Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley usually soothes big contributors by emphasizing the positive at his fund-raising dinners, but this time his theme was "problems"--aging sewers, smog and traffic.
The mayor told guests at a Century Plaza dinner Wednesday night that he viewed Los Angeles' problems as a welcome challenge. But aides said the dinner, which brought in $350,000 for Bradley's expected fifth-term campaign, was noteworthy for its acknowledgement of trouble in the city.
He spoke of "problems of crime, air pollution and sewers that sometimes leak and overflow." But he added that "problems are nothing new to Los Angeles" and said that if he "were afraid of problems," the city would not have experienced growth during his 14 years in office. "If I were afraid of problems, they would not be building the Metro Rail . . .," he said.
The dinner provided a look at the mayor's political pluses and minuses in the very early stages of a mayoral campaign now mostly devoted to fund-raising by Bradley and his probable challenger, City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky. Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block also is considering entering the race.
On the plus side, the dinner showed that Bradley still has the potential to raise money for an election on his home turf, despite his under-financed and weak showing in the 1986 gubernatorial campaign.
Introducing the mayor was Jerry Weintraub, a film industry power, a major political fund-raiser with strong ties to Republican and Democratic power bases and a leader in the Jewish community.
Weintraub might help Bradley raise money from GOP sources antagonized by the mayor's tough attacks on Republican Gov. George Deukmejian in 1986. Weintraub also could assist in fund raising in the Jewish community. Bradley has been a commanding political figure in that community for years but, according to a Los Angeles Times poll in June, his support among Jewish voters is declining. Yaroslavsky, who began his public life as an activist for the rights of Soviet Jews, expects the Los Angeles Jewish community to be a major source of funds and votes.
Not on the podium, but in the background of Bradley's political efforts was another man with top Republican credentials, Lodwrick M. Cook, chairman and chief executive officer of Atlantic Richfield Co. He is a leader in the effort to pay off the $500,000 that sources say Bradley still owes on his gubernatorial campaign.
Cook's oil company was a major Deukmejian supporter. But in Los Angeles, Bradley is business' friend and in mayoral races, ARCO and other major companies are strong Bradley supporters, pleased with his emphasis on downtown construction and rapid transit projects.
One top Bradley fund-raising adviser said: "I don't see any diminution of his popularity. I see the old contributors who slowed up, especially the Jewish people, are back in and we have new people, like Lod Cook."
Bradley's gubernatorial campaign debt leads his list of political minuses. About $160,000 in outstanding loans will be repaid this month. The rest of the $500,000 debt will be paid off next year.
While this effort is going on, the mayor must also raise money for the mayoral race. Proceeds from the Wednesday night dinner were split between the two campaigns.
To do that, the Bradley team had to write complicated instructions on the dinner invitations. Mayoral contributions are limited by city law to $1,000, but there is no limit on gubernatorial contributions. Thus if a generous person wanted to donate $2,000 to repay the gubernatorial debt and $1,000 for the mayoral campaign, two checks, one to each committee, would be required.
Yaroslavsky's advisers say he is far ahead of the mayor in fund-raising. An aide said Yaroslavsky will have between $850,000 and $900,000 in mayoral contributions by the end of the year.
Bradley Press Secretary Fred MacFarlane said that there is "no accounting of the money" in Bradley's mayoral fund yet available.
The $1,000 limit on mayoral campaign contributions might be another minus for the Bradley campaign.
Bradley, like other incumbents, traditionally has raised a substantial amount of money in large donations, including those from companies doing business with the city. Under the new rules, he will have to bring in contributions in much smaller amounts, a hard grind requiring an experienced money-raising organization and attendance at many small events.
Yaroslavsky has been doing that all year and, according to one source, intends to have a 2-1 lead over Bradley in contributions by January.