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Vote Mirrors an Angry Constituency : Election May Signal Decrease in Political Power of Bradley

June 04, 1987|BILL BOYARSKY | Times City-County Bureau Chief

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley lost his strongest City Council ally in Tuesday's election--and much more.

No longer can the mayor call on Council President Pat Russell, defeated by Ruth Galanter, to smooth the way for favorable votes on mayoral appointments, projects and policies. The defeat of Russell on the Westside and of Homer Broome Jr. in Bradley's home district were more signs that his citywide political power is diminishing.

And for the future, backers of Bradley's potential 1989 foe, Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, foresee brighter possibilities in their efforts to raise money from Bradley backers who now sense the mayor's vulnerability.

In another bad portent for Bradley, Russell's defeat, according to her supporters and critics, was due largely to her support of development in her 6th District, which, to a large extent, demographically resembles the city as a whole. Her platform of controlled development was identical to Bradley's position of "reasonable growth."

While Yaroslavsky endorsed Russell because of her past backing of him in the council, he is a strong proponent of limited growth, joining with Councilman Marvin Braude in successfully supporting the restrictive Proposition U last year. One of his advisers said, "Yaroslavsky has a tiger by the tail with the slow growth movement and there is no reason he can't ride it all the way."

On Wednesday, Bradley brushed aside reporters' questions about whether he was hurt by the Russell and Broome losses. "I don't remember my name being on the ballot anywhere," he told a City Hall news conference.

Instead, his morning was filled with activities calling attention to past and present triumphs, and his supporters said in interviews they do not believe the election will hurt his chances of winning a fifth term.

Evoking memories of the 1984 Olympics, which he helped bring to Los Angeles, Bradley announced that Los Angeles will host the 1991 Olympic Festival, where the nation's athletes will compete a year before the 1992 Olympics.

Then, he drove to 5th and Hope streets and accepted a check for $28.2 million from downtown developer Robert Maguire for renovation of the historic Central Library. That was the first installment of money Maguire will pay the city for development rights for twin towers across the street from the fire-damaged library--an example of Bradley's policy of government and developers working together to build high-rise downtown Los Angeles.

Bradley was good humored, even as he encountered Yaroslavsky taking a pot shot at him.

As the mayor walked into the small press conference room outside the City Council chamber, the councilman was finishing his session with reporters, saying that Russell's defeat marked a waning of the mayor's influence.

Bradley, laughing, pointed to Yaroslavsky and said, "He endorsed the same candidate I did, what about his prestige?"

But the harsh realities of election day were evident elsewhere at City Hall, where council members jockeyed to replace Russell in a council vote July 1. The new council president is not likely to be someone as responsive as Russell was to Bradley, an old friend and ideological soul mate who had helped her get elected to the council. Already making it clear that they want the council leadership job are council members Joan Milke Flores, Joy Picus and John Ferraro--none of them reliable members of the Bradley team. Ferraro, in fact, ran against Bradley for mayor in 1985 and lost.

By choosing committee chairs, preparing the daily calendar and using her considerable political influence and skill, Russell pushed through many Bradley proposals and appointments without controversy, sparing him many confrontations.

"She did some things that were pro Bradley, no question of that," said Ferraro.

Flores said: "I think that probably more with Pat than I can recall in the years I've been here there was an umbilical cord to the mayor's office. I don't think that's there anymore, and for a while it won't be there."

Other Key Changes

The Russell loss comes on top of other council changes that have weakened the position of Bradley, who started out his administration in 1973 with many council supporters and friends made during his years on the city's governing body.

Dave Cunningham, who succeeded Bradley in representing the 10th District, retired a few months ago, depriving the mayor of a canny political pro who had great influence with the two other black councilmen, Robert Farrell and Gilbert Lindsay, and who skillfully traded votes with council members of all political views.

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