisory panel to help them come up with ways to trim the city budget and make the controller’s office more efficient. Both are Democrats vying for the nonpartisan office.

And both men support the police property tax ballot measure. Shapiro, however, said he is a reluctant backer, while Tuttle has voiced enthusiastic support for the plan.

Shapiro, 38, is a real estate attorney who chaired Mayor Tom Bradley’s Select Committee on City Finance and Budget in 1982. The panel reviewed the city budget and suggested ways to cut costs. Shapiro said the committee recommended $50 million in savings that could be gleaned by “better management of existing assets and resources.”

As head of the Studio City Residents Assn., Shapiro also had led a successful fight to curb high-rise development along Ventura Boulevard and was active in pushing for a city ordinance that regulates sex-oriented businesses.


Tuttle, 45, is a UCLA administrator who was reelected twice as a community college trustee and has served as head of the board’s audit committee. Tuttle was appointed to the college district in 1977 to replace Ira Reiner, who stepped down after being elected controller.

Dist. Atty. Reiner, along with Mayor Bradley and various public employee unions, now is backing Tuttle, who also is supported by elected officials aligned with the Berman-Waxman political organization, an influential Westside Democratic group.

Shapiro’s supporters include Council members John Ferraro and Ernani Bernardi and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

In the primary, Shapiro finished ahead of Tuttle by five percentage points. But spokesmen from both campaigns say prospects of a low voter turnout and a large block of undecided voters have prevented either candidate from emerging as a front-runner.


After a low-profile campaign, the race has intensified in the final week, with Shapiro relying on television commercials and Tuttle depending on a strategy of direct mail to carry their message to voters.


Veteran Los Angeles Community College Board Trustee Arthur Bronson is facing a serious challenge from Richard Ferraro, a former veteran of the Los Angeles school board, in Tuesday’s election.

Meanwhile, the political balance of the Los Angeles school board could depend on the outcome of a west San Fernando Valley race pitting David Armor, a conservative college professor, and liberal schoolteacher Elizabeth Ginsburg to fill the seat vacated by Tom Bartman.


Since 1971, Bronson, a liberal, has been on the board that governs the nine community colleges in Los Angeles. He is opposed by Richard Ferraro, a conservative whose political comeback has been fueled by the troubles in the community colleges.

Ferraro, 60, charges that the college board, which Bronson chairs, has “failed to take any leadership” in resolving problems on the campuses. He cites a bungled financial aid system that kept students waiting months for their money and several faculty votes of “no confidence” in district administrators.

Ferraro has been endorsed by most student leaders in the nine colleges.

Bronson, 68, says that the main problems in the colleges stem from state funding cutbacks. Since passage of Proposition 13, the 1978 property tax-cutting measure, the two-year colleges have lost 25% of their purchasing power, he said, a drop that has triggered a loss of students and deteriorating morale on the campuses.


“I think the main issue is the character of Art Bronson versus the character of Richard Ferraro,” Bronson said, calling Ferraro “a disruptive force” during his 14 years on the city school board.

Since the April primary, when Bronson got 49.7% of the vote, he has refused to appear at debates with his challenger.

He has, however, won the endorsement of the American Federation of Teachers chapter that represents the faculty.

For his part, Ferraro charges that his election would break the faculty union’s “tight hold” on the community college board. All seven current trustees have received the union’s backing.


In the west San Fernando Valley, the city school board race is between Armor and Ginsburg for Bartman’s seat. Bartman decided not to seek reelection.

The current board has three dependable liberals--Rita Walters, Jackie Goldberg and Larry Gonzalez--and two solid conservatives, Bartman and Roberta Weintraub. Most close votes are settled by the two moderates, board President John Greenwood and Westside representative Alan Gershman.

Ginsburg, who is relying on strong backing of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, could give the liberal and union-backed forces a steady majority on the board.

In the primary, Armor won 40% of the vote among seven candidates. He has repeatedly noted that he testified against mandatory busing during the Los Angeles desegregation trial. Armor, 49, says that if elected he would fight for stronger discipline and higher academic standards in the schools.


Ginsburg, 60, says that she too opposes mandatory busing and favors better discipline. However, her years as a history and government teacher at Chatsworth High School have also given her “an insider’s perspective” on what needs to be done to improve the schools, she said.

Prepared by Times City-County Bureau Chief Bill Boyarsky with reports from staff writers Frank Clifford, Victor Merina and David Savage.