After a news conference Wednesday to mark his election to the Los Angeles City Council, Mike Feuer and his wife, Gail Ruderman Feuer, were introduced to the council members sitting at the horseshoe-shaped council dais.
Councilman Joel Wachs joked that Feuer's election not only brings another liberal Democrat to a panel already dominated by Democrats but will also shift the seating assignments in the chamber, which are arranged by alphabetical order.
"He's been here only one day and he is moving us over to the left," Wachs joked.
"Not a moment too soon," responded Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg.
But in addition to adding another liberal voice to the panel, Feuer is expected to play a pivotal role in such issues as campaign finance reform, Mayor Richard Riordan's public safety program, and earthquake reconstruction efforts in the San Fernando Valley.
During his successful campaign against Barbara Yaroslavsky for the 5th District seat, Feuer repeatedly said he wanted to prohibit lobbyists from contributing to the officeholder accounts of council members--a measure that was recently proposed by the city's Ethics Commission but killed by a council committee.
Goldberg, who supports finance reform, said she expects Feuer to be a welcome ally in the fight to impose tough new reform measures in City Hall. "He is going to be another vote on that cause," she said.
Because Feuer was endorsed by the union that represents the rank-and-file officers of the Police Department, other council members predicted he would help improve the sometimes rocky relationship between the council and the police, and provide additional support for Riordan's public safety program.
"He is going to be a council member who is able to see the full picture," said Councilwoman Laura Chick, a stalwart supporter of the police.
Riordan agreed, saying he and Feuer "see eye-to-eye on developing more community-based policing."
In fact, one of Feuer's first actions Wednesday was to have a fence-mending meeting with Riordan, who had endorsed Barbara Yaroslavsky. Riordan called it a positive meeting and characterized Feuer as a "very able guy."
Feuer replaces Barbara Yaroslavsky's husband, Zev, who resigned last year after he was elected to the County Board of Supervisors. In contrast to Feuer, Zev Yaroslavsky was despised by the union after a bitter clash with police during contract negotiations last year.
During his news conference, Feuer also reiterated his vow to do away with a controversial city plan to use redevelopment powers to help rebuild quake-damaged neighborhoods in Sherman Oaks--a plan that was championed by Zev Yaroslavsky just before he resigned. Feuer promised to find alternative city resources to help speed up the city's quake recovery efforts.
Feuer, a political neophyte who formerly directed a legal services clinic for eight years, drew 68% of the vote, compared to 32% for Yaroslavsky. The overwhelming victory stunned many political pundits who expected a stronger performance from Yaroslavsky due to her name recognition, a fund-raising lead and the endorsement of Riordan and other influential lawmakers.
The affluent and politically active 5th City Council District stretches from West Los Angeles to the Valley, including the communities of Brentwood, Westwood, Fairfax, Sherman Oaks and parts of Van Nuys, Studio City and North Hollywood.
Feuer attributed his strong showing to the long hours he and his family put in campaigning door-to-door.
"In a district as politically sophisticated and highly educated as the 5th, voters want to know their candidates, they want to be able ask them direct questions and get straightforward answers," he said.
Feuer campaign manager Cynthia Corona said the campaign focused on districts that voted heavily during the primary for former school board member Roberta Weintraub and Sherman Oaks businessman Jeff Brain, the two candidates who failed to make the runoff. Those districts are primarily in the Valley.
In addition, she said, the campaign identified those voters who supported Feuer during the primary and called them prior to Tuesday's election to assure that they would go to the polls.
But political consultants said Feuer also benefited from Yaroslavsky's weaknesses.
"People wanted a change, and because she is married to the former councilman for the district, they didn't see her as enough of a change," said one strategist.
Zev Yaroslavsky, who held the post for 19 years, winning five council races, attributed Feuer's win to a smart and hard-fought campaign, saying the race was not about his wife's name recognition or Riordan's endorsement.
"Michael Feuer is a very credible candidate," he said. "My worst nightmare was that Barbara would end up in a runoff with him because he is good."
For her part, Barbara Yaroslavsky agreed that the determining factor in the race was probably the ability of each candidate to get supporters to the voting booths.
"You can send out mailers until you are blue in the face and it won't make a difference," she said. "Getting people out to vote is key."
Because Feuer won the unexpired term left vacant by Zev Yaroslavsky, he will have to run again in two years to keep the post.
When asked if she would take on Feuer again in 1997, Yaroslavsky responded sarcastically: "Gimme a break." When pressed, however, she said she had not thought about it yet.
Feuer's election also raised questions about how long he will be able to hold the office.
The city's term-limit regulations bar officeholders from serving more than two terms. A full term is four years. But a partial, unexpired term, such as Feuer's two-year stint, can be counted as a full term if more than half is served, according to Deputy City Atty. Tony Alperin. The halfway mark for the term is July 1.
Alperin said that if Feuer signs his oath of office after July 1, he will be serving less than half and would be allowed to seek two additional four-year terms. If he signs the oath on July 1 or before, he cannot, he said.
Feuer, however, said he plans on taking office July 1 and believes that the regulations will still allow him to seek two additional terms after he completes the unexpired term.
* PROPOSITION 1: Failure attributed to stigma of similar 1989 measure. B1