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ELECTIONS / L.A. CITY COUNCIL : Picus, Chick Trade Volleys During Forum in 3rd District Race


Los Angeles City Councilwoman Joy Picus, taking part in a debate Wednesday night by candidates for the seat she now holds, launched her strongest attack on her former aide Laura Chick, calling Chick a carpetbagger.

In turn, Chick accused Picus, who is seeking election to a fifth term, of being out of touch with her constituents' concerns about crime and graffiti.

About 125 people attended the debate at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills.

Many wore Picus stickers. However, the light attendance at the event suggested trouble for Picus, who has been active in the Jewish community and was the former community relations director for the sponsoring group, the Jewish Federation Council.

Picus called Chick a carpetbagger because the challenger moved into the district late last year, shortly before she filed to run. Chick, in her reply, said she had spent "all my working and waking hours for three years" in the 3rd District when she was Picus' chief field deputy, and that she deeply cares about the district.

Chick, replying to a questioner who said the Valley is treated as a stepchild by the rest of the city, blamed a "vacuum and void of leadership from the district" and vowed to make it a common cause with other Valley council members to establish a Valley agenda at City Hall.

Another candidate, Robert Gross, former president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization, charged that a Picus aide had approached him last January and asked him not to run. Gross called the incident "tantamount to bribery" and said that he had informed the district attorney's office of the incident but was told that no law had been violated.

Candidate Dennis Zine, a Los Angeles police sergeant, told the audience that a police officer would be best equipped to deal with crime, which he called the No. 1 problem of the district.

Also present was candidate Mort Diamond, a paralegal, who repeated his past argument that the city's financial problems can be solved by raising the landing fees at the Los Angeles International Airport.

The 3rd District campaign has been a late bloomer.

Only in the last two weeks have challengers' yard signs, literature, phone banks and precinct walkers surfaced while Picus, the incumbent, has not yet walked a precinct or sent out a political mailer--although she is expected to do so soon.

Picus campaign consultant Bill Carrick contends that she enjoys a comfortable lead. He cites a poll taken in late January that shows her preferred by 47% of the voters while collectively her opponents are the top choice of only 21%.

But the challengers point to the undecided 32% of the electorate and to the fact that the poll was taken before the challengers began to wage their campaigns or launch their critiques of Picus' 16 years in office.

Picus is being heavily challenged on the financial front.

Collectively, the challengers had raised $130,000 to Picus' $95,000 as of mid-March, when candidates were last required to disclose their campaign finances.

When Picus last ran for reelection in 1989, winning narrowly with 52% of the vote, she spent $263,000--four times as much as was spent by her opponents combined.

Leading in the fund raising has been Chick, wife of a politically well-connected former city Airport Commissioner Robert Chick. Chick, who last reported raising $105,000, counts among her top financial backers veteran Airport Commissioner Johnnie Cochran and Valley philanthropist David Fleming.

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