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Bradley Tells Residents Wilmington’s ‘Stepchild’ Image Altered

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley acknowledged Thursday night that Wilmington was once treated as a “stepchild” but said he believes that has changed.

In his first appearance before the Wilmington Home Owners--the community’s largest and most vocal residents group--Bradley fielded a wide range of questions--and complaints--about the way he runs the city of Los Angeles.

The residents asked Bradley about lack of street sweeping and police patrols, trucks that rumble through the port community and park on its streets, and open piles of sulfur that some said are a serious health hazard.

“Our city doesn’t look very nice,” said one resident, saying construction and lack of street cleaning make the streets look like “a patchwork quilt.”

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Complained another: “I’ve lived in Wilmington since 1917, and I haven’t seen a damn thing change since I’ve been here.”

Said a third: “The previous three terms you’ve served, the name Wilmington has been at the bottom of the list. . . . I would like your word before these people that anything which is negative to Wilmington will not have your support.”

The mayor--who is in his fourth term and is seeking a fifth in April--declined to make such a promise, saying he considers issues on a case-by-case basis.

Instead, he defended his policies, although he did say that “there was a time” when Wilmington was considered a “stepchild” to the rest of Los Angeles.

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As some in the crowd of about 200 murmured “It still is,” Bradley continued: “We’ve done a number of things to bring Wilmington within the community of Los Angeles.”

Indeed, in his brief opening remarks, Bradley mentioned--and took credit for--a variety of developments in Wilmington this past year.

Among them: the establishment of a city Department of Transportation branch in the harbor area, the creation of a committee to study the effect of traffic in the area, the opening of the library branch in Wilmington and the opening of the Wilmington Boys and Girls Club.

Nevertheless, resident Gertrude Schwab complained that the community, which has more than 40,000 residents, needs more gathering places and meeting halls. Gesturing toward the Banning Park Recreation Center, where the homeowners meeting was held, Schwab said:

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“This is our only park. This was built when our population was 20,000 people. . . . When are we going to get another park? When are we going to get another meeting hall?”

Replied the mayor: “We’re going to have to make do with the resources that we have.”

Later in the meeting--in one of its lighter moments--Bradley looked at a clock on the wall of the recreation center and, seeing that it read 9:20 p.m., said the meeting was running late.

Informed that the time was only 8:20, Bradley cracked: “Who maintains that clock?”

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Shouted one resident: “The city does!”

Two years ago, during a daylong visit to the harbor area, Bradley was criticized by several community leaders for failing to include Wilmington Home Owners on his schedule.

“He is showing compassion for the homeless,” Wilmington Home Owners Vice President Jo Ann Wysocki said at the time, referring to Bradley’s stop at a soup kitchen, “but how about some compassion for the residents?”

But Thursday night, Wysocki--who recently entered the race for City Council--expressed satisfaction with the mayor’s appearance, saying, “It’s never too late.”

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