Almost every day he brings messages to people. They come in letters, postcards, boxes and oversized envelopes, which he stuffs with practiced efficiency into the matching metal slots.
Meet Jim Riley, mailman. Monday through Saturday, on his appointed shift, Riley does his best to bring his postal packages to Westside residents on time, without incident and with as much enthusiasm as he can muster during his daily rounds.
Now Riley is attempting to deliver a new message to the very same people on his route and to residents in the San Fernando Valley, Pacific Palisades and West Los Angeles. Meet Jim Riley, 11th District City Council candidate. He may be your mailman. He wants to be your next councilman.
"I'm a regular guy with a regular job," said Riley. "I've experienced the same problems as the people in the district. I'm not connected politically, but I understand these people's problems and I want to help them."
The chances of the 29-year-old political novice unseating popular, 22-year council veteran Marvin Braude are probably about as good as receiving non-Express Mail on the same day.
But Riley is undaunted. He points to Councilwoman Ruth Galanter's recent upset victory over incumbent Pat Russell as proof of growing discontent among voters in Los Angeles and claims that Braude has lost touch with residents in his district after so many years in office.
However, whether or not he has lost their votes will not be known until the June, 1989, election. Riley, admitting that he has no professional campaign staff to guide him in his quest, is beginning his campaign now to try to offset a major identity problem: No one knows who he is.
He also has almost no money. The $400 he has raised so far has come mostly from family and friends and is about $144,000 short of the amount he said is needed to make a realistic bid.
"We'll take our campaign door to door," Riley said during a break from his job last week. "Anybody who will see us, we'll go to them. People are fed up with politics and politicians in general, so we believe that they'll respond to what we have to say."
Riley has lined up his issues in a neat stack, with the city's parking woes heading the list. He said it's nearly impossible to park a car around beach or park areas. Metered parking in business areas only serves to fatten city coffers, he claims, and does little to alleviate the problem.
In fact, it was frustration over parking around his post office branch on Santa Monica Boulevard that prompted him to call Braude's office to see if something could be done. He said he was "almost chastised" by an aide for calling and became angry enough to tackle the problem himself--as a council candidate.
He said the parking problem could be solved by building low-level garages to provide long-term parking for businesses, providing minibuses to take people from the lots to their offices and encouraging other forms of public transportation.
"But painting curbs red and putting up limited parking signs are definitely not the answer," he said.
The underlying theme of all the problems facing city residents, Riley maintains, is that people have little or no access to their elected representatives. He is promoting "town hall-type meetings," away from official council headquarters and at times convenient for most people.
"I believe in community involvement," said Riley, who is a member of the Community Action Board, a city volunteer panel that advises the mayor and City Council on spending grants for the poor and homeless. "I believe in volunteerism. Even if I lose, I'll stay involved."
No Campaigning on Job
Although Riley, a Chicago native, has a job that puts him in touch with some of his would-be constituents every day, he must leave his campaign behind when he goes to work. He is prohibited from campaigning while he's on duty and can not even have his picture taken in his work clothes--the familiar pale blue shirt and blue slacks of your neighborhood mailman.
Riley has been with the Postal Service for almost eight years, and has worked five different mail routes. A resident of West Los Angeles, he still sports the buzz cut of an Army reservist and the fresh-faced enthusiasm of a person who has yet to suffer the slings and arrows of big-city politics.
He calls for increased funding for police services to crack down on what he believes is growing problem with vandalism, drugs, gangs and graffiti.
He considers himself tough on crime and fairly conservative, but says he's not a "far rightist." However, he does not believe in early release programs for convicted criminals, and said that the answer to jail overcrowding is fairly simple: Just build more jails.
Riley said he favors controlled development, trying to bring business to areas that need it and limit growth in areas that are already congested. But how best to accomplish that? He admits he does not know yet.