WESTWOOD : Mayor Breaks Tradition to Tout Budget

A group of residents received a rare guest last week--so rare that most folks considered the visit an introduction.

In meeting with about 250 homeowners at the Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan was breaking with what some residents consider a longtime, if informal, City Hall tradition.

"This is the first time I can remember an L.A. mayor coming to Westwood," Joyce Foster, president of the Westwood Homeowners Assn., told the group.

Yet the mayor's call was more than just social. He came to plug his first city budget, which the City Council is debating and will vote on by June 1.

The crowd generally gave Riordan a warm reception, interrupting his talk with applause when he noted that his $4.3-billion budget provided for more cops and graffiti removal. Still, the entrepreneur-turned-politico warned that government can't do everything.

"It's your leadership that will turn the city around, not government," Riordan said, urging listeners to lobby their council representatives for passage of the budget.

The mayor gave only the briefest details of his plan, which he promised would add more than 1,500 police officers to the streets and deliver an extra $30 million for street maintenance. He also discussed a controversial plan to privatize parking enforcement on the Westside and called for greater efficiency in government, criticizing past bureaucratic excesses.

When the floor was opened up for questions, most residents seemed concerned with issues closer to their street or homes. They asked about obtaining curbside recycling bins, increased bus service and whether utility taxes would be hiked to help pay for the new budget.

Riordan said the questions would be taken up by his staff. Many listeners appeared open to his budget ideas, though.

"I think he has a lot of good points," said Michael Gehring, 35. "We've got to really trim the budget. There's so much inefficiency."

West Los Angeles resident Margaret Wyatt, 81, blasted Riordan and his staff for not responding to several letters she has sent City Hall complaining about litter and homeless people on Exposition Boulevard near her home.

But, in the end, she too said she generally supports the mayor.

"If he does what he says, he'll be all right," Wyatt said.

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