Voters threw out the incumbents in El Segundo and Hermosa Beach but reelected them in Carson, Gardena and Lawndale in elections in 10 South Bay cities on Tuesday. Another incumbent was defeated in Avalon.
New faces also will appear on the city councils of Hawthorne, Lawndale, Lomita and Manhattan Beach, where incumbents were not seeking reelection.
On ballot issues, Lomita voters said they want to stop the sale of fireworks there, and voters in Gardena overturned the City Council’s approval of a rezoning for an apartment complex. In Palos Verdes Estates, voters decided by a 3-1 margin to continue taxing themselves for street maintenance and beautification. In Hermosa Beach, voters said they oppose offshore oil exploration.
Voter turnout varied widely, from a high of 58% in Avalon to a low of 13% in Lomita.
Here are the details:
The election of pro-business candidates Harry Robert Anderson and Alan West to the City Council over two incumbents marks the end of a two-year period of controlled growth and signals the imminent firing of suspended City Manager Nicholas Romaniello.
Anderson and West said they plan to join current council members Jack Siadek and Keith Schuldt in firing Romaniello, who was suspended with pay April 1 pending an investigation into allegations that he tried to obtain confidential police reports on West.
Romaniello had the steadfast support of defeated incumbent candidates Mayor Charles (Chip) Armstrong and Le Synadinos--a factor they credit for their defeat at the polls Tuesday.
Romaniello, the former planning director who was appointed to the city manager’s position last May, has been criticized for what some call an abrasive management style and for creating an anti-business environment with restrictive zoning recommendations. West and Anderson maintain that current zoning standards make it difficult to build or run a profitable business.
Though the new council members favor eased zoning standards, they do not plan to unravel all the changes made during the past two years while the restricted-growth bloc controlled the council. “The intent is . . . to modify zoning standards to work with business instead of against it,” Anderson said.
Though state law prohibits the firing of city employees for 90 days after an election, Anderson and West said they plan to initiate a search for a new manager after taking office at the next council meeting April 15.
West said his primary goal is to hire a “city manager that will protect residents’ needs without offending business’ interests.”
Though Romaniello could not be reached for comment, he released a statement shortly after his suspension that said he was “being attacked so the (incumbents) will also be discredited simply by their association with me.”
Armstrong agreed that “the crucifixion of Romaniello blurred voters’ vision and kept them from seeing the real issues like controlled growth and traffic management.”
Synadinos estimated that opponents outspent the incumbent candidates by a 10-1 margin. “It just shows you that money can sell anything, even a smear campaign like this one,” she said.
Officials say El Segundo had it largest election turnout in more than 10 years, with a 43% of the voter going to the polls.
West, 57, president of the El Segundo Unified School Board, led the voting with 28.3%. Anderson, a 62-year-old retired Chevron maintenance superintendent was second with 28%.
Armstrong, 63, who along with Synadinos and Carl Jacobson formed the controlled-growth council majority, had 21.2%. Synadinos, 46, the first woman ever elected to the council, received 21%. A fifth candidate, Robert H. Stull, received 96 votes, or 1.2% .
The school board has yet to decide on a special election to replace West.
Incumbent City Council members Jack Wood and George Barks were swept from office Tuesday in an election that all three victors described as a cry for greater integrity in local government.
Etta Simpson, Jim Rosenberger and June Williams, all challengers, defeated the two incumbents for three seats on the council. Incumbent Gary Brutsch did not seek reelection.
The new council members are a diverse group, with both Simpson and Rosenberger having run aggressive campaigns in their second bids for a council seat, while Williams, clearly the underdog, ran a modest effort that involved virtually no door-to-door campaigning.
“I intended to knock on doors a lot, but every time I was in the mood, it was raining,” Williams said after the election. “When it was nice out, I went and played golf. I really did not campaign.”
All three winners, however, had in common what turned out to be the most important asset in the election: no experience on the council.
Simpson, a longtime community activist who ran for council twice before, said the results show that “the people didn’t like some of the public carrying-on” by the incumbents.
