Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, in the role of reelection-minded candidate obliged to offer a new program now and then, on Wednesday proposed a 6% increase in the size of the Police Department, or 500 new officers, for next year.
However, in one of his infrequent sit-down sessions with reporters, the 16-year mayor seemed more comfortable in a different role--that of invincible elder statesman pleased to take credit for Los Angeles’ position as one of the important cities of the world, butconfident that citizens here will not blame him for its troubles or demand sweeping changes.
“When I go to sleep at night, I sleep peacefully because I know that I’ve done the best I could that day with the problems facing the city and me. That, I think, is soothing . . . I’ve made a conscientious effort to tackle and solve the problems that day,” he said.
Elected in 1973, 1977, 1981 and 1985 with dreams to help make Los Angeles a city with a skyline, with an international profile, with opportunities for all races of people and with a livable environment, Bradley faced determined questioning by Southern California political reporters about his vision for 1989 and beyond as he heads toward an apparent April 11 reelection against underpowered opposition.
The 71-year-old mayor surprised even his staff with his determined reluctance to sketch a picture of Los Angeles in the 1990s, except for the planned announcement of the police expansion.
What, Bradley was asked, is one thing you want to accomplish in your next term?
“Can you make it several? You know I never respond to what is the single most important thing,” he replied.
Do you have a theme or slogan that captures your campaign?
“No,” Bradley said, shaking his head.
Reticent to Predict
Well, at the end of your next term how will Los Angeles be a different or better city in which to live?
“You may be able to calculate what differences occur. I don’t do that,” he said.
In the course of the hourlong session, Bradley insisted he should be credited with initiatives on reducing downtown traffic congestion and with new waste-recycling programs, among others. They will have a “significant impact” on life in the city, he said.
But pressed for a panoramic vision of the needs of Los Angeles, Bradley finally pointed to recommendations of a three-year study by a committee of 150 civil leaders. The group issued a long report last year entitled L.A. 2000. Bradley said he is now assembling a new committee to implement the earlier committee’s report.
“The (first) committee dealt with quality of life and a whole range of issues we’re going to have to deal with in the next 15 years. That’s the purpose of having this formal look at the future of Los Angeles and what we need to do to prepare ourselves for the 21st Century. That is what I think is required of visionary leadership,” Bradley said.
The mayor did not discuss the underlying and ironic finding of the report--that many of Southern California’s problems are too broad for a city to solve. “The goals cannot be achieved without making changes in the way we govern ourselves,” the committee president said at the time. The report called for more regional government.
Quality of Life Issue
As for public discontent about the quality of life in Los Angeles, Bradley said he is confident he would not be blamed.
“This city has always had problems and always will,” he began. “I’ve never tried to deny a problem or run from a problem, I’ve tried to deal with it. I think my hard work in trying to find an answer to these problems has had an impact on the perception of the people.
“And therefore, if they are unhappy with a particular problem, whether it is transportation, or air pollution or whatever, they have concluded that the mayor didn’t create that problem. And therefore they are not going to charge him with the responsibility for it if he is doing the most he can to solve the problem.
“I think it’s on that basis I get a favorable rating.”
Indeed, a Los Angeles Times Poll of city voters conducted in February found exactly that: Nearly two-thirds believe the quality of life has deteriorated here in the last 15 years, but almost the same margin of voters approve of Bradley’s handling of his job.
Opponent Blames Him
Nevertheless, critics, including Nate Holden, the city councilman who is mounting a low-budget challenge for the mayorship, argue that Bradley is directly to blame for the city’s tightening congestion, gang violence and unceasing development.
Crime is a particularly sensitive matter right now in Los Angeles. And Bradley, a former police officer, said his new proposal to add 500 officers to the 7,950 authorized for the Los Angeles Police Department would be paid for by criminals themselves, at a cost of $14 million to $16 million next year. This is what he projected will be the city’s share of assets confiscated from drug dealers.
Last year, 400 new officers were authorized for the department using those same funds. A spokesman said the cost of the original 400 would fall on the general fund if the 500 new officers are approved by the City Council.
POLICE PAY HIKE VOTED
The L.A. City Council approves a 17% salary increase over four years. Page 4