Bradley: Itinerant Mayor? : Now Fending Off Same Criticism on Travel That He Used in Bid to Unseat Yorty

Times Staff Writer

In 1969, when an ambitious Los Angeles city councilman named Tom Bradley was aiming his political sights on the mayor’s job, he chided incumbent Sam Yorty as someone who “clearly doesn’t display a desire to be mayor of this city.”

As evidence, Bradley contended that Yorty had neglected City Hall by embarking on a rash of trips outside Los Angeles--citing in particular a yearlong period when the mayor was out of town for 101 days--and said it mattered little whether the trips were trade missions or junkets.

The city needed a full-time mayor, Bradley said, who is “concerned about the problems of Los Angeles and not about foreign policy.”


Bradley lost that election. But four years later, when he finally defeated Yorty, an exuberant Mayor Bradley promised to curtail the overseas travel that marked his predecessor’s administration and rely primarily on trips to Sacramento and Washington to fight for local needs.

Today, the 67-year-old Bradley is a four-time incumbent fending off criticism that he, too, has become so absorbed in his own political agenda that he has become an itinerant mayor.

Bradley, who lost to Gov. George Deukmejian in 1982, has been accused by Deukmejian and others of using his foreign and domestic travels as mayor to bolster his political image in anticipation of another gubernatorial race in 1986.

So far this year, Bradley has taken more than 20 trips outside the city and has turned over the city’s reins to a mayor pro-tem for 86 days, according to his office records.

During that time, he has led trade delegations to Japan, Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru. Two weeks ago, the mayor flew to Israel as part of a business delegation, spoke to a group of opinion makers in Jordan on Middle East policy and acted as an emissary between Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Jordan’s King Hussein.

On Saturday, Bradley will depart on another weeklong sojourn to the Far East to promote the Los Angeles Harbor and to discuss foreign trade issues with leaders in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.


“We want to continue our aggressive effort to expand the work of that port, to bring in new customers, to expand the present lines that now come into Los Angeles,” Bradley said at a Thursday news conference called to announce the formation of a citizens “L.A. 2000” committee to chart the city’s course into the next century.

Asked how his situation differs from that of Yorty, who was ridiculed for his globe-trotting, including trips to war-torn South Vietnam, Bradley replied: “My criticism of the mayor at that time was that he was adopting a separate foreign policy for this city. You’ve never heard me

do that. I don’t intend to. I believe that is the role of the national government and I’ve supported their efforts in that regard.”

Yorty, now 76 and practicing law in Beverly Hills, said of Bradley: “He travels so much more than I did that it’s ridiculous, and many of his travels are politically inspired.”

Councilman Hal Bernson, a Deukmejian ally, also raised questions about Bradley’s trips.

“I would hardly think that going to Jordan to urge King Hussein to meet with the Israelis or the PLO qualifies as city business,” he said. “I think the trip to Israel was very clearly an attempt to stabilize his position with the Jewish community here and in the state of California. It was clearly political in nature.”

Bradley, who has relied on strong political ties to the Jewish community, has been trying to patch up the damage caused by his refusal to publicly denounce Louis Farrakhan before the Nation of Islam minister arrived in Los Angeles and delivered a speech tinged with anti-Semitic remarks.


But mayoral aides insisted that the primary intent of the Israeli trip was to explore bilateral trade and investment opportunities. And they pointed out that it was financed by the American-Israeli Chamber of Commerce and not the city.

Public Funds

Bradley’s use of public funds on some of his travels also figures in the controversy.

Last July, Bradley took off with an entourage of reporters for a July trip to a boys’ camp in Bakersfield that included rafting on the Kern River. In September, he was in Oakland to speak to union members at a Labor Day picnic. He went bass fishing this month in the Sacramento Delta with another large media contingent after lambasting Deukmejian’s state water policies while promoting his own water plan.

When a Los Angeles Herald Examiner reporter questioned the nature of some of those trips, City Controller Rick Tuttle reviewed the mayor’s expenses and determined that Bradley and one of his aides owed the city refunds.

Bradley agreed to repay a $68.34 hotel bill for the night spent in Bakersfield before his raft trip. Press secretary Ali Webb also is required to pay a $61.46 hotel tab after Tuttle concluded that the rafting outing did not involve city business. He said Webb also will repay $56.42 for an overnight stay in Northern California because a press conference in Sacramento during that period turned into “a statewide, gubernatorial” event.

Tuttle, however, agreed that the fishing trip and Labor Day speeches were legitimate and that the city would pay Bradley’s $282 in travel expenses.

In a letter inviting Bradley to attend the Oakland picnic, the head of the Central Labor Council of Alameda County had made it clear that the event would involve “a political program.” Executive Secretary Richard K. Groulx added: “I hope we will see you on Labor Day, not only this year, but next year as governor.”


But Tuttle told The Times that the city would pay Bradley’s expenses because Bradley had been urged by local union officials, including members of the Operating Engineers Local 3, which represents employees at the city’s Department of Water and Power, to attend the picnic.

“What I was looking for was a city purpose . . . and any mayor needs to maintain an ongoing relationship with organized labor,” Tuttle said.

Since taking office, Bradley has had to weather periodic complaints about his travel expenses. In 1979, then-City Controller Ira Reiner refused to approve an expense advance for a Bradley trip to a meeting of international airport officials on the French Riviera, and the mayor did not go.

In defending the several trips he did take, Bradley said the city is battling a fierce, competitive market for world trade and that income and business generated by the Harbor Department, the Airport Department and the convention and exhibition centers have grown dramatically since he took office in 1973. His supporters also said his travels have helped local companies win foreign contracts.

“He’s done a lot for the city in his travels,” said Councilman David Cunningham. “The mayor is highly respected and he opens a lot of top-level doors.”

Cunningham accompanied Bradley last year on a trade mission to China that included stops in Hong Kong and Japan. In 1984, Bradley also squeezed in trips to Denmark, Germany, England and Italy to promote Los Angeles tourism and traveled to Spain and Yugoslavia on Olympic-related business.