Wood is under investigation by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office for having improperly enrolled his fiancee in the city’s health and dental insurance programs. Barks has come under severe criticism for his handling of travel arrangements for several official city visits to Loreto, Mexico, the sister city of Hermosa Beach.
“When the three challengers make it, it must say something about the incumbents,” said Simpson, who led the pack and finished 800 votes ahead of last-place finisher Wood, with 2,556 ballots cast. “People are looking for analysis, judgment and conscience on the council.”
Rosenberger, who finished second, said the results were a mandate for change and less posturing and factionalism on the council. He said before the election that he chose to run because of the controversy surrounding Wood.
On several specific issues facing the new council, the three winners are in general agreement. All oppose any commercial or residential development on the 19-acre Santa Fe Railway right-of-way, support a recently enacted ordinance that blocks construction of thousands of apartments and condominiums, and believe that the city has to find new ways to cut costs and raise revenue without increasing taxes.
They also differ on some issues. On the most recent proposal to build a hotel on the city-owned Biltmore site, Williams and Rosenberger opposed the hotel, while Simpson supported it. The three also differ on rush-hour parking restrictions on Pacific Coast Highway, with Simpson supporting the restrictions as necessary to keep traffic moving and Rosenberger and Williams opposing them.
For Barks and Wood, the election brings to an end 12-year and 4-year council tenures, respectively. Barks, who lost to Williams by just 20 votes, attributed his loss to a combination of factors, including the sister-city controversy, a last-minute letter sent to voters by the Police Officer’s Assn. that declared him a “danger to the future of public safety in Hermosa Beach,” his failure to walk the neighborhoods and his lengthy tenure on the council.
“It was an anti-incumbent sentiment,” he said.
Barks said Wood’s self-professed brash demeanor also hurt him. “Because of the way Jack has been conducting himself, especially as mayor, pulled everybody on the council down,” he said.
Wood agreed that his personality and conduct on the council probably had more to do with his poor showing than anything else.
“I can hardly believe it,” said Wood, who spent a record $12,000 in his reelection bid. “I have a very rough public image, and I always speak my mind. A lot of people don’t like me because I am rude, fat and have a beard.”
Wood, who ran for council twice before winning in 1982, described the vote as a “total repudiation of four years of work.”
City Hall critic Ginny McGinnis Lambert easily defeated recalled City Councilman Larry Guyer Jr. and former Inglewood Councilman Dick Mansfield in a hard-fought special election to fill the Hawthorne council seat vacated when Betty Ainsworth was elected mayor.
The vote was 1,625 for Lambert, 1,237 for Guyer and 925 for Mansfield, who moved to Hawthorne in 1978. “I’m elated that the people have placed their trust in me to represent them,” Lambert said.
“I intend to (repay) that trust with a lot of hard work. The first thing I intend to do is introduce myself to all those people I don’t know at City Hall and let them know I will work with them.”
The election brings into City Hall one of its staunchest critics, a 53-year-old Northrop Corp. executive assistant whose attacks over the years have blamed incumbents for rising crime, the city’s utility tax and waste in government.
City Manager Kenneth Jue, referring to Lambert, said, “One dissident, even though it is just one vote, could make things more difficult” to accomplish on the council.
In the campaign, Lambert faulted the council for having the election at all, saying that she should have been appointed to the council because she came in third, behind the two incumbents, in the two-seat council race in November.
On other issues, Lambert took a pro-development stance, arguing for property rights and the need to satisfy demand for housing.
Guyer blamed his defeat in part on Lambert mailers that reminded voters of his recall in 1982 for voting to extend his term without an election. Mansfield could not be reached for comment.
The voting on an advisory measure showed that a majority of the voters agreed with Lambert’s position that the closest runner-up should be appointed--rather than a special election held--if a similar vacancy is created in the future.
Hawthorne voters also decided 3,142 to 490 to continue the direct election of the mayor instead of returning to an arrangement in which council members chose a mayor among themselves. They also voted 2,613 to 865 to keep mayoral terms at two years.
