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EDITORIAL : CITY HALL POWER STRUGGLE COUNCIL DEFEATS RIORDAN IN A BUDGET BATTLE. BUT IF IT WON'T FOLLOW, CAN IT LEAD?

THE Los Angeles City Council showed who's boss at City Hall Tuesday. It happened when the council overrode, on a 10-4 vote, Mayor Richard Riordan's veto of the council's decision to scale down the centerpiece of his budget - the police expansion plan.

By overriding the mayor's budget, the council made it clear that it intends to exercise its authority under the city charter as ``the governing body of the city.''

But having power is one thing. Exercising it wisely is something else.

The council is made up of 15 individuals who traditionally focus most of their attention on their own districts, rather than the needs of the city as a whole - or even distinct regions such as the San Fernando Valley. The unanswered question is whether the council is prepared to follow up its victory over Riordan by providing constructive leadership.

The council majority made it clear that it agrees with Riordan that the notoriously understaffed LAPD (there are 2.3 officers per 1,000 residents in L.A., compared with 5.6 in New York and 4.6 in Chicago) must be strengthened if Los Angeles is to become a safer city. The council, however, said that the mayor's plan was too risky financially because it relied on some temporary or uncertain revenues.

We share those concerns. But one of the virtues of Riordan's approach is that it forced the council to finally address the long-neglected need to reorder the city's priorities.

(Riordan said after the overrides that his administration has identified more than enough savings to pay for his police-expansion plan. ``I firmly believe that these and other measures will enable the city to do more with less - not just this year but for years to come.'')

Los Angeles clearly needs to do more with less - but not at the expense of public safety. It also needs to look for ways to reduce red tape and fees or risk losing additional jobs and businesses to more economically enlightened cities such as Burbank and Glendale. It simply cannot afford to cling to the old ways, which frequently meant paying more attention to the demands of politically influential government unions and entrenched bureaucrats than the needs of residents who paid the bills.

Riordan's responses to all the problems facing Los Angeles haven't been perfect. Nevertheless, he has succeeded in awakening the public to the need to make the city operate more efficiently and responsively. That is the real challenge facing L.A., regardless of whether the council or the mayor is calling the shots.

OVERRIDES AT A GLANCE Here is a summary of the major actions taken Tuesday by the City Council on the municipal budget:

LAPD expansion: Overrode Mayor Richard Riordan's veto of the council's plan to reduce expansion to 450 new officers. Riordan wanted to recruit 710 officers.

Police overtime: Overrode Riordan's veto of the council's action to keep $12 million for police overtime in a special account. Expenditures will require council approval.

Street resurfacing: Overrode Riordan's veto of the council's plan to cut $10 million in transit funds for street resurfacing, reducing total resurfacing from 200 miles to 150 miles.

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Box: OVERRIDES AT A GLANCE (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 6, 1996
Words:533
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