Finn's Widow Seeks Council Appointment to Vacant Seat

Times Staff Writer

The widow of Los Angeles City Councilman Howard Finn said Monday that she has asked the City Council to appoint her to the seat left vacant by her husband, who died last week.

"This community needs to be represented," Anne Finn said. "We deserve more than an empty seat. . . . Howard deserves more than that."

In an interview, Finn confirmed that she has been calling council members, lobbying for an appointment. She declined to say how much support she has received.

Howard Finn, a 68-year-old councilman who had represented the Northeast San Fernando Valley's 1st District since 1981, died Aug. 12 of a ruptured aorta, a few hours after being stricken with chest pains while conducting a Planning and Environment Committee meeting.

The council's Charter and Elections Committee will discuss Wednesday how to fill the vacancy, whether by appointment or by calling an election.

If the council chooses to make an appointment, the appointee could serve for a matter of months but could not serve out the full three years of Finn's unexpired term. He or she could serve for as little as 90 days or as long as nine months, depending on when an election is scheduled.

If the council decides to fill the vacancy by holding an election, the City Charter requires a notice period of 90 days, meaning that if the council acts this week, the election could take place sometime in late November. An appointee could serve in the meantime or the council could leave the seat vacant.

The election must be held no later than April 14, 1987, when the next regular municipal election is scheduled. If no candidate in April received more than 50% of the vote, a June runoff would be required between the top two vote-getters.

The council has not filled a vacancy by appointment since John Ferraro was appointed in 1966, even though six vacancies have occurred since then. The last councilman to die in office was Robert Stevenson, who was succeeded by his widow, Peggy, but only after she won a special election in 1975.

Not enough council members could be reached Monday to determine support for an appointment.

"Yes, I did speak to Mrs. Finn, and I was very sympathetic," Councilman Hal Bernson said, adding that he has not made a commitment on an appointment.

Since Finn's death, there has been growing support in the 1st District for the council to appoint Anne Finn, who was married to the councilman for 46 years and was always at his side at community functions.

"Every night when he came home, he brought me up to date on everything," Anne Finn said.

While saying she would accept the seat by appointment, Finn said she could not say whether she would seek election to the seat.

However, former Councilman Bob Ronka, who preceded Howard Finn in the 1st District seat, said Monday that he is "seriously considering" running for the seat. Ronka gave up the seat in 1981, after one term, to run unsuccessfully for city attorney.

Ronka said he opposes an appointment.

"I have great affection for Anne," he said. "Philosophically, I have always felt appointments are a bad idea. The best thing is for the people to make the decision."

Friday, Elton (Skip) Michael, a Los Angeles police detective who lost 1981 and 1985 races to Finn, became the first announced candidate for the seat. Al Avila, a former Finn aide who currently works for Councilman Richard Alatorre, also has expressed interest in the seat.

Black and Latino political activists in the 1st District have been pushing for an appointment. They say that a special election would hurt potential minority candidates, who would not be able to raise much money and organize a campaign as quickly as a candidate from the affluent areas of the district.

Latino candidates also have been eyeing the district because of the increase in the Latino population there from 36% to 40% as a result of the council's recent redistricting.

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