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Bradley’s Major Assignment

As he begins his unprecedented fifth term in office today, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley can look back on a career that already stands as a landmark in the city’s history.

During his 16-year Administration, the longest ever, the mayor has helped to encourage a period of economic expansion that has made Los Angeles one of the first cities not only of America, but also of the Pacific Rim. As a champion of equal rights and opportunities, he has opened the corridors of civic power to men and women of all races and creeds. The changes he has wrought in this regard are so sweeping that it is difficult now to recall that he was the first black Angeleno elected to the City Council and the first ever to occupy the mayor’s office. Perhaps it was his personal experience of bigotry that lead Bradley to work so hard--and with such notable success--to keep Los Angeles free of the communal rancor and racial divisiveness that have afflicted so much of urban America over the past two decades.

But despite the successes of the mayor’s four previous terms, thoughts of what likely will be his last Administration inevitably are characterized by an anxious uncertainty. The serious questions of conflict of interest arising from Bradley’s irregular handling of his personal finances and business transactions have yet to be resolved. Until the facts of this matter are fully laid bare and their consequences determined, conduct of the city’s business is bound to be halting and distracted.

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For that reason, bringing an open and equitable end to this affair remains the No. 1 item on the city’s agenda. The second is to enact a clear, comprehensive and enforceable code of ethics binding on all Los Angeles’ elected officials. Without these things, there can be no restoration of the public’s badly eroded confidence in the city government’s basic integrity.

Recent public opinion polls here and elsewhere have found that popular faith in the ability of government--particularly local government--to solve society’s most onerous problems is at an all-time low. This is doubly true in Los Angeles, where the city’s most vexing difficulties have assumed a sweeping and fundamental aspect.

A recent study by scholars from UCLA, for example, revealed that the economic boom of the past decade has obscured an alarming acceleration of income disparity. If it is not arrested, we confront a future in which an affluent, overwhelmingly white minority assumes the privileges and opportunities of a permanent ascendancy, while the nonwhite, non-Anglo mass of working people are relegated to the status of hereditary bondsmen, left to scavenge in the bleak wastes between the drudgery of dead-end jobs and the misery of utter destitution.

Providing every man and woman with the means to achieve a decent livelihood and a healthy and humane environment in which to enjoy it are the only goals worthy of a great city. If Los Angeles is to make a start toward their realization, the people’s basic belief in their city government’s competence and honesty must be restored.


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