6 Incumbents Will Seek Reelection to Compton Posts

Times Staff Writer

Filing for the April 16 municipal election here does not open until Wednesday, but all six incumbents, including two councilmen and the mayor, say they will seek reelection.

The councilmen, Robert Adams Sr. and Floyd James, both first elected in 1977, already have drawn opposition.

Emily Hart-Holifield, a nine-year trustee at Compton Community College, said she plans to run against Adams in District 3, while James Hays Jr., director of the Compton YMCA, will challenge James in District 2.

Mayor Walter Tucker, a local dentist and longtime elected official, said he will seek a second four-year term. The mayoralty carries the same power as the other four City Council positions. Each council member, including the mayor, receives $1,200 a month in salary plus $300 for expenses for the part-time job.


The other three city positions available this spring are clerk, treasurer and city attorney.

City Clerk Charles Davis and Treasurer Wesley Sanders Jr. both said they will seek fourth four-year terms. Elected in 1973, each makes about $37,000 a year.

Wesley Fenderson Jr., city attorney since 1980, also will be on the April ballot, he said. Fenderson heads a 17-person legal department and makes about $56,000 annually.

Candidate filing will be open for 25 days, beginning Feb. 6 and closing at noon March 2. The primary election follows six weeks later. If a candidate fails to receive a majority of the vote in a race, the top two vote-getters will advance to a June 4 runoff.


Voters from throughout the city may vote in all six races, though councilmen must live in the districts they represent. Registration for the April election closes March 18. The other two council seats are not up for election till 1987.

Issues in the two council campaigns will include city efforts to halt street-corner drug trafficking, the direction of city redevelopment, unemployment and recreation programs for local youth, candidates said.

The race between Adams, a 53-year-old funeral-home owner, and Hart-Holifield, a 44-year-old special education teacher, promises to be spirited. Hart-Holifield already is campaigning, accusing Adams of ignoring the will of residents and business owners last week when he voted with a 4-1 council majority to permit a convalescent home for mentally ill adults at 930 W. Compton Blvd.

“When I’m elected, I will hear the cry of the people when they come to me,” said Hart-Holifield. “Our plea was that if they’ve got to put a mental illness place here, they ought to (help) the people who are walking the streets who are already here. That area already has all kinds of crime and drug problems.”

Adams said he voted to allow the convalescent home in the vacant 150-bed building because it would create dozens of jobs and would be run by Kedren Community Health Center Inc., a Los Angeles firm with a good record.

Position Criticized

But Hart-Holifield said that 250 people signed a petition opposing the home and that the councilman was derelict in not siding with them. Hart-Holifield and her husband, Benjamin, own a motel and a carpet outlet near the facility.

She said that she is not a one-issue candidate and that she had intended to run against Adams even before his recent vote. She criticized him for calling last fall for the resignation of Police Chief James Carrington, who Adams said was a poor leader. She also said senior citizen transportation should be emphasized by the city and more youth recreation programs should be developed.


Adams said recently that he had become less critical of police efforts to crack down on the sale of drugs from street corners in his southwest Compton district. “The last reports I’ve received were that the problem is diminishing,” he said.

Adams, citing his role in the economic rejuvenation of segments of the city, said he welcomed the Hart-Holifield challenge.

Cites Growth of City

“My issues will be to keep the economic growth of the city alive,” he said. “I think the citizens look with pride at new area housing and building development.”

A new shopping center downtown, a hotel/convention center expected to break ground in May and hundreds of new dwellings are evidence of an aggressive City Council, he said.

“And the people just love me,” Adams said. “There was such a demand for me to run again, I just couldn’t turn these people down.”

In the other council race, James, 44, said the campaign will center on redevelopment, as it did in 1977, when he upset an incumbent, and in 1981, when he took 53% of the vote in a six-candidate race.

“Redevelopment was the issue in both races,” said James, a self-described real estate speculator who also runs a dry-cleaning business with his son.


‘On Our Way’

“In the first race, I was talking about rebuilding the downtown central business district, about the city acquiring land and then letting it sit vacant,” he said. “At that time there were (many) boarded-up houses and foreclosures.

“By 1981 we were on our way, and now the issue is how do we make it better. Somehow this council has brought the dollars back to this city.”

Successes include widened streets, improved wells and millions of dollars in new businesses and new housing, he said.

He and Adams said the development of the north side of Compton Boulevard, across from the new Town Center shopping center, is the next step in redevelopment. James said another goal for his next term would be to bring a private firm to town that will work with the city in teaching business technology to the unskilled unemployed.

Hays, the 28-year-old YMCA director, agreed that redevelopment should be a key issue in his campaign against James, but he said such development was bound to occur and is directed by professional city administrators, not part-time councilmen.

And he was critical of the way in which redevelopment has occurred. “It is helter-skelter; meaning we’re going to put up whatever we can, as quick as we can, wherever we can.”

Hays, a 1979 communications graduate of Cal State Dominguez Hills, said Compton’s residential neighborhoods have been forgotten as the city has built a new Civic Center and business core.

That, he said, is symptomatic of city officials’ lack of contact with the public. “We’ve been doing a door-to-door survey, and we’ve found that the majority of the community doesn’t know who’s representing them. I tend to be very visible and very active in the community.”

As director of the YMCA’s many youth sports programs, he said he is in touch with the electorate and has found that citizens are very concerned about crime.

The city’s 150 block clubs, which have been touted by the Police Department as the reason for declining property crime rates, are not as organized as they should be, said Hays, a unsuccessful candidate for City Council in 1981.

“I think (police) need a public relations-type program to give them strength in the local neighborhoods,” he said.