Hostilities erupted in the Compton City Council meeting for the second week in a row Tuesday as three council members pushed through resolutions designed to rein in the mayor.
This week, the majority took a city-leased car away from Mayor Walter R. Tucker III. Last week, they demanded a new policy prohibiting a council member from holding a press conference on city matters without inviting the others.
The mayor, who has made regular appearances on news broadcasts and talk shows about the riots, is one of the five council members.
In recent weeks, the council meetings have often become shouting matches, bringing residents to the podium to scold their leaders.
"We thought you all could work together as a team--that's why you were elected," Kevin Brown, a former gang member, admonished them Tuesday.
Tucker, the son of a former Compton mayor, is running for Congress in the 37th District. His one ally on the council, Patricia A. Moore, is running for the 52nd District Assembly seat.
And there lies the source of tension, council members say.
"It's just politics--it's the season," Tucker said.
Councilman Omar Bradley, once a Tucker ally, has accused the mayor of betraying his constituents by seeking higher office just nine months after being elected mayor.
Moore and Tucker were both accused of using the rioting--or revolution, as they refer to the recent violence--to further their campaigns.
Tensions began shortly after the end of the worst looting and fires, which caused $100 million in damage and destroyed 84 buildings in Compton. When Gov. Pete Wilson and the Rev. Jesse Jackson arrived to tour the riot-torn city, they asked Tucker to join them.
Although state officials said they wanted to keep the party small for security, other council members were publicly miffed at being excluded. Then came a hasty press conference, called by Tucker, regarding a truce between members of the Crips and Bloods gangs.
Councilwoman Bernice Woods, backed by Bradley and Jane D. Robbins, called for a policy demanding that all council members be present at press conferences.
Moore called the proposed policy a violation of her First Amendment rights and threatened to sue the city and the council majority if it passed--an announcement greeted by loud applause.
"I may not get applause, but I didn't come here for self-aggrandizement," retorted Bradley. "I came here to make policy."
Tucker then attacked Bradley for signing a letter mailed to Compton residents on the campaign stationery of Lynn Dymally, Tucker's main rival in the congressional race. The letter alleges that Tucker leaked city secrets to the press during the riot.
"That was a boldfaced lie," yelled Tucker, an associate minister of the Bread of Life Christian Center in Carson.
"A lie?" Bradley began. "Walter, you as a Christian minister . . ."
"You wouldn't know a thing about that, brother," Tucker retorted.
The barbs continued this week as Bradley, Woods and Robbins voted to take away Tucker's city car after the Dymally campaign printed a picture of Tucker standing by the vehicle with campaign signs. It's unlawful for an elected official to use city property for campaign purposes.
A resolution passed last year allowed Compton elected officials to choose between a $450-per-month transportation allowance or a city car. Tuesday, the council rescinded that resolution and passed one giving all council members the monthly allowance.
Like the call for a policy on press conferences, it passed on a 3-2 vote, with Moore and Tucker opposed.
Late in the evening, as they took up other city business, it appeared that a truce might be declared on the fractured council. But then Bradley, Woods and Robbins abruptly walked out during public comments--just after the cable television cameras had been turned off.
The action left Tucker with no choice but to adjourn the meeting.