Voters returned Mayor Sarann Kruse to office for a third two-year term and ended the 12-year City Council career of Jim Ramsey, who gave up his seat to challenge Kruse for the second time. The two political foes kept up their practice of hurling insults at each other in the campaign for mayor.
“With Ramsey gone, we will see a council that will be able to work closely together and there will be some respect for one another,” said Kruse, 46, who served for 10 years on the council before becoming mayor in 1980. She captured 51% of the vote Tuesday.
Ramsey, 48, who unsuccessfully challenged Kruse in 1984 while retaining his council seat, declined to comment on his loss.
In other races, Larry Rudolph, 48, a manufacturing production control employee, was elected to the council seat vacated by Ramsey, and Neil Roth, 43, a city planning commissioner and aerospace production coordinator, was elected city clerk. Voter turnout was 22%
All three winners in the 10-candidate field established early leads and held them throughout election night, although there was some see-sawing in the clerk’s race between Roth and Gary M. McDonald, 26, a shopping mall administrator who ran unsuccessfully for council in 1982. Roth finished with 38% of the vote to McDonald’s 34%.
The poorest showing of the day, with 91 votes, was made by write-in mayoral candidate Edward C. Roberts, 74, a former mayor who jumped into the race at the last moment to attempt a political comeback.
Winners will take office on Tuesday.
Although Kruse and Rudolph said they ran independent campaigns and are not politically allied, they, along with unsuccessful council candidate Louise Jones, generally approved of the way Lawndale is being run.
On the other side, Ramsey and two council aspirants who lost--Virginia Rhodes and Anthony Smith--criticized the handling of city business by Kruse and her allies.
Both sides of a bitterly divided City Council claimed victory Tuesday, with Mayor Gil Archuletta and Councilwoman Jan Dennis calling the election of Connie Sieber a vote for less development in the city, while Councilman Bob Holmes characterized the first-place finish of Larry Dougharty and a losing effort by Bruce Ponder as a repudiation of both Archuletta and Dennis and their policies.
Dougharty, an economist who was endorsed by Holmes and outgoing Councilmen Russ Lesser and Jim Walker, easily outpaced six other candidates in the race for two council seats. Dougharty, who finished last out of seven candidates two years ago, finished more than 700 votes ahead of Sieber, his closest challenger.
Sieber, a flight attendant who ran as an independent but had the informal backing of Archuletta and Dennis, slipped by Ponder for the second seat by just 35 votes out of 5,983 cast. Archuletta and Dennis had endorsed Ponder and had worked hard for his candidacy, but both said late in the campaign that they also would like to see Sieber win.
Mike Collins, a real estate broker who was endorsed by Holmes, Lesser and Walker, finished fourth, about 300 votes behind Ponder. Steve Barnes, Gerry Johnson and Tim Lilligren finished fifth, sixth and seventh respectively.
Both Dougharty and Sieber said during post-election interviews that they will take their seats on the council next Tuesday as unaligned council members.
Sieber stressed that she ran as an independent and that she has no ties to a council faction. She said she did not ask Archuletta or Dennis to endorse her candidacy.
“I have not made a deal with anyone,” Sieber said. “I am going in as an independent.”
Dougharty also pledged to steer clear of personality conflicts and the so-called “philosophical split” that has divided the council for the past two years on most major issues, particularly those dealing with development. Lesser, Holmes and Walker have regularly voted as a majority bloc, with Archuletta and Dennis usually voting against them.
“The people want professional management on the council, and they want someone who will get the job done,” Dougharty said. “They don’t want personalities.”
But regardless of their ties--or professed lack of them--to the incumbents, Dougharty and Sieber have represented different philosophies in their campaigns. Dougharty emphasized his professional qualifications as an economist, and has been viewed by many as a logical replacement for two-term incumbent Lesser, who is an accountant. Dougharty has said that he generally supports the direction of the current council as led by Lesser, Holmes and Walker, who have maintained that existing controls on development in the city are adequate.
