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At City Hall in Pasadena, a Call for Change

March 24, 1991|VICKI TORRES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PASADENA — City Director William Paparian wants his colleagues to change their political ways.

He wants a two-term limit. He wants the mayor's rotating stint limited to one year, instead of the current two. He wants them to call themselves the City Council, not the Board of Directors. And he wants them to list in public what they spend on travel.

The board will discuss the proposed changes at its Tuesday meeting.

Paparian says his ideas on term limits would improve city government by encouraging more people with new ideas to flow in and out of the seats of power. "We need to promote the idea of a citizen politician," he says.

The name change would clear up confusion over exactly what the board is, he said. The governing body was dubbed the Board of Directors when the city changed in 1921 to a city manager form of government.

Meanwhile, public exposure of travel costs would end what Paparian calls "frivolous freeloading at city expense."

The board budgeted $42,358 for travel for fiscal 1990-91. The travel budget is controlled by the mayor, who decides who goes where, how long they stay and where they stay, Paparian said. Details of individual trips aren't publicly discussed, he said.

"It's one of the perks of being chairman of the board," Paparian said. "It has become a custom and practice that has gone on for years. No one has questioned it."

Although some city directors say they are open to discussing Paparian's ideas, others feel the issues are not significant.

"I think they're all non-issues," Director Chris Holden said a day after returning from a trip to Hawaii. Holden was in a six-member city delegation that successfully lobbied to get the 1993 Super Bowl for Pasadena.

"It's a solution in search of a problem," Director Rick Cole said. "As usual, Bill has got his own ideas, and he hasn't really floated them very meaningfully among his colleagues or the community."

Mayor Jess Hughston, who also went to Hawaii, said board members already are effectively limited to two or three terms because the job pays only $50 per meeting. Most board members can't afford to spend more than that in what is essentially an unpaid post, Hughston said.

He added that a mayor needs two years in office because the first year is spent gaining knowledge that can be applied the second year.

As for the travel money, Hughston accused Paparian of nit-picking. The money is budgeted annually and is public information, he said. "What he ought to be saying is, 'Should we have a smaller travel budget?' "

Next year's proposed travel budget is lower: $33,693. In addition to the travel budget, each board member is allowed $120 monthly for expenses, including mileage.

By comparison, the Pomona mayor and four council members this year were allocated $32,900 for travel, including local car mileage. Burbank's five council members were jointly allocated $18,205 for travel, including mileage.

Glendale's five council members can spend up to a maximum of $13,000 annually in various accounts for travel. "We don't encourage a lot of excessive spending here in Glendale," said Finance Director Brian Butler.

Cole said he is sometimes uncomfortable with the board's travel expenses, but added the costs often are set by conference organizers. A daily spending limit might ensure that expenses are kept reasonable, he said.

But, overall, the board members said their trips benefit the city. By talking with other city officials and attending educational conferences, board members said they bring back program ideas and solutions to problems they would not know about if they stayed home.

"I figure, if I'm going to be a public servant, it's got to be more than just showing up at public meetings and being a rubber stamp for things staff shoves under your nose," Holden said.

"I would say that this is not a socializing board," Cole said. At conferences he has attended, board members have worked hard, he said, adding, "Bill (Paparian) wouldn't know because he's never been, but the image of people sitting around poolside sipping pina coladas is one out of his own imagination."

TRAVEL EXPENDITURES: Details of recent trips taken by Pasadena city directors. J4.

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