STUMPED: Meet City Controller Hopeful Dennis Zine

The latest in our series of user-friendly profiles on the local candidates running for public office

On background: Dennis Zine entered politics following a 33-year career with the Los Angeles Police Department. Formerly a member of the Republican Party (he changed his registration status to “decline to state” in 2011), Zine has represented L.A.’s 3rd district on the city council since 2001 and has served on the boards of the Police Protective League, Haven Hills Battered Women’s Shelter, and the National Immigration Task Force. He is currently the chairman of the council’s Audits & Government Efficiency Committee. Zine was born in Hollywood and is a divorced father of two.

Current platform: Zine is campaigning on his reputation as someone who “knows right from wrong.” If elected to the position of city controller, Zine says he will better manage city spending by convening monthly meetings with city managers, lower the city’s liability by devoting resources to risk management, and root out waste.

Campaign slogan: “A tough controller for tough times.”

In his corner: The Los Angeles Police Protective League, Los Angeles Unified School District Police Officers Association, the Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Officers Association, mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, city attorney Carmen Trutanich, sheriff Lee Baca, county supervisor Don Knabe, congresswoman Karen Bass, congressmen Tony Cardenas and Brad Sherman, and members of the city council including city council president Herb Wesson. 

How might your experience on the city council lend itself to the position of City Controller?
My experience—not only as a council member for almost 12 years but as the chair of the Audits & Governmental Efficiency Committee and all the other committees that I’ve served on (budget, finance, public safety, personnel) coupled with my 33 years of service with the Los Angeles Police Department—gives me that ability to see how the city is operated, where we can streamline, where we can save money, where we can be more efficient.

People ask me what qualifies you to be a councilman? I say, ‘Look at how I’ve performed.’ The experience that I have gives me that broad base of knowledge and the ability to carry these responsibilities forward.

What’s the last personal expense that you splurged on?
None. My city car is a ’05 Mountaineer—they don’t even make them anymore.

I am known as a very frugal council member. I squeeze those pennies. In fact, my office has a million-plus-dollar budget surplus because I know how to save money and spend it wisely. We just put a million-dollar sidewalk program in place with money that we’ve saved. We’ve added a $700,000 video surveillance program to the police, and we’ve given the police department and the fire department money for equipment that the city doesn’t have for them, all because we’ve been fiscally prudent.

How long do you expect to keep driving your Mountaineer?
My goal is to get it to 200,000 miles, but I think I’ll get past that. My personal car is a 1968 Porsche. I bought it new, right after I became a policeman and I still have it. It cost me $6,000 out the door—$6,000 today isn’t what it was back then.

We have a survey online that asks readers to pick which of the following items they would chose to spend money on: truffle salt, Hollywood Bowl tickets, valet parking, or HBO. Which is your pick?
None! I don’t have cable TV. I have rabbit ears. I’m never home to watch it! My sons are grown, and I’m divorced, so I go home to take a shower, sleep, and go to work. I know it sounds crazy, but I grew up the son of a gardener. I shop wholesale. I shop at Costco. I shop at the 99 Cent Only store. I just don’t live an extravagant lifestyle and that’s how I think the city should live.

ALSO: Meet the other City Controller candidates