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Bradley Tries to Hose Down the Bird Controversy : He Focuses on Ending 'Water Wars' in Bid for Northern California Support

March 28, 1986|JOHN BALZAR | Times Political Writer

SACRAMENTO — "This is just great. Maybe there are other issues," enthused an aide to Tom Bradley. The Los Angeles mayor and Democratic candidate for governor had just conducted a press conference Thursday and managed, after an exhausting and difficult political month, to keep most of the attention away from his new hands-off stand on Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird.

This was exactly the reception Bradley hoped for as he traveled to the state capital to pledge once again that Northern California environmental protection is his No. 1 priority in considering new water development in the state.

Last October, Bradley pulled together an assemblage of conservation and development proposals that he said would end California's regional "water wars." He said the package would guarantee Southern California additional supplies of water from the north but not at the expense of environmental concerns over San Francisco Bay and the delta region which feeds it.

The plan calls for pumping surplus water into Southern California underground aquifers as a guard against droughts, and conservation steps in Los Angeles such as seasonally adjusted water rates to reduce consumption during dry summers.

Calls for Guarantees

"Not one additional drop of northern water should be brought south until the north is offered absolute environmental guarantees," Bradley said.

In response to questions, Bradley said he supports a proposed law to guarantee San Francisco Bay and the delta enough water to maintain strict environmental quality no matter what needs the south may have. And he said no restrictions on water usage are needed in the north.

Press Secretary Ali Webb said Bradley chose to focus on his 5-month-old water plan "because he had not talked about it before in Sacramento."

On Tuesday, Bradley announced he had decided not to take a stand either for or against the November confirmation election that would give Bird a new 12-year term on the state Supreme Court.

This followed four weeks of studying the issue, a time when his hesitation was criticized almost daily by his Republican opponent, incumbent Gov. George Deukmejian. Along with a growing list of politicians from both parties, Deukmejian opposes Bird's confirmation because of her consistent votes against the death penalty.

Cites Judicial Independence

Bradley says he cannot, as a candidate for partisan office, speak out on Bird. To do so, he says, would interfere with the traditional independence of the courts.

Bradley and his advisers have expressed concern about how much his cautious decision would shadow his campaign and detract from his aggressive attacks on Deukmejian as a "caretaker" governor.

On Thursday, Bradley managed such a determined sales pitch on water that his 40-minute press conference generated only one brief flurry of questions about Bird. Some listeners, however, wondered aloud how Bradley's pledge to the north would be received in Southern California.

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