The Los Angeles police union, continuing its angry public feud with county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, has bitterly attacked Mayor Richard Riordan for endorsing Yaroslavsky's wife, Barbara, to succeed her husband on the City Council.
"This mayor betrayed us. We supported him. We put him in office. Now he supports an arch enemy, as far as I'm concerned, of the Los Angeles Police Department," said Bill Harkness, a board member of the 7,600-member union.
Harkness' comments came after a press conference on Tuesday at which the Republican mayor said he was endorsing Barbara Yaroslavsky, a Democrat, because they are "committed to the same agenda" of boosting the number of police officers and improving the efficiency of city government.
"Barbara is a person who hates waste, who does not mince words, who is wonderfully patient in listening and impatient in doing, who puts people above politics," Riordan said outside the Los Angeles Free Clinic, where Yaroslavsky is a longtime board member.
The mayor's blessing is a coup for Yaroslavsky, considered a leading candidate for the 5th Council District seat that was vacated by her husband when he was elected last year to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The largely affluent district stretches from Sherman Oaks to Westwood.
Riordan captured nearly 56% of the vote in the district in his 1993 campaign and he remains popular there, especially in the San Fernando Valley portion. Other candidates had sought his endorsement, which is likely to give Yaroslavsky credibility with business owners and conservatives.
Yaroslavsky is also expected to benefit from her name recognition as well as her and her husband's wide network of fund-raising connections among liberal Westside residents.
Appearing with the mayor, Yaroslavsky said she would work to put more police officers on the streets, create Neighborhood Watch groups and establish a graffiti eradication program in the district.
She also pledged to reform City Hall purchasing practices, increase after-school programs for children and keep city parks open seven days a week, to give youngsters an alternative to gang activity and crime.
"I want this city to be safer when I leave office than it was when I take office," she said.
Minutes after she and Riordan finished speaking, top officials of the Police Protective League--who back prosecutor Lea Purwin D'Agostino in the race--staged an impromptu press conference across the street, excoriating the mayor and both Yaroslavskys. The union has repeatedly attacked Barbara Yaroslavsky since she began her run last summer, arguing that she will continue her husband's "anti-cop" policies on the council.
Union leaders have cited Zev Yaroslavsky's vote against settling a bitter wage dispute with police last year and his tenure as chairman of the City Council budget committee, saying he opposed higher Police Department appropriations.
League President Cliff Ruff dismissed Riordan's endorsement as "politics as usual" and reiterated the union's backing for D'Agostino, who appeared with the union officials.
Former union President Danny Staggs said he had talked with a close Riordan adviser, Bill Wardlaw, and that Wardlaw said the mayor was backing Barbara Yaroslavsky as "political pay-back" to her husband. But Staggs said he did not know what the alleged debt was.
Riordan aide Robin Kramer described as "nonsense" the notion that Riordan's endorsement was a political payoff to Zev Yaroslavsky.
The other major candidates in the race are Michael Feuer, the former head of the Bet Tzedek legal services agency; former Los Angeles school board member Roberta Weintraub, and Jeff Brain, former head of the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce.