The so-called "slow-growth versus pro-growth" battle that dominated mayoral and City Council races in the spring surfaces once again this week as voters in North Redondo's District 5 head to the polls on Tuesday for an election to recall of Councilman Ron Cawdrey.
Proponents of the recall have criticized Cawdrey for his support of proposals to develop the entire Aviation High School campus, widen Flagler Lane and build several commercial developments in the King Harbor area--projects the recall advocates say would bring traffic congestion and parking problems to the district and the entire city.
While a portion of the Aviation campus eventually was spared for recreational use and the Flager Lane proposal failed, recall advocates say Cawdrey's support for the projects shows he is out of touch with the district and should be replaced.
"He betrayed the voters," said Tony Baker, a recall proponent who unsuccessfully attempted to unseat Cawdrey in the district election in March, 1983. "The Aviation development is already going to generate several thousand more cars in North Redondo, and it would have been twice as bad if the whole development had gone through."
Cawdrey said in an interview last week that he is taking the recall election seriously, but said that the issues raised by his opponents are "garbage." He described the recall as "sour grapes" over his 1983 election victory.
The signatures of 1,757 registered voters in the district--nearly three times as many voters as returned him to office in 1983--were found to be valid on recall petitions that qualified the effort for Tuesday's election.
"I am not sure what I am fighting, and that has been the biggest problem," Cawdrey said. "I bring my views to the City Council and express them properly. I don't go out half-cocked. Everything I do, I carefully think about before I do it. I have represented my district well."
Cawdrey, 49, was appointed to the council in 1982 to fill the unexpired term of Gene King, who resigned. Cawdrey, a telephone workers' union official, turned back a strong challenge in 1983 by Baker, a stockbroker, defeating him 629 votes to 539.
While Baker has not ruled out a second bid for Cawdrey's seat, he said his support for the recall has not been motivated by political ambition. "At this point I don't have any interest in it," he said of Cawdrey's council seat. "I haven't even thought about it."
If the recall succeeds, the City Council will appoint a district resident to serve until the 1987 election.
Cawdrey, who said he fears that a poor voter turnout will work against him, said he has been knocking on doors and walking through neighborhoods in his North Redondo district to explain his position on the issues raised by the recall proponents. He prepared a districtwide mailer and a door-knob hanger that includes a list of private citizens and public officials who oppose the recall--a list that includes all four of his fellow council members.
Mayor Barbara Doerr, who opposed Cawdrey on the Aviation, Flagler and most harbor-area development issues, has taken no public position on the recall. She said it is "inappropriate" for her to become involved in the matter, which she said should be limited to districtwide discussion. In 1983, Doerr supported Baker in the District 5 election.
City Clerk John Oliver, considered an ally of Doerr, also declined to endorse the recall. He said it is time for the city to "work together rather than inflict political wounds upon ourselves."
In an interview, Cawdrey defended his support for complete development of the Aviation campus, which is in his district. He said he did not like the way proponents of partial development had divided the campus, which was closed by the school district before he joined the council. Complete development would have provided more money for education because the district could have sold the entire campus to developers, he said.
Residents voted in 1984, by a two-vote margin, to preserve one-third of the valuable 38.5-acre property for recreational use.
Baker said Cawdrey and Councilman Archie Snow, a friend and supporter of Cawdrey who also favored complete development of the site, would work to "sabotage" the undeveloped portion of the Aviation campus, which is leased to the city by the school district, should the recall fail. "They will find a way to cut off the funding for the park," Baker said. "To this day they want that thing to fail.
Cawdrey denied the allegation, saying the land is zoned for open space and would revert back to the school district if the city attempted to use it for anything else. "We have it leased exactly for that purpose," he said. "We can't do anything else with it. I have no intention to 'sabotage' this thing."
Snow, who has been actively working against the recall, also denied Baker's charge. "At no time have I indicated that I wanted to scuttle it. I don't know where Tony gets his ideas," he said.
Cawdrey also defended his position on the widening of Flagler Lane, which was defeated by voters in a citywide election. He said he first opposed the proposal, but changed his mind after reading a survey conducted by California State University, Dominguez Hills, which he said showed that 55% of the city's residents supported the move.
"When I was that far out of step, I looked for issues that might change my mind," he said. "The only other issue was the safety issue. It would have provided a direct shot to South Bay Hospital. That is why I changed my vote."
Delores Thiessen, who spearheaded the petition drive that qualified the recall for a special election, said Cawdrey has no credibility among district voters because of his positions on Aviation High School, Flagler Lane and other developments. "The residents of District 5 don't want those traffic problems," she said. "He has voted with little regard for traffic concerns of the residents."
Thiessen was one of 17 candidates who sought appointment to the vacant council seat in 1982.
According to a campaign statement filed June 27, "Friends of Ron Cawdrey" raised more than $5,600 in contributions to fight the recall. The statement listed a $500 contribution from Stanley Moore, a builder with Overton, Moore & Associates, which plans to build an office complex on a portion of the Aviation campus.
Other contributions came from officials at the Communications Workers of America union, of which Cawdrey is a vice president. The bulk of the money has gone to pay for printing and mailing expenses, although the statement lists a $1,000 payment to Marathon Communications, a political consulting firm based in Santa Monica that helped run successful election campaigns in May for new council members Kay Horrell and Jack Chapman.
Recall proponents said they raised less than $500, and therefore did not have to file a campaign expenditure statement. Thiessen, who called Cawdrey a "puppet" of special interests, blasted him for soliciting outside help in his campaign and having his printing done outside the city.
Cawdrey defended his decision to hire a political consultant, saying consultants provide a valuable perspective to any campaign. He said most of his expenditures for printing and graphics went outside the city because he could not find any union printers in Redondo Beach. "I refuse to have my stuff done with non-union printers," he said.
The special election will cost $15,000, Oliver said. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.