Loyalty, Memory: Need Improvement : In the term half over, Mayor Riordan gets mediocre grades for his performance on the issues that motivated San Fernando Valley voters to send him to City Hall.

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<i> Paul Clarke of Northridge is a corporate political consultant</i>

“What’s important is promising something to the people, not actually keeping those promises. . . . The people have always lived on hope alone.”

--Hermann Broch, Austrian novelist


Most politicians live by that credo and survive. Politicians in high-profile offices like mayor of Los Angeles cannot easily get away with it.

We are now halfway through Mayor Richard Riordan’s first term. He has formed a reelection committee and is collecting funds to run again in 1997. It seems appropriate to assess his progress.


Despite very high ratings with the electorate, Riordan will have to face other candidates in less than two years. Even moderately funded candidates along with media scrutiny can quickly erode a popular politician’s support base. Witness the free fall that Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s ratings suffered in 1994 under her opponent’s barrage of negative ads.

Riordan’s treatment of the San Fernando Valley will go a long way toward deciding his political future. A strong reputation here could dissuade potential candidates from challenging him or, if he is challenged, help him maintain his office.

To refresh our memories, Michael Woo beat Riordan by 4% in the non-Valley portions of Los Angeles. Riordan’s 2-1 rout of Woo in the Valley secured his 54% victory.

Being mayor in Los Angeles is tough. The office is long on pomp and short on circumstance. The City Charter grants the real power to the City Council. So the mayor is limited to making appointments and often reduced to implementing his programs through budget submittals. But he does have what Teddy Roosevelt called “the bully pulpit.”


Before Riordan took office in 1993, I outlined four ways he could repay his debt to the Valley for its support:

* A fair share of appointments.

* An equitable allocation of city resources.

* Active participation in accomplishing the breakup of the Los Angeles Unified School District.


* A commitment to regularly see the Valley and its problems firsthand.

We didn’t know then that we would be facing a major rebuilding effort following brush fires and an earthquake. It seems fair to add his responses to those disasters as additional issues. Let’s look at each individually.

The mayor appoints more than 200 commissioners who oversee the city’s daily activities. The Valley has approximately 40% of the city’s population, although its voting population percentage is higher.

In this area, the mayor has earned a B. He has appointed Valley residents to only 31.3% of the commission slots filled by Los Angeles residents. Some bodies, such as the Building and Safety Commission, Employee Retirement System Board, Employee Relations Board and Homeless Services Authority, have no Valley representatives. Others, like Animal Regulation, Disability and Relocation Appeals commissions have a majority of Valley representatives. Overall, however, the rate is much better than his predecessor’s 19.6% proportion of Valley appointees.

The mayor is doing about as well in allocating resources. His budget shows a greater level of Valley equity than Tom Bradley’s budgets ever did.

The number of police officers on the street is still lagging behind. Valley residents are continually worried about receiving their fair share of law enforcement resources. The LAPD reports that since the mayor took office, approximately 1,423 new officers have been hired--about half the mayor’s goal of 3,000. Of 812 who have graduated from the academy, 233 have been assigned to the Valley, or 28.7%. That is still less than our 40% of the population. The numbers would probably rate a B from Valley voters.

The unsuccessful police bond issue he supported in June’s balloting would have given the Valley only 23% of the money raised. If the measure comes back next March, our percentage should climb to at least the Valley’s population percentage.


The breakup of the Los Angeles school district has always been a high priority for Valley voters. Assemblywoman Paula Boland and state Sen. Tom Hayden’s bills to make it easier for voters to choose to separate are actually making headway in the Legislature. So, what role has the mayor played?

“When he was campaigning he testified twice in favor of the school district’s breakup,” Boland says. “Since his election, I haven’t heard from him on this issue.”

Her comments indicate that there is much room for mayoral improvement. That would rate an unsatisfactory grade of D. The timing is good for the mayor to exert political leadership before his next election.

For a politician, being on the scene is vital to feeling the pulse of the people he represents. Riordan gets a B for this effort. His free-enterprise background makes him particularly sensitive to programs for economic development and job creation. The California aerospace and building recessions hit the Valley particularly hard. Empty manufacturing facilities stretch from North Hollywood to Chatsworth. His office, in cooperation with the affected council offices, has been actively seeking tenants for such places as the Hughes missile facility in Canoga Park and the GM plant in Panorama City.


Along with the Valley’s City Council representatives, I think most readers would give the mayor an A in his disaster response. Even if the federal government stops paying for earthquake-debris pickup on July 17, we will have had 18 months of support from them. The mayor and council members pushed for it and scored.

If Mayor Riordan were a student, how would his Valley report card look? A college student would compute the five grades to a 2.8 average, i.e., a B-minus overall.


The mayor’s campaign reports will reveal the geography of his financial support. I bet a lot of it comes from the Valley, certainly a higher percentage than that received by his predecessor.

That’s important. Riordan’s 1993 base was clearly the Valley. He must hold on to it to ensure his reelection.

The mayor should take the same basic actions I discussed two years ago. If he does so, and if he makes some improvements, Valley voters will likely give him the second term he seeks.