ANAHEIM — It was a slow night during Mayor Fred Hunter's debut as a radio talk show host.
Hunter and his guest, City Manager Robert Simpson, spent an hour extolling the virtues of Anaheim but only netted one caller: the head of a local realty board who praised the "progressive things" the city is doing.
Still, the show pleased Hunter. With the launching of "An Evening With the Mayor Starring Mayor Fred Hunter," he becomes the only Orange County official to host both weekly television and radio programs.
"As the show goes along and more people hear about it, we'll have more calls," Hunter said. "I'm having a lot of fun being mayor."
But back at City Hall, Hunter is coming under fire because local businesses are being asked to sponsor the radio program--a practice Councilwoman Miriam Kaywood says amounts to making a political contribution. After all, she notes, what merchant would want to say no to the mayor?
"I think it's very unethical," said Kaywood, the mayor's most persistent critic on the council. "He has no conscience and he has no principles."
Mayor Pro Tem Irv Pickler said: "I just don't like the idea of taking merchant money for an individual show. If they want to put it on as a community project, fine. But selling ads and whatnot. . . . I just don't think it's the way to go."
Eight of the 11 sponsors of Monday night's inaugural show on KORG 1190 AM were Anaheim-based businesses, including two hotels, a restaurant, an auto dealership and a movie theater.
Their sponsorship presents no ethical problem, Hunter said. The show's producer, Ed Garda, solicits the advertising. "The mayor has nothing to do with the business aspect of it," Garda said.
Hunter added: "I didn't ask anybody for a dime."
Advertising was not an issue for Hunter's television program, which airs Tuesday and Thursday evenings on public access cable television in Anaheim. Under Mul tivision Cable's contract with the city, the company must provide a certain amount of community service programming. The mayor's half-hour show falls in that category.
It was Garda who approached Hunter with the idea of the radio show, both men said. Garda, owner of Ed Garda Communications of Anaheim, said that if the format succeeds, he wants to offer a similar program to other mayors of Orange County cities.
Advertisers "like the idea of people being able to get to the mayor directly," said Garda, whose company produces local television and radio programs. In fact, some of the advertisers may be guests on an upcoming show about business in Anaheim, he said.
The mayor signed a contract with Garda's company to do from 13 weeks to one year's worth of weekly radio programs, depending on the response from advertisers and listeners. Hunter is not being paid for serving as host, Garda said.
Among the future topics to be discussed on Hunter's radio show are drug abuse, the homeless and Latino representation in Anaheim.
Hunter said he wanted to expand to radio "because it has a much larger audience." The reach of the his television show is limited to the 33,000 Multivision customers in Anaheim, Hunter said, while the radio signal is available to all of Orange County and parts of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
But why would the mayor of Anaheim care about attracting listeners in faraway places? "He's always running for something," Kaywood said.
Hunter concedes that the show will increase his exposure, but he won't comment on his future political plans beyond seeking reelection next year.
"I don't know," Hunter said. "I take it one day at a time."