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L.A. city controller race: Zine defends pension in heated debate

February 23, 2013 |  5:33 pm

L.A. Councilman Dennis Zine
Los Angeles Councilman Dennis Zine, a candidate for city controller, heatedly defended his police pension in a debate held Saturday at Valley College that also touched on how to bring more money to City Hall's depleted budget.

Zine earns a $100,000 annual pension for his 33 years as a Los Angeles police officer. Elected to the City Council 12 years ago, he also is paid an annual salary of nearly $179,000.

Opponents Cary Brazeman, a community activist, and Ron Galperin, a lawyer, called that an example of "double dipping" that the city should eliminate. That drew a forceful response from Zine, who said he's not a "greedy person" and contributes large sums of his pension to charities.

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"I am so tired of hearing 'double dipping,' '' he said. "I worked 33 years on the streets of Los Angeles. I have given over $300,000 to nonprofits that needed it.... That's what happened with that pension."

Zine, Galperin and Brazeman faced off in a forum sponsored by the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils, an influential group of high-propensity voters. A fourth candidate, Ankur Patel, was at the debate but was not allowed to participate because he is not accepting contributions and did not qualify for public funding.

Voters will select a controller in the March 5 primary. If no candidate wins at least 51% of the vote, the top two will face off in the June general election.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

Many questions dealt with how the city can boost revenue for its depleted budget and eliminate waste and abuse. Zine said he would use his experience as a city councilman to audit areas where he thinks there is fat, starting with the Police Department's risk management unit, he said.

There are too many lawsuits filed against the LAPD by its own employees, resulting in $50 million in annual costs, he said. He thinks an audit will show that the LAPD should do a better job managing that risk, he said.

Galperin said he would focus on streamlining procedures, coordinating departments and maximizing opportunities for the city to raise revenue. He cited the city's two asphalt plants as an example where the city could be using its assets to bring more dollars to the general fund.

Brazeman promised to "shine a light" on waste, fraud and abuse and to use his experience as a neighborhood council member to make changes, even if it means sometimes being abrasive with his colleagues in City Hall.

All three said they oppose Proposition A, the proposed half-cent sales tax increase on the March 5 ballot.


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-- Catherine Saillant in Valley Glen

Photo: Los Angeles Councilman Dennis Zine. Credit: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times