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COUNCIL MEMBERS SHY AWAY FROM PROP. R MAILER.

Byline: KERRY CAVANAUGH Staff Writer

Stung by criticism that voters are being deliberately misled, some City Council members sought Tuesday to distance themselves from controversial campaign mailers sent out by backers of a term limits/ethics reform measure on the November ballot.

Several said they are disappointed with a mailer that implies rampant corruption at City Hall. Another says Proposition R would prevent council members from serving ``for life'' but fails to note that council members already are limited to two terms, or eight years.

``I wish they were concentrating on the positive, public policy aspects rather than the sensational,'' Councilman Greig Smith said of the Yes on Prop R campaign material.

``There are good public policy reasons to extend term limits and you want people to know what they are. But this is appealing to the lowest common denominator.''

On Monday, Proposition R opponents asked the District Attorney's Office's Public Integrity Division to review the mailers. And City Controller Laura Chick, who opposes Proposition R, ordered proponents to remove her name from their literature, which she said made misleading statements about one of her audits.

The mailer references an audit that found that the public-relations firm of Fleishman-Hillard overbilled the Department of Water and Power by $4 million and says Proposition R would have prevented the fraud.

John Shallman, consultant for the Campaign to Reform LA -- Yes on Proposition R, agreed to remove Chick's name from the literature.

But he and other Proposition R supporters said the mailers are not deceptive and they clearly say the measure would give council members a third, four-year term.

Councilman Dennis Zine said he agreed with most of the claims in the mailers -- that Proposition R would help limit the influence of special interests and lobbyists at City Hall. But Zine said he also understands critics' complaints about the claims that Proposition R would prevent council members from serving for life.

``I can understand how it can be seen as not candid. We can't serve for life. But if you are an educated voter, you would know that term limits exist. It's not a secret that we have term limits,'' he said.

Councilwoman Wendy Greuel said campaign consultants often try to push the envelope to grab voters' attention, and candidates or campaign committees have to draw the line.

``No one should ever hide from the fact that it's a term-limit extension and ethics reforms,'' she said.

Councilman Tony Cardenas reviewed the mailers for the first time Tuesday and said he didn't see a problem with their language on term limits.

But he said he was troubled by the insinuations that City Hall is full of corruption and ``pay-to-play'' scandals.

``It's easy, sexy campaigning and it's cynical,'' he said. ``When it comes to investigations over the last 10 years, when prosecutors get through with it, it's usually an individual person who did something dumb or stupid. It's not an institutional, rampant problem.''

Councilman Ed Reyes said misleading statements have been made by both sides of the Proposition R campaign, and he's frustrated there hasn't been a real debate on extending term limits.

``We are victims of the sound bite. Who wants to hear the details of the truth?'' said Reyes, who would rather that the campaign focus on how experience and institutional knowledge are lost under the current term- limit system.

``How much space would an ad like that take?''

kerry.cavanaugh(at)dailynews.com

(213) 978-0390

What the council members say

The Daily News asked Los Angeles City Council members why they support Proposition R and to give an example of what they would do if they could run, and presumably win, a third term. Here are excerpts:

Ed Reyes, 1st District

In second term, ending 2009, would seek a third term to see through the Los Angeles River restoration.

``When I look at projects like the Gold Line -- it took 10 years. A good part of that was community participation and increasing public understanding. As long as you have term limits, the long-term solutions will never have a priority.''

Wendy Greuel, 2nd District

First term ends 2007, and seeking re-election; no plans to seek a third term.

``Reforming City Hall requires taking on the bureaucracy. With term limits, you know they are thinking they will just wait us out. Cutting through red tape takes time. Look at the business tax reform issue. Even though all of the council supports it, it has taken five years to get to where we are, and there is still more to do.''

Dennis Zine, 3rd District

In second term, which ends 2009, and would consider seeking a third term to finish downtown Reseda redevelopment.

``When you come into elected office, there's no school for being a council member. It took me four years to get this office organized in a way that satisfied me. In the second term you're really starting to get those projects going. And the third term you'd see those projects carried out.''

Tom LaBonge, 4th District

First term ends 2007, seeking re-election. Would seek a third term to secure more parkland behind the Hollywood sign.

``I ... think having a (two-term) limit puts us at a disadvantage. The Board of Supervisors can serve 12 years. We should have at least the same amount of time as them. And no other city in the county has term limits. Sometimes you need continuity to get things done.''

Jack Weiss, 5th District

In his second term, ending in 2009, and has no plans for a third term.

``I can tell you in a simple sentence: I intend to serve two terms and then return to my work as a public prosecutor. I am planning to run for city attorney.''

Tony Cardenas, 6th District

First term ends 2007, seeking re-election. Would likely seek a third term to finish a sports park planned for the old Sheldon-Arleta landfill.

``When you have people who have given up on the city, you have to practically beg them to call the city. Finally they gain a mutual understanding and a belief that expectations will be met, and with term limits, all of a sudden you're gone, and they have to start over.''

Alex Padilla, 7th District

In his second full term, which ends in 2009, but is expected to be elected to the state Senate in November. Has no plans to seek a third term.

``I wouldn't be here without term limits. I support extending limits to give people the choice to keep experienced elected officials.''

Bernard Parks, 8th District

First full term ends in 2007. Would seek a third term to get pro football back in Los Angeles.

``(Term limits) have done nothing to bring in real new blood. Look around and you see people who worked in staff jobs or, like me, worked for the city for more than 30 years. It hasn't increased voter participation. What it's done is create a situation where no one here has any long-term memory.''

Jan Perry, 9th District

In her second term, which ends in 2009. Would seek a third term to develop more parks in her downtown and South L.A. district.

``Being a council member is like being the quarterback of a team where you have to bring all these diverse elements together, all while you are trying to respond to constituents and develop some programs.'' It took five years just to secure land for one park in her district.

Herb Wesson, 10th District

In the middle of filling out a term for Martin Ludlow, who resigned. Will seek election to his first full term in 2007 and would seek a third term to push economic development and vocational training.

``I think the public should be able to decide how long an official stays in office. I have been a beneficiary of term limits and also a victim. I just feel two terms is not long enough to get anything done around here.''

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What the council members say (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 25, 2006
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