A property tax increase to finance a bigger Los Angeles Police Department was defeated in Tuesday’s election, while Michael Woo beat Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson, becoming the city’s only Asian council member.
In the only citywide race on the ballot, Rick Tuttle, a community college trustee, defeated Dan Shapiro, a Studio City attorney, in the contest for the city controller’s job vacated when James K. Hahn was elected city attorney in the April primary.
Requiring a two-thirds vote for passage, the police tax measure, Proposition 1, could not even get a majority. Mayor Tom Bradley and Police Chief Daryl F. Gates had campaigned hard for the plan, which would have raised the property tax to pay for expanding the Police Department from 7,000 to 8,000 officers.
A similar measure backed by Bradley and Gates was defeated four years ago, and Bradley said Tuesday night that he would not try to revive the plan a third time.
“It’s quite clear in the long run there is no good sign that we are going to increase the size of the department,” Bradley said. “The people have spoken.”
An opponent of the police tax, Paul Shay, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Taxpayers Assn., said, “People apparently bought the idea that it was more a pocketbook issue than a protection issue. People didn’t buy the idea that crime was going to run rampant unless this passed.”
A second ballot measure giving city pension funds authority to invest in real estate barely passed.
In declaring victory in the controller’s race, Tuttle said, “I’m looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity to serve the citizens of Los Angeles.”
Woo, a 33-year-old former aide to state Senator David Roberti (D-Los Angeles), credited a “great coalition effort” for his victory over Stevenson, 61, who was seeking her fourth council term. Asked about his election as the council’s only Asian, Woo said, “I can’t promise any special favors to Asians. I’m not trying to make special claims for myself as an Asian,” but he added that he intends to “go on to develop a good record on the City Council that would provide an important role model for young people in the Asian community.”
Stevenson, who deafeated Woo in a runoff four years ago, blamed the Westside political organization headed by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) and Howard Berman (D-Studio City) for her loss this time. Several politicians associated with Waxman and Berman had endorsed Woo.
“Woo I could have beaten, but this was the whole Berman-Waxman machine,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson declined to formally concede. However, her campaign manager, Allan Hoffenblum said, “There’s no chance she can win.”
“She’s . . . a winner in all of our books,” said her friend and political ally, Councilman Joel Wachs, who was at her side.
Early in the evening, Woo posed for pictures with two backers, Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner and City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky.
Yaroslavsky and Councilman Marvin Braude, in an unusual rebuke of a colleague, had endorsed Woo over Stevenson, partly because they said she was too supportive of projects in their districts backed by big developers who contributed to her campaign.
The move raised speculation that Braude and Yaroslavsky may next join in a challenge of another Stevenson backer, Councilwoman Pat Russell, if she seeks another term as president of the City Council in the next few weeks. The council elects its president.
Woo’s campaign was apparently the first success in a long effort by Asian and Latinos to win a place on the 15-member City Council.
Despite a Latino population of 27% and an Asian population of 7% in a city of 2.9 million, the council consists of three blacks and 12 whites.
In the primary, Latinos and Asians backed a measure to increase the size of the council by two seats to help their chances of winning one. But the measure lost, and Asian political activists placed all their hopes on the Woo campaign.
Turnout was light in an election that was largely anti-climactic after a hotly fought primary in which Bradley was overwhelmingly re-elected and Hahn won a hard-fought victory.
During their campaign, Stevenson and Woo exchanged charges through expensive mailers sent to homes and apartments in a district that includes some of the most historic and colorful parts of Los Angeles. The 13th ranges from rustic hideaway homes in Laurel Canyon to old Hollywood bungalow courts that date to the silent screen days.
Within its boundaries--Laurel Canyon on the west, just east of the Golden State Freeway on the east, the crest of the Hollywood Hills on the north and below Santa Monica Boulevard on the south--are rich, middle-class and poor, and representatives of many of the city’s ethnic minorities.
Stevenson’s big hit was a mailer saying that Woo, among several other political leaders, had received laundered campaign contributions from W. Patrick Moriarty, the Orange County fireworks manufacturer who has pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign contributions. Woo said he did not know that the 1981 contributions, which were checks from a firm called Condo West, might have originated with Moriarty and announced that he was giving an equal amount, $5,400, to charity.
Woo also made charges, trying to portray Stevenson as an official who backed real estate developments opposed by neighborhood groups and saying that she was responsible for what Woo insisted was increased crime in Hollywood.
Also important was a battle of endorsements.
In addition to endorsements from Yaroslavsky and Braude, Woo got major Democratic leadership support when Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) endorsed him last weekend, a day after Reiner, another strong Democratic figure, reiterated his support of Woo and blasted Stevenson for what he said was an unfair mail advertisement.
The police ballot measure called for a special property tax based on the size of land and buildings.
A tax rate of 32 cents for every 100 square feet of land was proposed, along with a $2.36 levy for every 100 square feet of building. That figured out to $32 for the owner of an 800-square-foot house on a 4,000-square-foot lot and $110 for a 3,000-square-foot house on a 12,000-square-foot lot. After the first year, the tax would be have been adjusted for changes in the cost of living and population.
The hiring of up to 1,000 officers would have to be done in increments of 200 a year under the plan, with none of the new positions above the rank of detective or sergeant. All of those hired would have been assigned to enforcement work, such as patrol, detective or narcotics duties.
Backers of the other ballot measure, the pension fund investment Charter change, said it will allow the city to reap increased yields from investments by allowing major city retirement systems to put some of their money in real estate.
It was hard to tell the differences between Tuttle and Shapiro in the campaign for an office that oversees tax collections and audits official expense accounts.
Both are Democrats. Both are members of the same political generation--Tuttle is 45; Shapiro, 38. Both promised more city auditors and an advisory panel to find ways to cut the city budget.
On another major issue, they were only slightly apart, with Tuttle enthusiastically backing the police property tax and Shapiro a more reluctant supporter.
What separated them were endorsements.
Tuttle, a UCLA administrator who is a community college trustee, was supported by some of the city’s top Democratic political leaders, including Bradley, Reiner and the Westside’s Berman-Waxman political organization.
Shapiro was supported by Councilmen John Ferraro, Bradley’s unsuccessful challenger in this year’s mayoral election, and Ernani Bernardi. Also backing Shapiro, an attorney and head of the Studio City Residents Assn., was Supervisor Mike Antonovich, state Republican chairman.