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With Yaroslavsky out, Riordan unimpressed by L.A. mayor's race field

August 23, 2012 |  2:45 pm

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan speaks to parents, students and teachers at an education meeting at his home in 2011. Credit: Bret Hartman / For The Times
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's decision not to run for mayor of Los Angeles was greeted with disappointment by a man who held the job for eight years.

Richard Riordan, who served as mayor from 1993 to 2001, said he was unhappy with the current field of candidates, two of whom he said can't get elected, and two of whom "are under the total control of" unions.

“The city is in and is going deeper into financial disaster,” Riordan said. “I think we have to look hard for other candidates."

Riordan has been talking a lot in recent weeks about steadily rising city employee pension costs and the unwillingness he sees among Los Angeles lawmakers to take steps to reduce them. He and a coalition of business leaders have vowed to put a referendum on the May ballot that would turn decisions on pensions over to voters. 

Riordan says county officials, including Yaroslavsky, have done a better job than city officials at controlling pension costs. He said the longtime supervisor is candid and "independent-minded." Without him, Riordan said, the race lacks contenders who will give an honest assessment of the city’s financial picture.

Riordan complained that the top fund-raisers in the race, City Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti, are too beholden to labor.

“They’ve voted for everything the unions want them to vote for,” Riordan said, adding that “the unions are the ones that are causing the tremendous financial crisis we’re in.”

Riordan said it’s now time to find a new candidate who will be "independent of unions and other special interests.” He said he thinks City Councilwoman Jan Perry and former federal prosecutor and talk radio host Kevin James are more independent than the front-runners, but that they don't have the backing to win the race.

Perry, Parks and Greuel each called Yaroslavsky in the wake of his announcement. Though the supervisors did not discuss those conversations, he said the winner of next year’s election will need to force the city to live within its means -- even if that means paying a political price. “The next mayor has got to say no to their friends or they’re going to be going to Wall Street to explain a bankruptcy,” he added.

A spokesman for Garcetti fought back on Riordan's charges, calling them inaccurate and inflammatory. “Dick's out of control,” Garcetti campaign spokesman Bill Carrick said. “Eric's not under total control of the unions.”

He said Riordan’s claim that labor interests were to blame for the city’s financial crisis was a "bald-face untruth.”

“The economy is causing the financial crisis we're in,” Carrick said. “It's the fact that we're in a national financial crisis. To suggest that this is all labor's fault is really irresponsible."

As president of the City Council from 2006 to 2012, Garcetti played a big role in contract negotiations with labor leaders. The councilman, who has been vying with Greuel for labor backing, has touted his work in negotiating a deal that required city employees to pay for a share of their healthcare.

Greuel's campaign referred questions to former Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg, who said Greuel, a former councilwoman, has the leadership skills to tackle the budget in a way that won’t “lead to litigation or beat people up.”

“She tough,” he said. “She’s like Eisenhower. People underestimate her.”

Greuel and the other candidates shared their thoughts on pensions with Times columnist Steve Lopez earlier this week. Their answers are posted here.

Riordan, who says none of the proposals go far enough to cut costs, had some joking advice for voters in L.A.

“If I were going to suggest anything, it’d be to move out of the city," he said.


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Photo: Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan speaks to parents, students and teachers at an education meeting at his home in 2011. Credit: Bret Hartman / For The Times