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At City Hall, a Women's Study Is Never Done

August 15, 1993

Women's work: Members of the Santa Monica Commission on the Status of Women say they are tired of being treated like second-class citizens at City Hall, and they voted last week to ask the City Council for help.

For six months they have wanted to do a study to see how the women employees of the city are faring, but they said they are being stymied, especially by City Manager John Jalili.

"We're being totally co-opted by the staff to do the kind of survey they want to see," said commission member Irene Zivi.

Commission members said they want to do a comprehensive study, but city staff members are urging them to stick to the issue of sexual harassment. At a commission meeting last week, city Personnel Director Karen Bancroft said she opposes a comprehensive survey at least for now. A full survey will create false expectations and cause morale problems, she said. Employees are already coping with greater workloads and no cost-of-living raises because of the budget crisis.

No one on the commission bought the argument.

The problem, said commission Chairwoman Laurie Newman, is that the city is afraid of what the survey may find. "Of course, we're going to find out things the city doesn't want us to (know)," she said. "That's the nature of the beast."

Jalili denies there is any City Hall resistance to full disclosure of women's lot at City Hall. There is a jurisdictional dispute, however, because the Personnel Board wants to be in on the survey.

The city manager said his office intervened in the consultant selection process after Michele Wittig accused her commission colleagues of selecting a survey taker without proper bidding practices. Newman said that the commission had been given improper instructions by the city.

Jalili made them start over. "Our issue is not with content," he insisted.

Commission members, however, are suspicious and weary.

Dolores Press, at her first meeting after rejoining the commission she helped start many years ago, was poised to speak on the survey issue.

"Welcome back," someone said ruefully.

"Nothing ever changes," Press said.


Radical move: In West Hollywood, it's not unusual for the city's socially conscious council to pass resolutions on everything from President Clinton's backsliding on gays in the military to the United Nations' World Conference on Human Rights.

But in Beverly Hills, they're more conservative. The City Council rarely passes resolutions on anything not directly related to city business.

Last week the Beverly Hills council took the unusual action of agreeing to consider a resolution that asks President Clinton to commute the life sentence of convicted spy Jonathan Jay Pollard. Pollard, a former Navy civilian intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty to espionage in 1987 for selling top-secret U.S. documents to Israel, including information about Iraq's biological and chemical capabilities.

Councilman Robert K. Tanenbaum, who presented the resolution along with Mayor Maxwell Salter, said the Los Angeles City Council had already passed a resolution asking that Pollard's sentence be commuted to time already served.

Tanenbaum said he did not condone Pollard's actions. But he noted that the spy has served more than seven years, while others who have been convicted of passing information to unfriendly nations received lighter sentences and will be eligible for parole. Pollard is not. Tanenbaum, one of three legal eagles serving on the council, eloquently argued that the council should take a position on the case on Constitutional grounds, because the "sentence is cruel and unusual," a violation of Constitutional protections.

Without the civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, "forget about sewers, trees and roads, (the usual domain of cities). There's nothing left to consider," Tanenbaum said.

The resolution will be considered at the council's Sept. 7 meeting.


Touche: West Hollywood Councilman Paul Koretz found himself on the pointy end of a verbal lance last week when he went to persuade the Beverly Hills City Council to follow the lead of his city and Los Angeles in approving a ban on smoking in restaurants.

Beverly Hills had passed such an ordinance in 1987 but rescinded it after the city's restaurateurs said they were losing their shirts because patrons were fleeing to smoking havens in West Hollywood and surrounding cities.

Koretz argued that this time things were different. In response to a new study that found second-hand smoke is dangerous, other cities had already taken the plunge and prohibited restaurant smoking so Beverly Hills wouldn't be going out on a limb. If Beverly Hills joined a growing number of Westside cities that have said they intend to pass no-smoking ordinances, a regional ban would make it "much easier and far less less controversial" for everyone, he said.

Otherwise, "Beverly Hills will become the place nonsmokers avoid," Koretz said.

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