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     Monday, April 15, 2002
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Monday, April 15, 2002


Mayor-police chief fairy tale fails to have happy ending


Once upon a time, there was a police chief and mayor of the great city of Los Angeles. And they didn't get along.

The mayor said the chief wouldn't listen to him.

The chief said the mayor was trying to politicize the department.

And the people of the city watched and wondered what would happen next.

No, that mayor is not James Hahn and the chief isn't Bernard C. Parks.

It was Tom Bradley and Daryl Gates and the dispute -- fueled by the post-Rodney King verdict riots -- resulted in reforms that still are in dispute and that some officials want to look at again.

The proposal that voters eventually adopted limits the chief to a maximum of two five-year terms -- to make sure no chief could ever again serve as long as Gates -- remove civil service protections and attempt to take politics from the issue by having a chief's term overlap those of any mayor.

Since then, the city had the experience of former Chief Willie L. Williams, whom former Mayor Richard Riordan didn't like, and now the situation with Parks.

Some council members are making plans to study how to change the system once again after the emotion of the Parks' matter fades.

The proposals being considered include giving a mayor the right to hire a police chief -- as is done with all other department heads -- or limiting any chief to one six- or seven-year term.

Assemblyman Tony Cardenas, D-Mission Hills, is not letting his loss to Councilwoman Wendy Greuel last month slow him down.

In fact, even before the election results were official, Cardenas was making telephone calls to city officials, seeking endorsements for the yet-to-be approved 5th Council District in the San Fernando Valley.

"It was a pretty bizarre call," one official said. "Here, the one election wasn't even officially over and he's calling for support for a district that hasn't even been created yet."

It leaves one wondering if he also will file to run for a seat in a new San Fernando Valley city if it is created and on the November ballot.

The prospects of the November election for a new city -- along with a new city council and mayor -- has every politician and wannabe politico scratching their heads.

What to do, what to do?

If you are opposed to secession or neutral, you don't want to miss a political opportunity; you still have to run.

If you are looking to fill a vacancy on the Los Angeles City Council, you have to begin campaigning for that seat.

Such is the conflict facing people like Kim Thompson, vice president of the North Valley Coalition and an activist in the fight against the reopening of the Sunshine Canyon landfill.

Thompson said she would like to join the increasingly crowded field to run for the vacancy being created with Councilman Hal Bernson being termed out.

At the same time, she said she is looking at the council district that would be created in the new city as a potential political stepping stone. Even if a new city is not formed, it would help create a political base.

MEDIA WATCH: Calling it "Riordan's Revenge," our former mayor said last week he is looking at starting up a weekly newspaper to report on downtown affairs that he said are now being ignored.

"The L.A. Times doesn't have anyone from L.A. in charge and they treat the city like it was the bad adopted child," Riordan said, adding he has talked with some three dozen people about becoming involved in the project for the yet-to-be-named paper.

Riordan said he is working with Matt Welch, founder of the www.laexaminer.com Web site that analyzes local news coverage.

"The first thing I want is a media watch column looking at the Times and Daily News," Riordan said.

A prototype is being developed and Riordan said he is talking with a number of friends about investing in the publication.

"I want to see how much money it will cost," Riordan said. "I don't mind losing some money -- I've lost millions over the years -- but I want to see if it can make money or lose only a little money."

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