Bernardi Endorses Ex-Foe Hall : Politics: Retiring councilman issues support in 7th District race, criticizes other contender, Richard Alarcon, over campaign brochure.


In a surprising political turnaround, retiring Los Angeles City Councilman Ernani Bernardi on Friday endorsed an old foe--former city Fire Capt. Lyle Hall--to succeed him as the representative of the northeastern San Fernando Valley.

At the same time, Bernardi took an angry swipe at Hall’s opponent, Richard Alarcon, charging that Alarcon sent voters a “deceptive” campaign brochure that quotes Bernardi’s sharp criticism of Hall when the two ran against each other in 1989. Bernardi defeated Hall in that hard-fought contest.

But Friday, Bernardi issued a strongly worded statement supporting Hall and attacking Alarcon after being faxed a copy of an Alarcon brochure that quoted Bernardi as saying: “Giving Lyle Hall a vote on the City Council would be putting the fox in charge of the hen house.”


The quote, taken from a 1989 newspaper story, was a reference to Hall’s role in negotiating better pay and benefits for firefighters when he was president of the city firefighters union from 1976 to 1984. The brochure began arriving in thousands of voters’ mailboxes Friday.

Hall and Alarcon, who is on leave from his job as Mayor Tom Bradley’s top Valley aide, are competing in the June 8 election in the 7th Council District, which extends from Van Nuys to Sylmar. They are vying to replace Bernardi, 81, who is retiring next month after 32 years on the council.

Bernardi said the anti-Hall quote was “used without my permission” and does “not reflect my position today.” His criticisms of Hall, he said, were “from a previous campaign . . . and were used in an obvious attempt to distort the truth and convey the impression that the statements were current.”

“I strongly resent . . . this outrageous mailer,” Bernardi said, adding that he now believes Hall is “the best qualified” to take over his seat.

“He (Hall) has the experience, the independence and the knowledge needed to get the job done,” the councilman said of his old nemesis.

Hall said he did not seek the councilman’s blessing, but that Bernardi’s unexpected, last-minute endorsement “is a plus.” Political observers, however, had mixed opinions on whether it will help his campaign.


Paul Clarke, a Republican political strategist from Northridge, said he thinks Hall will benefit, given Bernardi’s popularity with some longtime residents of the largely blue-collar district.

“To a certain group of people in that district, who’ve had Ernie as a councilman for who-knows-how-long . . . it’s the passing of the scepter,” Clarke said.

But Democratic political consultant Parke Skelton said the endorsement carries little weight, especially given Bernardi’s lame-duck status and poor showing in the recent mayoral primary election, in which he drew just 1% of the vote citywide.

In a telephone interview, Bernardi said he had intended to remain neutral in the Hall-Alarcon race until he saw the Alarcon flyer. Hall said the material was faxed by one of his supporters who also knows the councilman.

In addition to the disparaging quote by Bernardi, Alarcon’s flyer attacks Hall for his union’s successful court fight to overturn voter-approved limits on annual cost-of-living hikes in pension benefits for Los Angeles firefighters and police officers.

Voters in 1982 gave overwhelming approval to a City Charter amendment designed to rein in the city’s pension costs, which had soared during an 11-year period in which benefits were pegged to inflation, with no ceiling on the increases.


The firefighter and police unions later won a lawsuit to throw out the amendment, in a court ruling that city attorneys said could cause the municipal pension bill to rise by up to $43 million a year until 2037.

Bernardi complained that using his old anti-Hall quote also was misleading because the councilman supported the unions’ position. He said that before the public voted on the charter amendment, the council had been advised that capping firefighter and police pension benefits was illegal.

Alarcon’s brochure charged that the legal actions of Hall and his union contributed to the city’s current financial woes. Recent municipal budget shortfalls, Alarcon said, were partly the result of “the deals he cut as president of the firefighters union and as a lobbyist at City Hall.”

Alarcon said he was taken aback by Bernardi’s endorsement of Hall, saying he didn’t understand the councilman’s change of heart about his erstwhile opponent.

Reading from a 1989 newspaper story, Alarcon quoted Bernardi as saying that Hall should not be elected “because he always pushed for exorbitant salaries and pension benefits at the cost of city services.”

Hall said voters approved the cost-of-living increases well before they later sought illegally to cap them and that he did not negotiate any deals that drained the city treasury.