The newly elected Latino majority on the San Fernando City Council, which includes a voice from the South Side barrio for the first time in decades, will probably pay more attention to housing and police protection for the town’s predominantly Latino population, council members said Wednesday.
Councilman-elect Daniel Acuna, however, firmly opposes the idea of a Latino bloc on the council.
Acuna, a postal carrier, and Ray D. Silva, a buyer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, were elected Tuesday, replacing two incumbents. With Councilman Jess Margarito midway through his first term, Latinos now hold three of the five council seats for the first time in the city’s 75-year history.
“I think the city should be very proud of itself,” said Margarito, who carefully shaped Silva’s grass-roots campaign after his own successful effort in 1984. “We wrote a new page in San Fernando history.”
Silva, a newcomer to city affairs with six months of experience on the planning commission, will be the only member of the council living in the city’s heavily Latino South Side. Council members are elected at large, and Silva is the first representative from that area in 34 years.
Votes From South Side
“I think it’s about time,” Silva said. “We’ve been neglected here. You can see it in the deteriorated housing. People have started to realize that we need representation.”
Silva’s strength in the election came from the three South Side precincts, which provided half his votes. He ran the most aggressive campaign, setting up a headquarters in the barrio and canvassing the South Side four times.
Silva was weak, however, in the city’s nine other precincts, where most of the city’s Anglo population lives.
Acuna, by contrast, was strong in all areas, along with the top vote-getter, Roy M. Richardson.
“I’m not one to say I represent one part of the community because I live there,” Acuna said. “When I first got involved in this community, I really tried to look at it as a whole and not as a community divided.”
“I totally reject” the idea of a Latino council bloc, Acuna said. “I believe that, when you look at the breakdown showing that I did well in every precinct, it proves my belief that people are basically fair when they vote, voting for the best-qualified person, no matter where he lives.”
However, Acuna agreed with Silva that South Side residents will have a stronger voice in city government because of the election.
“There is a lack of communication in the South Side section, and that is going to be corrected,” Acuna said. He said one of his first steps will be to ask the planning commission to hold a meeting in that part of town, rather than at City Hall.
Silva and Margarito said improving housing, especially on the South Side, will be their top priority in the coming year. All the Latino council members said they favor strict enforcement of building codes and retention of single-family housing.
Also, Silva hopes to bring more police to the barrio, mainly to combat drug use. Last year, he organized a crime-watch group called Vecinos Unidos, Spanish for United Neighbors, to fight drug dealing.
Change to Come Slowly
Richardson, who won a third term, said change will come slowly to the council and that it will take Silva, who has little government experience, time to understand city procedures.
“I don’t foresee any real changes,” Richardson said. “It takes a long time to see how the whole thing works. I think Ray is going to do a fine job,” he said, but “after you are in the seat, you see the things you can or can’t do.”
Silva said he does not believe his lack of City Hall experience will hinder him.
“It depends what you consider an education,” Silva said. “I come from the school of hard knocks. I would like to see others live on the South Side and see how long they last--the experience of living here, knowing first hand the frustration the people go through.”
Richardson, Acuna and defeated Mayor Doude Wysbeek ran as allies, sending out a mailer together and winning a joint endorsement from the police officers’ union and a group of business owners, Citizens for a United San Fernando.
The three worked together to oust Councilwoman Carmillis M. Noltemeyer, 46, who frequently voted against the previous council majority. Noltemeyer, on the other hand, backed a slate of her own--Beverly DiTomaso, 53, chairperson of the Parks and Recreation Commission, and Gordon K. Broberg, 38, a planning commissioner.
Candidates agreed that, because of a low voter turnout, just 27%, Silva’s comparative standing was raised by votes from his stronghold in the south. But Wysbeek and Noltemeyer lost because northern votes were spread among eight candidates.
“Frankly, Dan got the best of both worlds,” said Margarito, who added that Acuna benefited from his alliance with Richardson and from South Side Latino votes.
Handout Describes Record
Noltemeyer, who lost to Silva by 45 votes, said Wednesday that she was considering asking for a recount, but had not yet made a formal request. Noltemeyer said she was hurt by a last-minute handout issued by Citizens for a United San Fernando, which described her record of voting against the council majority.
“It was misleading and I didn’t have time to answer to it,” she said. “For myself alone to be elected wouldn’t have served any real purpose. I would have liked to see a change in the majority.”
Wysbeek said his low-key effort probably contributed to his loss but added that “it’s not my style” to campaign for votes. The key issue, he said, was that Noltemeyer “had to be defeated.”
He said he will continue to campaign against a Noltemeyer-launched initiative that will appear on the June ballot. At stake is whether the council or the voters should have authority over land-use decisions on civic center property that would be left vacant by the construction of a new police station.
12 of 12 precincts FINAL
Vote % Roy M. Richardson (Inc.) 787 18.3 Daniel Acuna 742 17.3 Ray D. Silva 625 14.5 Cam Noltemeyer (Inc.) 580 13.5 Doude Wysbeek (Inc.) 556 12.9 Gordon Broberg 516 12.0 Beverly J. DiTomaso 402 9.4 Joseph W. Funk 90 2.1
(Voter turnout 27%)