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TIMES ENDORSEMENT

Chick for City Controller

March 12, 2001

Los Angeles Councilwoman Laura Chick, running for city controller in the April 10 primary, is well-prepared by eight years on the council for a post that is taking on larger responsibilities and a higher political profile under the new City Charter. The Times endorses her candidacy.

The current controller, Rick Tuttle, has run the office professionally and capably through four terms but is now termed out. Chick has promised to build on Tuttle's accomplishments, which include a close watch on city officials' personal spending and detailed, often critical, financial audits of city departments.

Under the new charter, the controller's old bookkeeping and auditing responsibilities remain, but so-called performance audits are added and could be wide-ranging: Is trash, including street trash, being collected efficiently citywide? Is the Los Angeles Department of Airports getting too little for what it spends on consultants? Is the Harbor Department properly mitigating the impact of the Port of L.A. on surrounding neighborhoods? These are all inherently political performance questions, though certainly fair answers and recommendations can be reached.

Chick, who is chairman of the Council's Government Efficiency Committee, has a good grasp of the interplay between fiscal and political decisions. And though she is clearly running for this office because she is termed out on the City Council, she musters good enthusiasm for becoming controller. Her proposals include greater transparency and public access to city financial records as well as better collection of what is owed the city, such as private insurance repayments for emergency medical services.

Chick is opposed by entertainment business owner Laurette Healey, whose chief supporter is Mayor Richard Riordan. She entered the race late, in January, after other possible opponents approached by Riordan declined to run. Chick and Riordan have clashed sharply since both took office in 1993, on police oversight and other issues. Healey is good at sloganeering about breaking the "glass ceiling" in private management but demonstrates no understanding of how to be effective in elective office.

Chick, who if she wins would be the first woman elected citywide in Los Angeles, is right to want to make the office more useful and accessible to the public. "I want to be the point person in letting the public know who to hold accountable," she has said.

The Times endorses Laura Chick for city controller.

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