Vote Mirrors an Angry Constituency : Election May Signal Decrease in Political Power of Bradley

Times City-County Bureau Chief

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley lost his strongest City Council ally in Tuesday's election--and much more.

No longer can the mayor call on Council President Pat Russell, defeated by Ruth Galanter, to smooth the way for favorable votes on mayoral appointments, projects and policies. The defeat of Russell on the Westside and of Homer Broome Jr. in Bradley's home district were more signs that his citywide political power is diminishing.

And for the future, backers of Bradley's potential 1989 foe, Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, foresee brighter possibilities in their efforts to raise money from Bradley backers who now sense the mayor's vulnerability.

In another bad portent for Bradley, Russell's defeat, according to her supporters and critics, was due largely to her support of development in her 6th District, which, to a large extent, demographically resembles the city as a whole. Her platform of controlled development was identical to Bradley's position of "reasonable growth."

While Yaroslavsky endorsed Russell because of her past backing of him in the council, he is a strong proponent of limited growth, joining with Councilman Marvin Braude in successfully supporting the restrictive Proposition U last year. One of his advisers said, "Yaroslavsky has a tiger by the tail with the slow growth movement and there is no reason he can't ride it all the way."

On Wednesday, Bradley brushed aside reporters' questions about whether he was hurt by the Russell and Broome losses. "I don't remember my name being on the ballot anywhere," he told a City Hall news conference.

Instead, his morning was filled with activities calling attention to past and present triumphs, and his supporters said in interviews they do not believe the election will hurt his chances of winning a fifth term.

Evoking memories of the 1984 Olympics, which he helped bring to Los Angeles, Bradley announced that Los Angeles will host the 1991 Olympic Festival, where the nation's athletes will compete a year before the 1992 Olympics.

Then, he drove to 5th and Hope streets and accepted a check for $28.2 million from downtown developer Robert Maguire for renovation of the historic Central Library. That was the first installment of money Maguire will pay the city for development rights for twin towers across the street from the fire-damaged library--an example of Bradley's policy of government and developers working together to build high-rise downtown Los Angeles.

Bradley was good humored, even as he encountered Yaroslavsky taking a pot shot at him.

As the mayor walked into the small press conference room outside the City Council chamber, the councilman was finishing his session with reporters, saying that Russell's defeat marked a waning of the mayor's influence.

Bradley, laughing, pointed to Yaroslavsky and said, "He endorsed the same candidate I did, what about his prestige?"

But the harsh realities of election day were evident elsewhere at City Hall, where council members jockeyed to replace Russell in a council vote July 1. The new council president is not likely to be someone as responsive as Russell was to Bradley, an old friend and ideological soul mate who had helped her get elected to the council. Already making it clear that they want the council leadership job are council members Joan Milke Flores, Joy Picus and John Ferraro--none of them reliable members of the Bradley team. Ferraro, in fact, ran against Bradley for mayor in 1985 and lost.

By choosing committee chairs, preparing the daily calendar and using her considerable political influence and skill, Russell pushed through many Bradley proposals and appointments without controversy, sparing him many confrontations.

"She did some things that were pro Bradley, no question of that," said Ferraro.

Flores said: "I think that probably more with Pat than I can recall in the years I've been here there was an umbilical cord to the mayor's office. I don't think that's there anymore, and for a while it won't be there."

Other Key Changes

The Russell loss comes on top of other council changes that have weakened the position of Bradley, who started out his administration in 1973 with many council supporters and friends made during his years on the city's governing body.

Dave Cunningham, who succeeded Bradley in representing the 10th District, retired a few months ago, depriving the mayor of a canny political pro who had great influence with the two other black councilmen, Robert Farrell and Gilbert Lindsay, and who skillfully traded votes with council members of all political views.

In addition, newcomers without strong Bradley ties--Richard Alatorre, Gloria Molina and Michael Woo--joined the council, none of them sure Bradley supporters. And, most important, Yaroslavsky and Braude, always Bradley backers in a pinch, split with him on the growth issue and successfully pushed through Proposition U, the limited development measure, last year. Howard Finn, the planning committee chairman who shared Bradley's views on development, died.

As it stands today, Bradley has only two sure allies--Lindsay and Farrell. And Farrell, mercurial and changeable on issues, is not considered reliable by many of his colleagues and Lindsay is 86, increasingly feeble, walking on occasion with a cane and sometimes losing track of council debates.

"The Russell loss will change the politics on the council," said Christopher Stewart, executive vice president of the Central City Assn., the downtown business organization, and a strong Bradley supporter. "There are new people there. The mayor will have to develop new relationships."

Labor leader and Bradley backer James Wood, who heads the Community Redevelopment Agency board, said, "He will have to make new relationships and see how people relate to him."

Bradley denied that the election losses were evidence of a loss of citywide political power.

Recalling that President Reagan and Gov. George Deukmejian, like him, had endorsed losing candidates, he said: "It doesn't have any impact whatever on our prestige. We go on."

But even supporters said his political position is not as strong as it was in the past.

Signs of Weakness

The Russell and Broome losses come after a 1986 gubernatorial loss in which he carried the city of Los Angeles, but saw his support diminish from past races on the Westside and a lower than expected turnout in black areas, a strong area for the mayor.

Police Commissioner H. F. Boeckmann III, a strong Bradley supporter in the San Fernando Valley, said he does not believe the Russell and Broome defeats are "a reflection on the mayor."

But he added: "I don't think he is at the height of his popularity. The fact that he ran for governor hurt him. But you have to look at the (1989 mayoral) election and see who are the opponents. . . ."

Yaroslavsky declined to say that the twin losses hurt Bradley personally. "Time will tell," he said. "The ultimate test is when you, yourself, are on the ballot."

But he made it clear that there will be sharp divisions between him and Bradley on the growth issue--and that he thinks the mayor is on the losing side.

The new council, he said, will not support "the AFL-CIO's view, Randy Stokes' view, Art Snyder's view." H. Randall Stokes is a real estate lobbyist; Arthur K. Snyder is a lobbyist and former councilman.

The AFL-CIO is a cornerstone of Bradley's support, and both advocate the policy of more growth for more jobs.

But the Central City Assn.'s Stewart quickly said Yaroslavsky's views on development are ambivalent, declaring that some of the city's biggest real estate developments have occurred in residential areas in the councilman's West Los Angeles district. Yaroslavsky backed Russell against Galanter, saying that while he disagreed with her development views, he appreciated her support on important issues in the past.

One Yaroslavsky adviser said the losses, particularly Russell's, will help the councilman raise money for a mayoral race from business interests who, while opposing his view, will want to be on his good side if he defeats Bradley.

The victory of growth-limit candidate Galanter, the adviser said, gives Yaroslavsky more credibility.

But not even critics were prepared to write the mayor off.

"You would have to say it has done some damage to Bradley but I have seen in the past where there were issues that people thought would hurt him, and they didn't hurt him in the long run," said Ferraro.

"I thought he was in trouble last time but I was wrong," said Ferraro, who lost in a landslide. "He has a way of recovering. . . . He has had very favorable treatment by the media over the years."

Wood said that Broome lost only because his opponent, Nate Holden, was more popular and that Russell was beaten by "a perception of overdevelopment and a perception of people in her district that they were not getting service."

Meanwhile, the administration moved ahead with plans clearly aimed at strengthening the mayor's image and performance.

On the planning issue, Wood, a strong development backer, endorsed the reappointment of Dan Garcia as chairman of the planning commission, a key post in the continuing development debate. Development critics had said Wood and organized labor were opposing Garcia, a moderate on the growth issue.

"I definitely think Dan should be reappointed," Wood said.

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