Bradley Takes a Grilling--but Ends Day Grinning : Mayor: First a news conference on the end of a corruption probe, then a toy giveaway on Skid Row.
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley on Saturday was center stage at two events that symbolized the divergent sides of the mayor’s political persona.
At City Hall, he faced a roomful of reporters for a testy 15-minute news conference about the U. S. Justice Department’s decision Friday not to indict him on charges of insider trading or political corruption. The mayor insisted that the news should “put to rest” any questions about his conduct.
But the reporters persisted, pressing him with questions about local investigations that remain open and about whether he has any regrets about the conduct that triggered so many personal and political problems for him.
An hour later and two blocks away, Bradley was again bathed in the glare of camera lights. But this time, the crowd was cheering as he handed out holiday toys to families at the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row.
The emcee, the Rev. Cecil Murray, a prominent South Angeles minister whose church organized the giveaway, exhorted the crowd to chant the mayor’s name. “Who is the mayor of the greatest city on Earth?” he shouted into the microphone. “Tom Bradley!” was the loud response. Later, with entertainer Arsenio Hall by his side, Bradley posed for pictures and handed out basketballs and games to children.
In a crowd of smiling children, parents, church leaders and people who work with the homeless, the defensiveness of the morning news conference faded. He grinned, laughed and joked.
“You have to live with the encounters,” he said. “But I do enjoy this.”
Bradley’s long, imposing political presence in the city and his list of accomplishments--from the 1984 Olympics to Skid Row homeless shelters--have earned him adoration in many quarters. At the same time, the inquiries and ethics controversies that have surrounded him in recent years have left lingering questions--even among some of his supporters.
“I think he’s politically strong,” said Norman Johnson, an Internal Revenue Service employee and church volunteer on hand for the program. “The positive things about Tom Bradley exceed the other claims” of possible misconduct.
But even for Johnson, who said he has supported the mayor, there are threads that run through the investigations and controversies that trouble him. The mayor, he said, does not seem to adequately control the activities of those close to him.
A number of the controversies that have plagued the mayor in recent years involved the conduct of associates and appointees, who have been accused of mixing politics and business.
“You should be responsible and have knowledge of the people working for you,” Johnson said. “It shows kind of a nonfeasance of office, not watching people that are placed in certain positions.”
Jerome McCants of Los Angeles, an unemployed sheet-metal worker who lined up with his family to collect toys, said he voted for Bradley and was “stunned” in 1989 when the federal and local investigations began. Now that the federal investigation has died without a detailed report of any findings, he said, he does not know what to think.
“They should let the public know everything” they found, he said, because skepticism will remain.
Hall shook his head when asked about the investigations and how he views Bradley. “He has a very tough job,” he said. “I’m glad I tell jokes for a living.”
The theme of Bradley’s remarks at City Hall was that he has been through a tough period largely because of news stories that repeatedly speculated about possible misconduct. He said he has lost something that will be hard to regain.
“My reputation means much to me,” he said. “How do I get (it) back? How do you recover from that?”
Bradley brushed aside questions about the remaining investigations, predicting that no violations will be found.
Asked what he might do differently, the mayor said the Justice Department’s action showed “there was no wrongdoing. So why would I change any part of my life?”