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Local Elections : Last-Minute Battle of Barbs Heats Up Quiet West Hollywood Council Race

April 10, 1988|RON RUSSELL | Times Staff Writer

In a departure from an otherwise low-key campaign, a war of words erupted last week between two of the five candidates who hope to win seats on the City Council when West Hollywood voters go to the polls Tuesday.

With incumbent Abbe Land favored to capture one of two at-large seats being contested, and with no dominant issue, the last week of campaigning was marked by bickering between rivals Paul Koretz and Ruth Williams, considered to be among the stronger challengers for a seat on the council.

The field of candidates also includes Steve Michael, the publisher of a twice-monthly community newspaper, who, like Williams, is making his third bid for the council, and political newcomer Teresa Garay, a community relations executive for a television station.

Mayor Alan Viterbi's decision in January not to seek reelection to the council seat he has held since West Hollywood was incorporated in 1984 assures that the council will gain at least one new member as a result of the election.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday April 12, 1988 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 6 National Desk 2 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
In last Sunday's Westside section, photo identifications of West Hollywood City Council candidates Abbe Land and Teresa Garay were mistakenly interchanged. Also, the story incorrectly reported that Garay had raised about $6,000 in her campaign. In fact, $6,000 is the figure she had spent as of March 26; she has raised and spent a total of $15,000 in the campaign.

The winners will serve for four years.

Koretz, a former aide to Viterbi, and Williams, a community activist, have sparred throughout the campaign.

Last month, Williams criticized Koretz for accepting $10,000 from the mayor's defunct campaign committee at a time when Viterbi was several weeks late in disclosing the source of the funds, as required by state law. The mayor later complied.

But as the two challengers have stepped up their efforts to win the loyalty of renters--West Hollywood's most significant voter constituency--their attacks have grown sharper.

In a mailing last week to 12,000 registered voters who are renters, Williams portrayed Koretz as the tool of landlords, big developers and special interest groups from outside West Hollywood, and assailed him as having "no record for working for renters' rights."

Koretz called the accusations "sleazy campaign tactics that have nothing to do with the truth" and countered with barbs of his own.

He accused Williams of being "the weakest vote" during her tenure on the Rent Stabilization Commission and of "changing her colors after running on a slate that was a front for landlords" in 1986, when she was endorsed by the pro-business group known as West Hollywood for Good Government.

"As for my campaign contributors, of the handful who could be considered developers, the record will show that the same people have contributed an equal or greater amount to Ruth Williams," he said.

Meanwhile, Williams cried foul over a Koretz mailing that portrayed Koretz and Land, who were each endorsed by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, as the only "official Democrats" in the race.

"That's outright misrepresentation, since I've been endorsed by every Democratic club in West Hollywood and have the support of the only two West Hollywood residents who cast a vote for the county endorsement," Williams said. "What does that make the groups that have endorsed me, chopped liver?"

While attacking each other, the other candidates generally have avoided criticizing Land, who enjoys the support of the powerful Coalition for Economic Survival, the tenants' rights group instrumental in West Hollywood's cityhood campaign four years ago.

Land, who won a special election in 1986 to fill the seat of ousted Councilwoman Valerie Terrigno, is an acknowledged favorite to win reelection. A former planning commissioner, she remains on the coalition's 25-member steering committee, along with council members John Heilman and Helen Albert.

Although each of the challengers, except Michael, has sought the coalition's endorsement, the group has given little indication that it is interested in endorsing anyone except Land.

To try to fill the void, Williams and Koretz each have sought to portray themselves as the most capable of protecting the interests of renters, who make up 87% of West Hollywood's population.

Williams has emphasized that she has been a renter in West Hollywood for 20 years, stressing her past membership on the Rent Stabilization Commission and the coalition's steering committee.

Although she fell out with the coalition in 1984, she tells voters that her commitment to rent control and tenants' rights issues has never waned.

"I've lived in this city for 30 years. I'm no newcomer," Williams said. "And I have a track record of fighting for cityhood, rent control, tenants rights and against overdevelopment, a record Paul Koretz does not have."

For his part, Koretz says he helped draft parts of the city's tough rent control law while serving as Viterbi's deputy for3 1/2 years, and says he lobbied against anti-rent control legislation at the state level.

His campaign brochure mailed to renters includes a quote from Viterbi that says: "Paul rolled up his sleeves and worked tirelessly for rent control." Also quoted is Los Angeles Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, for whom Koretz once worked as a deputy: "Paul has stood up for renters since day one."

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