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LOCAL ELECTIONS / L.A. CITY COUNCIL : Six Challengers Pose Tall Hurdle for Incumbent : Campaign: Flores appears unlikely to avoid a runoff. A summary of the seven candidates and their positions on police protection, budget deficit, increased taxes, spending cuts and social programs.


With the primary two days away, the betting is that incumbent Joan Milke Flores will not receive enough votes to avoid a June 8 runoff in Los Angeles City Council District 15.

Several of the 12-year councilwoman's opponents, particularly Janice Hahn, daughter of former County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, and Warren Furutani, a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District board, have mounted strong, well-financed campaigns.

Both Hahn and Furutani have worked hard to exploit voter disenchantment, arguing that they would be more diligent than Flores in confronting local problems ranging from unemployment to crime.

The other four candidates in the race, all of whom live in San Pedro, have pockets of intense--if not districtwide--support. Even if they do not win a spot in the runoff they may nonetheless carve up what has been Flores' San Pedro base and boost the chances of Hahn and Furutani in the 15th, which stretches from San Pedro to Watts.

Some of Flores' supporters acknowledge that, this time around, the incumbent is unlikely to cruise to victory the way she did in her three previous council contests.

Said John Mendez, a Flores supporter in Wilmington: "There's definitely more of a race than there's ever been before."

On the issues, the seven candidates in the 15th District agree on such high-profile priorities as boosting police protection and using spending cuts--not tax increases--to deal with Los Angeles' looming budget deficit. Here is a sampling of their positions:


Throughout the campaign, Flores has touted herself as a fiscal conservative who is tough on crime but moderate on social issues.

She opposes Proposition 1, a question on Tuesday's ballot that would tax property owners to hire 1,000 additional police officers. She faults the proposal because the tax would not be levied on renters and because there is no guarantee that her district would get any of the additional officers. She favors increasing the number of civilians working in the Police Department in order to free officers from desk jobs.

In the face of a city budget deficit that may amount to $500 million next year, Flores joins those who want to eliminate the Board of Public Works. She also proposes that an early retirement plan for city employees be developed.

Cutting programs or combining the Cultural Arts Department and Recreation and Parks Department also would be a priority, she said.

"This is really going to hurt me," Flores said. "But if the choice is between police and garbage collection or the arts, the arts have to go. I know I'm going to lose votes, but I'm not willing to propose raising taxes."

None of the candidates, in fact, advocates raising taxes.


Like Flores, Hahn says she, too, favors disbanding the Board of Public Works. But similarities between the two end there. Unlike Flores, Hahn favors the ballot question to hire police, saying $73 per property owner is worth the extra 1,000 officers.

Also, recreational and beautification programs are high priorities with Hahn's supporters, whether they are gang members seeking athletic outlets or homeowners who want to spruce up their neighborhoods. Hahn does not promise to shield such programs from budget cuts, but said she would press the federal government to help fund such efforts before she would recommend local reductions.

"The federal government is obligated to release federal money to Los Angeles," Hahn said. Pointing out that she is a Democrat and Flores a Republican, Hahn said that since the nation now has a Democratic President and California has two Democratic senators, the traditionally nonpartisan council seat has become a partisan matter.

"Is a Joan Flores better able to partner with (Sen.) Dianne Feinstein and Bill Clinton, or (is) Janice Hahn?" she asks. "You need someone who really has an in with these people, who can call and say, 'I need help here in the 15th District.' "


Furutani says he supports Proposition 1 but that he has reservations. It is clear that people want more law enforcers on the street, he says, but there also should be more civilians working in the Police Department to allow better deployment of officers.

"I want to increase the number of police, but the problem I have with (Proposition 1) is that it's appealing to people's fears more than anything else," he said. "We have to make the case to civilianize the Police Department."

Furutani says his first move toward balancing the city's budget would be to launch a management audit to determine where to cut in City Hall's middle management.

"There's a lot of people who walk around with Styrofoam cups and you're not sure what they do," said Furutani, who also advocates the creation of local town councils to advise City Hall.


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