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Picus Finds Police Reliable in Emergency


Embattled Los Angeles City Councilwoman Joy Picus on Friday turned to police brass for the third time in recent days for help in boosting her campaign to survive the biggest political emergency of her 16-year career.

The incumbent, who faces a runoff against a well-funded former aide on Tuesday, was joined by Capt. Val Paniccia, head of the Los Angeles Police Department's West Valley Station, at an event highlighting her years of working to prevent domestic violence.

Deputy Chief Mark A. Kroeker, the head of the department's Valley operations, was supposed to attend Friday's event but missed it because of a scheduling error. The popular Kroeker did appear, however, at two Picus events earlier this week. All three were billed by the Picus camp as official city business.

But as Picus was using her incumbency privileges to polish her crime-fighting image, challenger Laura Chick was reminding a lunchtime crowd at a voter-rich Jewish retirement home in Reseda that she was no stranger--that she had helped them as Picus' former field deputy.

Meanwhile, campaign disclosure reports filed Friday showed that the 3rd District council race contestants are almost dead even in fund raising, as they have been since the race began in January.

In the past 10 days, Chick has received $60,300 in campaign contributions and Picus has raised $56,000, according to the latest reports. Since January, Picus and Chick have both raised more than $250,000.

The pair's final showdown comes in Tuesday's election. Picus was forced into the runoff bout by receiving less than 50% of the vote in the April 20 primary. Picus got 36.7% of the vote; Chick, running second in a field of six candidates, got 29.5%.

Asked if Friday's event was campaign-related, Picus demurred, saying, "This is not political." Picus announced outside the West Valley Division headquarters that she had helped finance 10,000 referral cards for officers to carry to help them better counsel battered wives.

For his part, Paniccia briefly thanked Picus on Friday for her support in financing the program. The cards provide a thumbnail guide to the services available to battered spouses as well as their rights to obtain free court restraining orders against their abusive partners, Paniccia said.

On Thursday, Kroeker was at a Picus-sponsored gathering to celebrate the "rebirth" of formerly crime-ridden Lanark Park.

On the campaign trail, Picus has repeatedly taken credit for the park's turnaround, saying she worked with the Police Department to reclaim it from drug dealers.

Kroeker was also on hand Tuesday when Picus held a news conference at a Reseda hardware store to demonstrate how merchants should comply with a city anti-graffiti law making it illegal to sell spray paint to minors.

"I don't think Mark Kroeker is usable," Picus said, when asked Friday if she was exploiting LAPD brass for political gain. "I don't think he would permit himself to be used."

Asked if he felt the LAPD was being used, Paniccia said: "Not at all."

Jackie Brainard, Chick's campaign spokeswoman, compared the appearances by police commanders to Picus' use of such perks of office as a new city car and a large staff. "I think the police should have better things to do," Brainard said. "Joy thinks the voters will see her as a crime fighter, but we don't think they'll be fooled."

On Monday, Picus intends to hold a fourth LAPD-related news conference--once more with Paniccia--when she unveils an anti-speeding device to be used by West Valley traffic officers.

Meanwhile, Chick spent Friday soliciting votes at the Jewish Home for the Aging's Eisenberg Village complex.

"Join me in calling for a change," Chick urged a crowd of about 400 senior citizens lunching on potato latkes and jello in the dining hall. "Sixteen years is long enough."

"I know you can all see my energy. I'm frothing at the bit to get to work at City Hall," Chick said.

Later, as she schmoozed one-on-one with the retirement home's residents, Chick promised one man that if she were elected, she'd investigate his complaints that Valley seniors pay more for city-provided transportation coupons than do seniors from the more affluent Westside.

"I'm learning this for the first time from you," Chick told the 82-year-old man, Morton Tooredman.

Chick reminded others that she had worked on community issues of concern to them as Picus' former field deputy and that she also had been a social worker for Jewish Family Services.

And the challenger was brought to tears when Issie Greenberg, 82, a former garment manufacturer, wished her good luck by reciting a traditional Hebrew blessing. "It got to me," Chick said, dabbing at her eyes.

Finally, however, it was Walter Schnell, president of the Eisenberg Village residents association, who put Friday's events in context.

"Picus is an old friend of mine," said Schnell, 89, the village's elected leader for 18 years. "But I think this is going to be a close, close election. It's very hard to predict."

* STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: Democrat Lyle Hall calls himself a friend of Republicans. B1

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