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Another Side to the Phone Story

November 17, 1988

Your story about phone use by Long Beach city officials seriously missed the mark (Times, Nov. 10). Why compare my office (with the lowest budget for the past fiscal year) on a single expense item when you fail to mention that I spent $20,000 less than some other council offices for office staff? Since when is spending tax money on constituents less efficient than a lot more money spent in other ways?

As for the challenge to my use of time off earned as a Los Angeles County employee of 16 years, what is wrong with using the time to return phone calls from a pay phone? I've often heard public officials criticized for not returning calls. Your story implies criticism because I do return calls in a timely manner. Which way do you want it?

When you want to contact me, you can pick up the phone book and call right to my North Long Beach home, 24 hours a day. Sure, I use the phone. That's the difference between being accessible and "can't be reached for comment."

Check with my constituents, check with the city staff or check with your own reporters and you will confirm that I am the first to respond when you, or anyone, wants information or action.

The important fact you failed to report is that this phone expense story was triggered by a City Hall critic who was clearly trying to intimidate me by raising this issue because I don't back off when the interests of my constituents or the city are at stake. This story was shopped around to another newspaper a month and a half ago, but they didn't "take the bait."

Communication, whether by phone or newspaper, is the key to exchanging ideas and information and getting things done. Please don't undermine my means of communication while I defend yours.

WARREN HARWOOD

Long Beach city councilman

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