Field of 21 Seeking 4 Council Seats in Huntington Beach
The Huntington Beach City Council race is a political sign maker’s dream--21 candidates going after four open seats.
“It has to be overwhelming for voters,” said candidate Tom Mays. “About the best you can do is try to get your name known.”
Political signs are plastered throughout the city, from the San Diego Freeway to Pacific Coast Highway.
“There’s a war going on in Huntington Beach,” said Jay Stout, another candidate. “It’s a sign war. Your signs get torn down as fast as you can put them up.”
Some voters also may be confused by the names of the two major groups contributing money to candidates--Huntington Beach Tomorrow and Huntington Beach Together. The Tomorrow group is generally considered slow-growth, and the Together group is generally considered pro-growth. Each refers to the other as extremist.
A pivotal difference between them is the $27-million Pierside Village, the first phase of the city’s downtown redevelopment plan, which recently was unanimously approved by the City Council. The Tomorrow group is against it; the Together group supports it.
The Planning Commission had approved the plan on a 4-3 vote. The three no votes--Rick Rowe, Grace H. Winchell and Tom Livengood--are among the 21 council candidates. A fourth planning commissioner, John Erskine, who supported the Pierside Village plan, is also in the race.
If there’s any one topic that has most of the candidates stirred up besides redevelopment, it’s the campaign coffers of candidate Henry Yee. Yee has raised $65,000 for the race, nearly twice as much as any of the other candidates. Most of the 21 have raised less than $12,000.
Four seats are available because council members Ruth Bailey, Don MacAllister, John A. Thomas and Robert P. Mandic Jr. are completing their second terms and cannot run again.
Here are the candidates:
Sherwood V. Bailey, 63, is a civil engineer. His wife, Ruth Bailey, is one of the four leaving the council. Bailey claims lack of progress on downtown redevelopment has hurt the city economically. “People come to our beach, but when the day ends, they go somewhere else to eat at a restaurant or stay at a hotel,” Bailey said. Bailey also believes plans by the Orange County Board of Supervisors to develop the Bolsa Chica wetlands near the city should be important to the council.
Wes Bannister, 49, is a former planning commissioner who runs his own business. Bannister supports the Pierside Village project but has some concerns that it will increase traffic problems along Pacific Coast Highway. But he sees the project as “a catalyst to get this downtown cleanup going.” Bannister mentions flood control and Bolsa Chica as other major issues. The 5,700 homes included in part of the Bolsa Chica development proposal are “just too much density,” Bannister said.
Elaine A. Craft, 57, is a member of the city’s Allied Arts Commission and the county’s Emergency Services Commission. Craft, a member of the 1985-86 Orange County Grand Jury, describes herself as a “full-time volunteer” who has served on city library and historical committees. Craft said downtown redevelopment is important but added that it has become a bitter campaign issue that unfortunately has polarized the city. Craft would like to see other issues emphasized. For example, she wants to see the city “expand its cultural horizons” with a museum and an art center.
Robert P. Crawfis, 36, is an attorney and licensed real estate broker. Crawfis is a former president of the Sunset Beach Community Assn. who says he has proven his fiscal responsibility by helping Sunset Beach get a 50% sanitary district tax cut. Crawfis sees himself as a “moderate” on the redevelopment dispute. He also emphasizes his support for “adequate environmental safeguards” in the development of Bolsa Chica.
John Erskine, 35, is a planning commissioner and executive director of the Building Industry Assn. Erskine, who ran unsuccessfully in 1984, is a former aide to county Supervisor Harriett Wieder. He is defensive about attacks on him from Huntington Beach Tomorrow candidates as the “developer’s candidate.” Erskine has raised $35,000, second only to Yee, and some of it does come from developers. But, Erskine insists, “If you look closely at my finance statement, you’ll see I have a very broad base of support.” Erskine is not defensive, however, about being pro-growth: “Our downtown redevelopment plan has been around for almost 20 years with nothing having been done. I think it’s time to stop feuding and fussing and analyzing and move forward with the project.”
George A. Hanna, 56, a toolmaker, is a supporter of political extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. He emphasizes AIDS and drugs as the two main issues in the race. Regarding LaRouche, Hanna said: “It doesn’t matter whether that association hurts me or helps me in this campaign. I believe in many of the same causes he does.”
Timothy Klink, 39, runs his own business. Klink is bothered by what he categorizes as the dishonesty of some of his opponents in their campaign statements. Erskine, he said, should let voters know he is executive director of the Building Industry Assn. Erskine’s statement lists him as an attorney and a planning commissioner. Klink opposes a nine-story hotel under consideration by the City Council in one of the future downtown redevelopment phases. He also believes public officials in the city have forgotten where “downtown” is. “Downtown is not on the pier side of Pacific Coast Highway--it’s on the other side,” Klink said. “Let’s concentrate on downtown .”
