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City Council OKs Bond Package for Library, Zoo

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Acknowledging that it could be a tough sell to voters in November, the Los Angeles City Council cleared the way Tuesday to place on the ballot a $272.4-million bond package for the library system, the zoo and Exposition Park improvements.

The council is expected to adopt ordinances today for those three bond measures to be on the ballot. But even staunch supporters, including council President John Ferraro, said they are unsure whether the bonds will garner the required approval of two-thirds of the voters.

The issue is complicated because the council is also expected today to approve a fourth November bond measure, nearly $700 million for sidewalk repairs and upgrades.

City Controller Rick Tuttle weighed in Tuesday with his concerns over the council’s endorsing the bonds without first establishing limits on overall city borrowing.

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Tuttle said the council’s delay in approving a comprehensive debt policy--it has been postponed a couple of times but is scheduled for a vote next week--led him to send a letter to Ferraro threatening to write the leading opposition statement to the measures on the ballot.

“I would much prefer if the council passes a comprehensive debt policy . . . and I would withdraw my opposition,” Tuttle said in an interview. “We don’t want to move piecemeal into becoming a high-debt city.”

Several council members said, however, that a civic borrowing policy, which would set limits on both voter- and nonvoter-approved debt, will be approved before the election.

The bond package includes $178.3 million for the library system, $47.6 million for the zoo and $46.5 million for such Exposition Park projects as a new environmental learning center at the California Science Center, repairing the rose garden and overhauling the swimming stadium and other recreational facilities there.

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The library proposal, which has been under review for nearly two years, appears to have the broadest support. It received unanimous council support Tuesday, and Mayor Richard Riordan is in favor of it.

“No question, the mayor is going to support the library bond,” said Noelia Rodriguez, Riordan’s spokeswoman. “With respect to the others, he will have the standard 10 days to decide.”

But mayoral aides said Riordan is less inclined to endorse the Exposition Park and the sidewalk proposals. The mayor’s support is widely held to be critical to the bonds’ passage.

“In the car capital of the world, streets should be the priority . . . not sidewalks,” said one of those aides.

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But some council members view it differently.

Said Ferraro: “I think it’s going to be tough, but it will give people the chance to decide. It’s an opportunity that I just thought we shouldn’t let pass.”

Two council members, Laura Chick and Mike Feuer, voted against the Exposition Park and zoo bond proposals. Both have expressed concerns about setting these as the city’s priorities when there could be other, more pressing needs.

“We need to prioritize,” Chick said. “Taxpayers need to prioritize their dollars. . . . For me, those are the questions.”

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