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Political Briefing

Alarcon Allies More Than Willing to Stand Up and Be Counted


THE BOYS ON THE BUS: A Los Angeles City Council meeting this week to consider a plan to use redevelopment programs to rebuild quake-damaged neighborhoods in the northeast San Fernando Valley attracted a surprisingly large number of supporters. In fact, the gallery seats at the council chamber were all but filled with backers of the redevelopment project.

But before the council got around to discussing the issue, half the crowd vanished--all at once. About 60 people filed out of the chambers and into waiting buses. But before they left, Councilman Richard Alarcon, who represents the communities proposed for the redevelopment area, asked those in the audience to stand so the council could see the community's support for the plan.

City officials later acknowledged that the "supporters" were bused into the meeting by Neighborhood Empowerment & Economic Development Inc. (NEED), a North Hills-based nonprofit group that was hired by the city to educate northeast Valley residents on the redevelopment plan. Alarcon's ties to the group are well known in City Hall. James Acevedo, chairman of NEED's board of directors, was Alarcon's campaign manager last year.

Of the bused-in supporters, about half were Filipino war veterans from Alarcon's district whom the councilman had honored earlier in the meeting for their heroism during World War II. The others were transported from a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Sun Valley.

On the way out, one of the men from the center told a reporter that he knew little about the proposed redevelopment program but rode a bus to the meeting at the request of one of the center's administrators. Hector Briones, NEED's executive director, said his agency organized meetings with the veterans and the "leadership" of the rehab center to discuss the redevelopment plan. Asked about the supporters, Alarcon said later that he was not involved in organizing the bus trip. But he added: "They may not all know every particular about the redevelopment plan but some definitely support the plan." A decision on the plan was delayed until a second hearing Nov. 29.


SPEAKING OF TRIPS: No, Mayor Richard Riordan has not been mixing it up with the City Council. Blame his bike for his battered look.

The 64-year-old chief executive plummeted from his mountain bike last Sunday while riding with several friends on a dirt road in the Santa Monica Mountains. He fractured several ribs, chipped his collarbone and bruised his nose and cheek.

"He took a really hard fall," said Noelia Rodriguez, Riordan's press secretary. "It knocked the wind out of him a little bit."

The accident occurred after the narrow ledge Riordan was riding on gave way and he fell about five feet. He managed to ride out of Sullivan Canyon and make his way to Santa Monica Hospital's emergency room. Despite some tenderness, he carried on a busy week in City Hall.

It was not the first fall for this avid cyclist, who has pedaled his way across Europe numerous times and dons the latest in skin-tight bikewear. While zipping down a steep hill last year, he struck a speed bump and flipped over several times before landing on the pavement. His shoulder was separated and had to be surgically repaired.

One thing Riordan has learned is to wear his helmet.

He caused a stir shortly after he took office, when word got out that he regularly cycled without any protection on his head. Numerous helmet manufacturers responded by sending their wares to City Hall.

After the latest fall, however, the mayor is wondering whether he may need another piece of equipment. When asked about his injuries, he quipped to reporters: "We're passing the hat around to buy me some training wheels."


BURNING ISSUE: What a difference an election makes.

As part of the purging of Democrats on the Hill, Congress' most vocal critic of cigarette smoking, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), will probably be replaced as chairman of the health subcommittee. Overseeing that body will be one of the tobacco industry's closest allies.

Rep. Thomas Bliley (D-Virginia), tapped to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee, does not mince words when it comes to support for the right to light up. He has compared Waxman's investigations of the tobacco industry to former Sen. Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s.

A pipe smoker whose district includes the Philip Morris headquarters, Bliley has accepted more tobacco-industry contributions than any other member of the House--nearly $100,000--and last week publicly declared an end to Congress' war on tobacco.

That prospect has local cigarette foes fuming--even after they defeated a tobacco-industry-sponsored initiative in California last week that would have invalidated several hundred local anti-smoking measures.

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