Sieber, in contrast, said she was drawn into city politics by her concern about development and the fear that new projects are threatening the city’s residential character. In an interview before the election, she portrayed the contest as a choice between “full-scale development” and “cautious development,” and accused Lesser, Walker and Holmes of ignoring public concern about issues that come before the council.
Archuletta and Dennis cast the election in a similar light, and complained that their fellow council members often formed a majority that locked them out of issues. They said Tuesday night that they welcome the election of Sieber as a fresh face and open mind on the council, and someone who shares their concerns about development.
Despite a bitter political smear campaign and a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, Carson’s reelected incumbents on the City Council maintain that their triumph in Tuesday’s election will increase stability in city government and advance major projects.
Incumbents Sylvia Muise and Thomas Mills, top vote-getters in a field of eight, said their decisive victories--with Mills capturing 29.9% of the vote and Muise 26.1%--also showed that Carson residents are satisfied with their accomplishments.
They said their primary issues in the next term include obtaining senior housing, consolidating social services into one city department and promoting greater city involvement in Neighborhood Watch programs.
Political discord on the council, which became a key campaign issue for many candidates, will not impede progress on such projects, the incumbents maintained.
With the reelection of Mills and Muise, the council maintains its 2-2-1 split with two generally liberal members, two who are generally conservative and a third conservative who is seen as a maverick.
Tuesday’s election, in which 23% of registered voters cast ballots, had opened the possibility for a majority voting bloc.
Candidate Michael I. Mitoma, who came in third with 15.6% of the vote and reported spending the most money, was supported by Mayor Kay Calas and Councilwoman Vera Robles DeWitt, the two members generally acknowledged as more conservative.
Candidates Duncan A. Sillers, who took fourth place with 11.9% of the vote, and Franklin E. Goff, who came in seventh with 4.9%, were supported by Councilman Walter J. Egan, the conservative maverick.
Perhaps the most potentially divisive election activities centered on two mailers distributed to residents just days before the election. One attacked Mitoma and another attacked Muise, Mills and Egan.
Mitoma filed suit against the group that mailed the piece against him, called the Carsonites Organized for Good Government, and 10 other people including Mills, Muise and Egan. Muise and Mills said the lawsuit is groundless. Egan could not be reached for comment.
In the city treasurer race, incumbent May Louise Custer, 55, won reelection with 65.6% of the vote over challenger Elaine Flynn’s 34.4%.
City Clerk Helen Kawagoe ran unopposed.
In response to voters’ support of an advisory ballot measure to ban sale and use of “safe-and-sane” fireworks, a majority of the Lomita City Council said Wednesday they intend to outlaw the Fourth of July explosives.
Councilmen Harold Croyts, Charles Belba and Harold Hall said the margin of victory in Tuesday’s election--about five percentage points, with 52.3% against fireworks and 47.6% in favor--has persuaded them to revoke Lomita’s longtime ordinance that permits sale and use of fireworks around the Fourth.
About 13% of Lomita’s 8,670 registered voters cast ballots, but while the overall vote was decisive, tallies in individual precincts show division on the fireworks question, Proposition A. In four of Lomita’s seven precincts, voters supported continued use and sale of fireworks.
But the vote in the precinct that includes the Rolling Ranchos Residential Assn.--the homeowners group that initiated the ballot measure--played a significant role in the outcome. The ban won by 56 votes there, compared to margins of 9 to 25 votes for or against the ban in other precincts.
A second measure, Proposition B, which was added to the ballot by fireworks supporters as a compromise, lost by a dramatic margin, with 40.4% in favor and 59.5% opposed. It asked voters whether they would support continued sales of fireworks if police protection were doubled on the evening shifts of July 3 and 4 at the expense of fireworks vendors and if users of illegal fireworks were prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Residents’ support for the sale of safe and sane fireworks--the kind that are permitted under state law unless cities and counties ban them--has centered on the $35,000-a-year profit by the seven nonprofit groups that sell them.
