A property tax increase to finance a bigger Los Angeles Police Department was defeated in Tuesday's election, while Michael Woo beat Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson, becoming the city's only Asian council member.
In the only citywide race on the ballot, Rick Tuttle, a community college trustee, defeated Dan Shapiro, a Studio City attorney, in the contest for the city controller's job vacated when James K. Hahn was elected city attorney in the April primary.
Requiring a two-thirds vote for passage, the police tax measure, Proposition 1, could not even get a majority. Mayor Tom Bradley and Police Chief Daryl F. Gates had campaigned hard for the plan, which would have raised the property tax to pay for expanding the Police Department from 7,000 to 8,000 officers.
A similar measure backed by Bradley and Gates was defeated four years ago, and Bradley said Tuesday night that he would not try to revive the plan a third time.
"It's quite clear in the long run there is no good sign that we are going to increase the size of the department," Bradley said. "The people have spoken."
An opponent of the police tax, Paul Shay, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Taxpayers Assn., said, "People apparently bought the idea that it was more a pocketbook issue than a protection issue. People didn't buy the idea that crime was going to run rampant unless this passed."
A second ballot measure giving city pension funds authority to invest in real estate barely passed.
In declaring victory in the controller's race, Tuttle said, "I'm looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity to serve the citizens of Los Angeles."
Woo, a 33-year-old former aide to state Senator David Roberti (D-Los Angeles), credited a "great coalition effort" for his victory over Stevenson, 61, who was seeking her fourth council term. Asked about his election as the council's only Asian, Woo said, "I can't promise any special favors to Asians. I'm not trying to make special claims for myself as an Asian," but he added that he intends to "go on to develop a good record on the City Council that would provide an important role model for young people in the Asian community."
Stevenson, who deafeated Woo in a runoff four years ago, blamed the Westside political organization headed by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) and Howard Berman (D-Studio City) for her loss this time. Several politicians associated with Waxman and Berman had endorsed Woo.
"Woo I could have beaten, but this was the whole Berman-Waxman machine," Stevenson said.
Stevenson declined to formally concede. However, her campaign manager, Allan Hoffenblum said, "There's no chance she can win."
"She's . . . a winner in all of our books," said her friend and political ally, Councilman Joel Wachs, who was at her side.
Early in the evening, Woo posed for pictures with two backers, Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner and City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky.
Yaroslavsky and Councilman Marvin Braude, in an unusual rebuke of a colleague, had endorsed Woo over Stevenson, partly because they said she was too supportive of projects in their districts backed by big developers who contributed to her campaign.
The move raised speculation that Braude and Yaroslavsky may next join in a challenge of another Stevenson backer, Councilwoman Pat Russell, if she seeks another term as president of the City Council in the next few weeks. The council elects its president.
Woo's campaign was apparently the first success in a long effort by Asian and Latinos to win a place on the 15-member City Council.
Despite a Latino population of 27% and an Asian population of 7% in a city of 2.9 million, the council consists of three blacks and 12 whites.
In the primary, Latinos and Asians backed a measure to increase the size of the council by two seats to help their chances of winning one. But the measure lost, and Asian political activists placed all their hopes on the Woo campaign.
Turnout was light in an election that was largely anti-climactic after a hotly fought primary in which Bradley was overwhelmingly re-elected and Hahn won a hard-fought victory.
During their campaign, Stevenson and Woo exchanged charges through expensive mailers sent to homes and apartments in a district that includes some of the most historic and colorful parts of Los Angeles. The 13th ranges from rustic hideaway homes in Laurel Canyon to old Hollywood bungalow courts that date to the silent screen days.
Within its boundaries--Laurel Canyon on the west, just east of the Golden State Freeway on the east, the crest of the Hollywood Hills on the north and below Santa Monica Boulevard on the south--are rich, middle-class and poor, and representatives of many of the city's ethnic minorities.