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4 Council Members Assail Riordan Tactic on Charter Reform

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

One day after the Los Angeles City Council voted to create an advisory governmental reform panel, four council members lashed out Wednesday at Mayor Richard Riordan’s efforts to personally finance the election of a competing group.

“The mayor continues to use his pocketbook and continues to use his colleagues to disrupt this council as it tries to get itself together,” said Councilman Mike Hernandez, who joined council members Ruth Galanter, Rita Walters and Rudy Svorinich Jr. in criticizing the mayor.

The four council members, who supported creating the appointed advisory panel, accused Riordan of using his personal wealth to try to exclude the council from playing a role in government reform.

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“We believed that part of our assigned responsibility as the legislative government of the city is to take a look at how government works and participate in any decisions to change that,” said Galanter, who revived a 1990 proposal for an advisory panel.

The 21-member advisory panel would be appointed by the council, the mayor and other elected officials and would have up to three years to draft reform ideas. The council, however, would retain the authority to put those ideas on the ballot or reject them.

Riordan, meanwhile, is personally financing a signature-gathering drive to create an elected reform panel that would have the power to put its ideas directly on the ballot, independent of the council.

The charges leveled during the council members’ City Hall news conference signaled an early start to what is expected to become a bitter politicized battle over government reform in Los Angeles.

Riordan has criticized the council’s proposed advisory panel, saying it cannot recommend true reform unless it is independent of the government’s vested interests--namely, the City Council.

In an interview, Riordan spokeswoman Noelia Rodriguez shrugged off the criticism of the mayor, calling it “attempts to distract from the real issue, which is having a true citizens voice for reforming the city charter.”

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She acknowledged that the debate over how to launch reform of the city’s governing charter has turned nasty but said the mayor tried to reach a compromise with the council to create an appointed panel with the power to put its reform measures directly on the ballot.

That idea--backed by Councilmen John Ferraro and Mike Feuer--was rejected in favor of Galanter’s proposal.

“There is a fight in place, and it’s a fight for the people of Los Angeles so they can have a responsible city government,” she said.

Riordan’s signature-gathering drive was launched last month in an attempt to collect 350,000 signatures by Oct. 30.

He has declined to say how much he will contribute to the cause, but supporters say the campaign is expected to cost about $80,000.

Rick Taylor, a campaign consultant in charge of the signature-gathering drive, declined to say how many signatures have been collected but said the effort is a week ahead of schedule.

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If the drive is successful, the measure would be placed on the April ballot, accompanied by the names of candidates for the panel. Sources have said Riordan is already considering backing a slate of his handpicked candidates for the panel.

The reform movement is the latest of several attempts over the past 20 years to overhaul the 71-year-old charter that acts as the city’s constitution.

This effort has been led by San Fernando Valley business leader David Flemming in response to threats of a Valley secession.

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