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Free cars, free parking and other City Hall perks emerged Tuesday as an issue in the Common Council races.

It started when David A. Franczyk, a candidate for Council president, criticized incumbent James W. Pitts for using taxpayers' money to lease a $589-a-month Oldsmobile Aurora.

"Mr. Pitts earns $96,000 a year in salary and benefits," the Fillmore Council member said in a prepared statement. "Not content with his generous salary and benefit package, Mr. Pitts feels that city taxpayers should foot the cost of his vehicle as well."

Pitts claims taxpayer-financed cars are a long-standing practice at City Hall.

"It's something the Council president, the mayor and his department heads have received for years," he said.

Pitts also noted that all Council members, including Franczyk, receive mileage reimbursement from the city.

Franczyk's aides countered by noting that mileage reimbursement is much more common and less expensive than leased cars and, in fact, is recognized as a work-related expense by the Internal Revenue Service.

The Council's perks also came under attack by Charley H. Fisher III, a candidate for Council member at large.

"It's a climate of excess that's unfortunate," Fisher said. "That kind of mentality has lost the confidence of the public."

Fisher, as part of a six-point reform package, is promising to push replacing a voter-elected Council president with a Council-elected chairman.

Like Franczyk, Fisher wants to eliminate the Council president's car and free downtown parking for all members. He also wants to cut stipends -- some as high as $1,000 -- for Council members who head committees.

Pitts claims Fisher's reforms are designed strictly to gain him votes in Tuesday's Democratic Party primary.

"Mr. Fisher is heralding these reforms because they're politically expedient," he said.

Fisher's call for reforms follows widespread criticism of the Council's 51 percent pay raise last year.

Both Pitts and Franczyk supported the raise.

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