Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Woo has made a strong, early bid for front-runner status in the city's mayoral campaign with a Beverly Hills fund-raising dinner that drew several hundred people and offered a detailed preview of Woo's platform.
The event Tuesday night culminated a year of campaigning in which Woo has attempted to distinguish himself as a candidate of new ideas who is best able to represent the changing face of Los Angeles.
In his speech to a diverse audience of about 700, Woo pledged that if elected he would hire 1,000 additional police officers, establish an urban peace corps that would employ young people in community service projects, set up a community development corporation to finance business opportunities for women and minorities, simplify the City Hall bureaucracy to make it easier for businesses to comply with local regulations, and appoint a "sexual harassment coordinator" in City Hall for women who have no place to take such complaints.
As an activist mayor, Woo told his audience, "you'll see me walking into the City Hall council chamber not just when there is a foreign dignitary but when there is a need to coax a vote out of a stubborn member.
"You'll see me walk up the hill to the County Board of Supervisors," Woo said, "and say let's get rid of this petty bickering between the city and the county so we can settle common problems such as providing better care for people with AIDS or dealing more seriously with the problems of homeless people or coming up with more creative solutions to what we will do with our garbage rather than just filling up more landfill sites."
Those who attended paid $500 to $1,000 each to hear the candidate. Although Asian-Americans and Anglos made up the great majority of the audience, the event at the Beverly Hilton hotel was noteworthy for its diversity.
Woo has campaigned longer and harder than anyone else in the race and has made strides to assemble the kind of broad coalition necessary for a credible campaign in present-day Los Angeles.
Sponsors for the dinner included a cross-section of entertainment moguls, Westside real estate developers, downtown lawyers and minority entrepreneurs that has become a familiar mix at local political events during the last two decades.
Woo hopes to draw widespread support from the ranks of retiring Mayor Tom Bradley's multiethnic coalition, and the event this week indicated he has made inroads. Businessmen Angie Echeverria, Earl Gales Jr. and David Bow Woo, lawyer George Mihlsten and real estate developers Bruce Rozet and Thomas Safran were among several crossover supporters.
But there also were many new, young faces at Woo's dinner, reflecting the emergence of a new generation of political activists.
Woo sought to showcase support from this generation with his choice of introductory speakers Scott Hitt, a doctor and a gay activist, and Paul Hudson, president of one of the city's major black-owned financial institutions and grandson of one of the founders of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.
Woo also received the endorsement of Los Angeles Democratic Assemblyman Richard Polanco, whose effusive introduction made it clear that not all Latino political sentiment is behind Gloria Molina. The popular county supervisor has said she will announce whether she will run for mayor next month. Recently, City Councilman Richard Alatorre, Molina's longtime rival and a politician closely allied with Polanco, said he would support Molina if she ran for mayor.
Woo also has gained the endorsements of a smattering of celebrities and may be one of the first candidates to win the support of such political opposites as liberal film director Oliver Stone and conservative actor Charlton Heston. Other noteworthy endorsements have come from actor Ed Begley Jr., restaurateurs Wolfgang Puck and Peter Morton, television producer-director Marshall Hershkovitz, who created "Thirtysomething," and movie director Richard Donner, who directed the hit movies "Lethal Weapon" and "Superman."
In discussing his accomplishments, Woo reminded his audience of the reason many are supporting him--his call for the resignation of former Police Chief Daryl F. Gates shortly after the police beating of Rodney G. King. He also mentioned his advocacy of the city's ethics-in-government law, which he described as the nation's strongest, and his efforts to promote a billion-dollar redevelopment of Hollywood's commercial core.
Although he described Hollywood redevelopment as a personal triumph, very little has been done as a result of the flagging economy and stubborn resistance by a group of Hollywood residents and merchants.
A spokesman for that group, Norton Halper, on Wednesday criticized Woo for holding a major fund-raising event in a Beverly Hills hotel instead of doing it in Los Angeles.