Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich has written to 2,500 of his campaign donors, urging them to contribute to Jeanne Nemo's under-financed campaign to unseat City Councilwoman Joy Picus.
The letter could help close the fund-raising lead that the San Fernando Valley councilwoman has over her five challengers in the April 11 Los Angeles city election. Nemo has raised $25,000 to Picus' $150,000.
Antonovich, a Republican, has access to contributors who might be willing to support Nemo, another Republican, against Picus, a Democrat, even though the council is a nonpartisan office. Television commentator Bruce Herschensohn, an unsuccessful GOP candidate for U.S. Senate in 1986, is preparing to write to supporters on Nemo's behalf, Nemo said.
In his letter, copied on Board of Supervisors' stationery but paid for by Nemo, Antonovich urges supporters to send Nemo "your maximum contribution." A 1985 voter-approved city law limits contributions to council candidates to $500 per donor.
"As your City Council representative," Antonovich wrote, "Jeanne will work to increase the Police Department and eliminate the drugs and gangs from our city. She is also committed to improving traffic flow, supporting planned growth that maintains the integrity of neighborhoods and finding solutions to problems we face with affordable housing, the homeless and our deteriorating infrastructure."
The text of the letter does not mention Picus by name but says, "The Los Angeles Police Department has been hampered by politicians who have deliberately kept the Police Department understaffed."
"Today, we have a serious crime problem, yet Los Angeles is the most under-policed city in the nation," the text says. "Since the early 1970s, the population has increased from 2.8 million to 3.4 million, while the police have had their hands tied by not being allowed to increase with this growth."
According to Antonovich, the Police Department had 7,145 officers in 1976. The Department now has 7,677 officers, a police spokesman said, but is expected to be up to 7,900 by July.
A spokesman for Police Chief Daryl F. Gates said Picus has been supportive of efforts to increase funding for additional police officers. Gates, however, does not endorse candidates in council races, the spokesman added.
Nemo said in an interview that she would consider establishing a rubbish collection tax on single-family homes to raise money for additional police.
"We are about the only major city that subsidizes trash collection," Nemo said. "I think that it is time that we started charging for that if that is the only way we can raise money to hire sufficient number of police.
"Fear of crime is the No. 1 issue," she said. "I think a significant increase in the number of police not only reduces street crime, but it makes people feel safer."
Picus called Antonovich's letter "campaign rhetoric."
She said she supports a plan to increase the police force to 10,000 officers by 1993. She did not say how she would pay for the additional officers, adding that she would need to "look at all the options" before considering a rubbish collection charge.
"The last time a refuse collection fee was proposed, it was extremely unpopular in my district," Picus said.
Nemo ran against Picus in 1985, finishing second in a field of five candidates with 21% of the vote. Picus won with 56% of the vote.