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Riordan says L.A. could run out of money for parks, libraries

July 17, 2010 |  8:31 pm

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan said Saturday that rising pension costs could cause the city to run out of money to pay for parks, libraries and other services within two years.

The former mayor made his comments at a gathering of activists from across the political spectrum who are looking to push out the six City Council members who are running for reelection in March.

The group, known as L.A. Clean Sweep, held a launch party Saturday at the Mayflower Club in North Hollywood to recruit candidate and raise money for challenges to council members Paul Krekorian, Tom LaBonge, Tony Cardenas, Bernard Parks, Herb Wesson and Jose Huizar.

Riordan, who left office in 2001, said he hadn't made up his mind on whether he wants to get rid of the council members. But he told the crowd that the mayor and council have done little to address the spiraling cost of the city's retirement system.

“If they don’t do anything … in the next year or two, they’re going to have to close down the parks, close down the libraries, stop fixing streets,” he said.

A Villaraigosa aide said Riordan’s dire predictions were outlandish.

“It’s an absurd notion that the city would plan to close its parks and libraries before reforming pensions,” said Villaraigosa’s Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo, who handles budget issues. “Parks and libraries are core public services and will always be provided to the public by the city.”

Some already see signs that city services are being dismantled. To close a budget gap, Villaraigosa and the council reduced library hours and laid off 98 library employees this month. Some child care workers at city parks also received pink slips.

Riordan was not the only controversial voice at Saturday’s event. An appearance by attorney and two-time mayoral candidate Walter Moore, who is known for his opposition to illegal immigration, sparked an angry e-mail from Michael Trujillo, a political consultant who recently worked on Councilwoman Janice Hahn’s failed bid for statewide office. 

Trujillo criticized L.A. Clean Sweep organizer Ron Kaye for allowing Moore to speak and questioned whether the group’s agenda is to ensure that there are “no more Latinos in Los Angeles.”

Kaye disputed that accusation, saying that his group wants Latinos, among others, to run for office against incumbent council members. “We’re trying to get Latinos into office who are responsive to the public and are not beholden to unions, developers and [city] contractors,” Kaye said. “If that’s racist, then it’s an absurd charge.”

Moore said his views on immigration policy are not racist. He accused Trujillo, who also has worked for Villaraigosa, of trying to turn the topic away from the city’s budget woes. “You have a bunch of people so fed up with the tragicomedy at City Hall that those who are entrenched in power just try to smear us as racists,” he said.

Other speakers at Saturday’s event included Kevin James, host of a talk show on KRLA-AM 870, and Tezozomoc, an activist with South Central Farmers, which fought unsuccessfully to preserve 14 acres in South Los Angeles as a community garden

-- David Zahniser in North Hollywood