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Letters to the Editor: Mayor Richard Riordan remembers Tom LaBonge the peacemaker

City Councilman Tom LaBonge walks on Mount Lee above the Hollywood Sign on April 26, 2010.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: My heart broke when I heard of former L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge’s sudden death. He was my dear friend and a consummate public servant who loved Los Angeles. Honest, jovial and smart, he was a master navigator of our city’s complex bureaucracy, equally skilled at getting streets fixed and calming upset residents.

Tom was chief of field operations when I was mayor. I vividly remember the day we accompanied Atty. Gen. Janet Reno on a tour of Pico Aliso Village.

There, we were met by a group of angry young men, jeering and intending to confront Reno. Tom approached the group’s leader, and with a handshake and pat on the back said this: “Hi there, I’m Tom. The mayor sent me over to hear what you have to say and make sure we can tell the attorney general what she needs to know to make things better here. Let’s sit over there and talk.”

Those words, that handshake and that honest concern for a fellow human being defused what could have become an ugly confrontation. We could use more peacemakers like Tom.

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I will miss Tom. He left us too soon.

Richard Riordan, Los Angeles

The writer was mayor of Los Angeles from 1993 to 2001.

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To the editor: I was one of many thousands of people who knew Tom and was shocked and saddened by his untimely passing. I first met him when he worked at the Department of Water and Power in the 1990s, and I grew to love and appreciate his unbridled love of his native city and his wealth of knowledge about it.

He was a great booster of the DWP, and he revered its most famous employee, the Irish-born William Mulholland. Tom even saw to it that a plaque in Mulholland’s memory was installed in Ireland to help honor the accomplishments of the builder of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

I spent many happy hours in Tom’s company, and I will always treasure my memories of his amazing dedication to public service.

Fred Barker, Burbank


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