DANIEL TAUB Staff Reporter
With the April 8 election a month and a half away, L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan and the city's union workers are fielding rival slates of candidates for a proposed citizen's commission to reform the City Charter.
At stake is the balance of power in City Hall adding some spice to what otherwise might be an academic debate over the need to update the city's 72-year-old charter.
Riordan's candidates are expected to advocate more authority for the Mayor's Office. Candidates backed by the city unions, meanwhile, are likely to push for a continuation of the strong council, weak-mayor form of government.
Since Riordan's election in 1993, the City Council has scaled back or thwarted efforts by Riordan to contract work to private companies or to demand more productivity from city workers.
Union leaders and their allies on the council contend the charter reform effort is a simple power grab.
"If this is just about giving more power to the mayor, we're not really interested," said Julie Butcher, acting general manager of Service Employees International Union Local 347, which represents 10,000 blue-collar government workers, 6,500 of them in the City of L.A. "If we're going to do this, we want to really empower folks."
But Riordan said last week that the candidates he is supporting for the charter reform commission do not have a common goal other than they are "independently minded people who are going to take their jobs very seriously and get the job done."
"I have not said what I want in the charter. I will discuss it publicly in coming weeks, but I have not talked about it with (the candidates)," Riordan said.
Riordan's charter reform campaigns Yes on Charter Reform, Citizens to Turn L.A. Around and Citizens for a Better Los Angeles had collectively raised more than $1.1 million dollars last year, with $575,000 of that directly out of Riordan's pocket.
Citizens for a Better Los Angeles, the organization devoted to supporting Riordan's endorsed candidates for the charter commission, alone raised $556,500 last year.
Though few of the 58 charter candidates are promoting themselves yet in the form of advertisements or mailers, six have already won the endorsement of Riordan, who contributed $575,000 of his own money to the charter reform effort.
An additional 15 candidates have won or are expected to win the endorsement of the SEIC Local 347, the largest union of city workers in L.A.
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