“This is the primary fund-raiser for a lot of charitable activities in Lomita. . . . The youth football program for one will get a traumatic blow to them because of this,” said fireworks proponent Richard Soria.
But proponents of the ban argued that the fund-raisers are not worth the fire and safety risk.
The three successful candidates for as many open seats on the City Council will be sworn in Tuesday: incumbents Hall, 76, and Robert Hargrave, 48, and newly elected Peter J. Rossick, 62, who takes the seat left vacant by Councilman Leonard Loy’s retirement.
Minutes after the polls closed at 8 p.m., city officials were privately predicting that Proposition A would go the way other ballot measures here have gone in recent years--down to defeat.
And, sure enough, after results from the first few precincts were posted on a blackboard at the Nakaoka Community Center, it was clear that the measure, which asked voters to decide whether a 4.45-acre parcel of land should be rezoned so an apartment complex could be built on it, was headed for defeat.
By the time all the ballots had been counted three hours after the polls closed, Proposition A, despite a well-financed effort by its proponents, was decisively defeated, with 55.5% of those going to the polls casting votes against it. The measure thus joined the ranks of three other referendums in the last 15 years or so--two of which would would have established a redevelopment agency and another for the construction of a waste plant--that have been defeated.
For Terrence Kennedy, who decided to run for one of two City Council seats largely because of the rezoning debate, the proposition’s defeat sent a signal “to all the developers coming into this city.”
“Make friends with the neighborhood first, that’s the message,” said Kennedy, who was unsuccessful in his election bid.
Kennedy campaigned on the theme that property zoned for single family dwellings should be preserved. And on Wednesday, Masini (Mas) Fukai, who won a fourth consecutive term to the council, said the proposition’s defeat probably indicated a concern among residents that land density in Gardena “should be slowed down a little bit.”
“We are a single-family dwelling community, and (people) would like to keep it that way,” said Fukai, whom Kennedy had targeted to defeat. Fukai and council members Paul Tsukahara and James Cragin, had voted in favor of allowing an apartment complex to be built on the land before neighborhood residents gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. A garden nursery now occupies the land.
For the first time in his four campaigns, Fukai did not emerge on Tuesday as the top vote-getter among those seeking a council seat. That distinction went to Gwen Duffy, who was seeking a second term on the council.
Duffy said she was “exhilarated” by her victory. She attributed her strong showing in part to what she termed a “positive and clean campaign.”
Challenger Hal Host was the top vote-getter among six candidates running for the Avalon City Council as voters gave Irene L. Strobel a second term but denied the reelection bid of W. F. (Oley) Olsen III.
On ballot issues, voters decided on direct election of mayor for a two-year term and rejected a proposal to establish an assessment district for a new fire station.
Host, a retired insurance company manager serving as chairman of the Planning Commission, got 446 votes, 131 more than his nearest challenger. Incumbent Strobel captured the second seat by edging out challenger Quintin Leonhardi by seven votes. Olsen was seven votes behind Leonhardi.
Campaign observers said Host won because he was able to portray himself as an insider familiar with city workings, yet an outsider who could bring some changes to the council, particularly on spending matters. Host had said during the campaign that he thought some of the city’s expenditures for consultants and travel had been excessive.
Olsen, who appeared to take defeat well, said he could not pinpoint what went wrong.
Palos Verdes Estates
This city--which perennially preens its Mediterranean-like beauty--will not have to lose it by cutting back on street sweeping and tree and park maintenance. For the third time since 1980, voters by a wide margin approved Proposition B, a special property tax that provides funds for such things as tree and shrub trimming, weed clearance on city open space, and maintenance of street medians and plazas. The measure carried by 76%, well over the required two-thirds margin.
Running unopposed, Mayor James Kinney and council members Ruth Gralow and Edward Ritscher were returned to the City Council.
Contributing to this story were Times staff writers Gerald Faris, Julio Moran, Dean Murphy, Michele L. Norris, Donna St. George, George Stein and Tim Waters.