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Riordan Pitches Reform Proposal to Valley Voters

City Hall: Mayor's letter promotes elected panel to rewrite charter and criticizes council's committee of appointed members.

September 26, 1996|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nearly 100,000 San Fernando Valley voters began to receive a direct mail appeal from Mayor Richard Riordan on Wednesday to support his petition drive to create an elected citizens panel that would study government reform.

Riordan launched the campaign on Tuesday with a one-page letter that urges voters to back his plan while taking shots at a separate City Council reform proposal.

If successful, Riordan's petition drive would allow voters to elect a 15-member citizens panel to rewrite the 71-year-old charter that outlines the balance of power in City Hall.

The panel's reform ideas would go directly on the ballot for voter approval.

The council voted two weeks ago to create a separate appointed reform panel. Under that plan, the council retains the power to rewrite or reject any reform idea before it goes on the ballot.

In the letter to voters, Riordan describes the council's reform panel as a "weak, nonbinding and politician-appointed" committee while describing his own panel as "independent of politicians and special interest groups."

Such language drew the ire of some council members. "The mayor, again, thinks he is holier than thou," said Councilman Mike Hernandez, who supported creating a council-appointed panel. "Why is his way always the only way?"

He also suggested that the critical letter will continue to hurt already strained relations between Riordan and the council.

Rick Taylor, director of Riordan's charter reform campaign, defended the letter, saying that it "is laying out the options that voters will be facing in a few years."

Taylor said that a second letter may be sent out to voters citywide depending on the results of direct mail effort in the Valley.

He declined to say how much the mailing cost except to say it was a "reasonable rate."

Riordan--a multimillionaire businessman turned politician--has agreed to help finance the petition drive, which is estimated to cost between $200,000 and $400,000.

The drive, which must collect the valid signatures of 197,000 registered voters, has already collected about 100,000 signatures, Taylor said.

The competing panel proposals are the most recent of several attempts during the past 20 years to overhaul the city's charter. The latest reform movement was led by San Fernando Valley business leader David Fleming in response to threats of a Valley secession.

Meanwhile, Councilman Marvin Braude announced the first appointment to the council's 21-member panel by naming UCLA political scientist Xandra Kayden.

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