COMPTON — A lame-duck City Council majority led by newly elected Mayor Omar Bradley moved Tuesday to shore up support for Bradley three weeks before a new council will be seated.
Saying there was no time to waste, the council voted to move Bradley into the mayor's seat immediately, then voted, 3-1, to appoint a Bradley supporter, political newcomer Ronald Green, to his council seat. Green's term expires in June, 1995.
The decision to appoint Green, 31, stunned many Latino leaders. Bradley had said repeatedly throughout the campaign that it was time for a Latino council member.
Though Latinos make up nearly 45% of the city's population, none has served on the City Council. Rumors swirled during the campaign that bakery owner Pedro Pallan, a Bradley supporter, would most likely be appointed to the position.
Pallan, disappointed when Bradley failed to even nominate him for the council position, called for Latinos to organize.
Others said Bradley had reneged on a campaign promise.
"I feel betrayed," said Lorraine Cervantes, an outspoken community activist who was one of Bradley's most committed campaign workers. "A few years ago the white man was doing this to the black man and now black men are doing this to brown people."
Bradley defended the appointment of Green, saying that Pallan did not have the support of the other council members.
The lack of support "probably wasn't (due to) the fact that he was Latino; it was other issues that I'm not aware of," Bradley said.
Bradley, Bernice Woods and Jane D. Robbins voted Tuesday to make changes early because the five-member council has been short one member since former Mayor Walter R. Tucker III left for Congress, Bradley said.
"This council has been crippled by the absence of a fifth member," Bradley said. "We simply needed someone now."
Bradley defeated Councilwoman Patricia A. Moore in the June 1 mayoral election and was scheduled to take his seat July 1, together with newly elected council members Yvonne Arceneaux, who upset Councilwoman Bernice Woods, and Marcine Shaw, who won Moore's old seat.
Moore voted against both council appointments, saying the people should have a right to choose Bradley's replacement. Shaw and Arceneaux said they were concerned by the council's action, but were willing to work with Green.
Others described the decision as a ploy by Bradley to shore up his power while he still has the chance. With the new council, Bradley loses longtime ally Woods and gains Arceneaux and Shaw, who ran on opposing slates.
Green has known Bradley, Woods and Robbins since his childhood on Compton's west side. Robbins, who nominated Green, was his elementary school principal. Green said he raised about $5,000 to generate three campaign mailers supporting Bradley and Woods.
Being suddenly thrust into the political spotlight was disorienting, Green said. Ten days ago he was an unemployed aerospace worker. Then last week he was hired as a systems engineer at Martin Marietta. Tuesday, he was made a councilman.
"It is a little overwhelming, but I'm ready," Green said as City Manager Howard Caldwell handed him several books of documents, including the four-inch-thick proposed budget for next year that Green will be expected to vote on June 29.
The abrupt appointment has created a scheduling conflict, however. While Bradley said Green was chosen because they needed a councilman right away, Green's new job took him to New York on Wednesday. He will not return until June 28, three days before the new council is seated.
And while Bradley insisted that Green could be persuaded to stay in Compton, the newest councilman said he was expected in New York. "I took this job and gave them my word I would go," Green said.