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Council Keeps Its ‘Elitist’ Elevator

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles City Council members, who can argue over just about anything, traded sharp words Wednesday over an issue close to home--the slow elevators in City Hall’s new temporary offices on Main Street.

The debate began on a light note, but grew fractious after City Councilwoman Laura Chick proposed speeding things up by eliminating the “official use only” elevator and replacing it with a public elevator.

“This from the beginning felt elitist,” Chick said.

Easy for her to say. Councilman Mike Hernandez, who was besieged by reporters when he returned to City Hall after his arrest on a cocaine offense, defended the arrangement, citing times when he sought refuge from the media.

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City Councilman Richard Alatorre rose to angrily deride colleagues for dismissing security concerns, which had been offered as a reason to put one elevator under lock and key.

“My life has been threatened many times, I get tired of it,” he said. The 18-story City Hall East building has long been plagued by a sluggish, 1974-vintage system. But since the number of employees in the building has swelled to 1,400, including 15 Council members--along with the press corps that covers them--the laggardly lifts have been the focus of increasing ire.

General Services officials said that, like so much else in Los Angeles, the elevators are the victims of years of balancing budgets at the expense of basic maintenance.

They serve as a daily reminder to elected officials of the consequences of such neglect in this city, which is wall-to-wall with rumpled sidewalks and 70-year-old sewer lines.

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In the end, the council also acted true to form: It decided nothing except to argue about it more by sending the issue to committee, where it will given further consideration.

“I move the question,” said Councilman Mike Feuer, sounding exasperated. “We’ve spent a half an hour on this.”


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