Riordan TV ad puts best spin on record

By Erica Werner The Associated Press
Wednesday January 09, 2002

LOS ANGELES — Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan’s inaugural television advertisement in his campaign for the GOP gubernatorial nomination paints his background in glowing terms. 

But it does so by selectively representing his record. 

The ad, the first to appear as the March 5 primary approaches, began running Tuesday in areas of the state outside of Los Angeles. Its main claims about Riordan’s eight years as mayor: 

—The city added a quarter-million new jobs and unemployment was cut in half. 

—The budget was balanced with no tax increases. 

—The police force grew by 2,100 as crime fell by 50 percent. 

The claims about jobs, budgets and the crime rate generally stand up to scrutiny, though crime fell only by 42 percent, according to Los Angeles Police Department figures. 

The claim about the police force is misleading. 

The 2,100 figure comes from the peak of department staffing levels in November 1999. By the time Riordan left office in June of last year, the force had increased by only 1,408 officers from when he took office in 1993. 

Moreover, the ad does not mention that Riordan pledged to add 3,000 officers to the force. 

Unsurprisingly, Riordan does not mention what critics consider the failures of his administration, like the Rampart police scandal or poor relations with the City Council. 

And whether he can take credit for the successes he lists is open to debate, because Riordan presided during a period of record national prosperity, said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles. 

“I’d have to say Riordan must be one of the luckiest politicians around having left office in June, before Sept. 11, before the economy turned around, because I think almost any chief executive could have made the same claims as he did,” Stern said. “If Gray could’ve stopped his term office as of June 30, 2001, he could be saying exactly the same thing.” 

Democratic Gov. Gray Davis is the target of portions of the ad, though he is not mentioned by name. Polls show Riordan ahead of his more conservative Republican opponents — Secretary of State Bill Jones and Los Angeles businessman Bill Simon — and the ad ignores them. 

Without mentioning specifics, the ad cites “gross mismanagement” on the budget and “hostile policies” toward business that it alleges are driving jobs from the state. 

Davis press secretary Roger Salazar rejected those characterizations Tuesday. 

“I don’t think anything could be further from the truth,” Salazar said. He said Davis has focused the state’s reserve spending on one-time costs and has offered businesses incentives. He said the budget deficit is attributable to a downturn in the technology sector and the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. 

“It’s sad to see him start off with a negative attack during the campaign season,” Salazar said.