LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The campaign for Los Angeles city controller has heated up days before the May 21 runoff election.
CBS2's Andrea Fujii reported that Dennis Zine has a 15-point lead against opponent Ron Galperin, according to a recent Cal State L.A. poll.
Nearly half of those questioned were still undecided, however.
Galperin and Zine said the city controller race may not be the most publicized, but it's for one of the most important positions in the city.
"It's the job of the controller to make sure our money is not being wasted," said Galperin.
"It's a person who is watching out for the taxpayer," said Zine.
Fujii said some people describe the candidates as an "insider" versus an "outsider."
Galperin, the self-proclaimed outsider, won the primary by about 4,000 votes.
He's been an attorney in Los Angeles for 20 years and sits on two volunteer city financial commissions.
Galperin said the fact that he's never been elected to political office helps his chances.
"I haven't been entrenched in city government and I don't owe anything to anybody," he said.
Zine is a three-term city councilmember representing the west San Fernando Valley and a 33-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department.
He said there's nothing wrong with being an insider.
"I know how the system works. I know where to go to make sure we can make changes and improvements," said Zine.
Both men said if elected, they'll get rid of wasteful spending and irresponsible money management.
A recent report found the city had been sitting on nearly $43 million in a special transportation fund.
Zine said, "That will not happen under my watch. I will make sure we have red flags in place in every single department."
Galperin said, "It should never have happened in the first place. If you have a centralized system for it, you can track it. It's not brain surgery."
In the candidates' final debate, the two men tried to differentiate themselves.
Galperin said the way the city collects money must be changed, but Zine claims Galperin's promises are unrealistic.
In a YouTube ad, Galperin said, "I've identified more than $450 million the city can be saving and generating each year."
Zine said, "There's not hundreds of millions of dollars outstanding that hasn't been collected."
"There's a lot of money on the books now that's not collectible, but we can change that process moving forward," responded Galperin.
Both candidates said on day one as city controller, they'll hit the ground running.
Zine said, "We will go after those departments that aren't performing to the maximum efficiency for the people of Los Angeles. "
"What's really important is to make sure good audits get done. That will be my priority," said Galperin.
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