LaVonne Lawlor, 62, is a bookkeeper and notary. Lawlor said she is running because not enough attention is given by the council to northern Huntington Beach, where she lives. “We’ve had very little say so on the council,” Lawlor said. “We need someone who understands the problems of the harbor area.” Lawlor is concerned about county plans for the Bolsa Chica development and believes boaters need someone on the council who understands their concerns.
Tom Livengood, 47, is chairman of the Planning Commission. Livengood says he may be the most conservative candidate on the ballot except for Grace H. Winchell and Rick Rowe. “Downtown redevelopment must become a community asset, not a burden,” Livengood tells voters. “Growth must not be allowed to cause traffic gridlock and parking problems.” A handful of people have overreacted to the Huntington Beach Tomorrow group, Livengood said. “The approach that the Together group has done is very negative,” Livengood said. “It’s telling flat out lies about what our position is.”
Virgil Lovelace, 71, is a retired member of the merchant marine and former math and electronics instructor at Golden West and Orange Coast colleges. Lovelace worries that senior citizens could be forced to relocate because of future development projects and wants to protect their rights if elected. Lovelace also urges caution on future downtown redevelopment plans. “We don’t have adequate parking the way it is now,” he said.
Dan Mahaffey, 38, runs a small family manufacturing business and is a former planning commissioner. He ran unsuccessfully in 1980 and 1982. Mahaffey said he strongly opposes using condemnation in redevelopment projects because of his support for property rights. Mahaffey has raised very little money--about $4,000. But he believes he can run an effective campaign anyway. In his campaign statement, he said he wants to help make the city budget more understandable to residents. He also urges that the council use private business for as many city services as possible.
Tom Mays, 32, is a business management specialist at McDonnell Douglas Corp. He is president of the citywide Neighborhood Watch. Mays is an honorable-mention candidate for Huntington Beach Together. He also earned the highest rating in a pro-growth poll taken by the city’s Chamber of Commerce. Mays emphasizes his opposition to high density and insists he will only support “reasonable” redevelopment proposals. “But we definitely need to get going on the downtown,” Mays said. “That’s got to be our priority right now.”
Tony Passannante, 60, runs his own pharmacy. Passannante believes downtown redevelopment will help eliminate what he sees as a rampant drug problem along the beach. “We need an environment where we can all enjoy the beach,” he said. Passannante has raised just $1,000 for this race. But excessive campaign spending is one of his biggest campaign issues. “When you see this kind of money in a race for a seat that only pays $175 a month, you have to wonder who is behind it all,” Passannante said.
Rick Rowe, 41, is a planning commissioner and instructor at Coastline Community College. Rowe is proud of the fact that he got the lowest rating of all 21 candidates from the Chamber of Commerce. He is viewed by a majority of his opponents as a “no-growth” extremist. But Rowe points out he has voted for numerous development projects while on the commission, even though he voted against Pierside Village. “I think they (Huntington Beach Together) are picturing me as an extremist because they are scared,” Rowe said. “If Grace Winchell and Tom Livengood and I are elected to the council, they know we’re not going to just rubber stamp whatever the developers want.”
Jim Silva, 42, is an economics instructor and real estate broker. Silva, who was given an honorable mention in the Huntington Beach Together endorsements, says one issue almost as important as downtown redevelopment is water pollution. “If a guy flushes out his radiator with antifreeze in Brea, it ends up in a channel that flows into Bolsa Chica. It takes 4 1/2 months for the water to flow from Bolsa Chica to the ocean. Orange County should not be using Bolsa Chica and Huntington Harbour as a septic tank.” The City Council, Silva said, needs to push for better sewage treatment “to reverse this trend.”
Jay Stout, 44, is an accountant. He claims the council needs a healthy balance between growth and environmental concerns. He is another Together honorable mention and readily voices his opposition to the Huntington Beach Tomorrow slow-growth faction. “Those planning commissioners who voted against Pierside Village are no-growth, no matter what they try to say in their literature.” Stout believes voters will perceive him as someone who is pro-development but “strong enough that I would not sell them down the river if something is not properly presented by a developer.” Stout ran unsuccessfully for the council in 1982 and 1984.
Don Troy, 50, is a real estate broker and financial planner. Troy believes that issues are over-emphasized in an election. “Issues come and go,” Troy said. “What counts is what the candidate’s qualifications are.” Troy got interested in local politics a few years ago when county plans for the Bolsa Chica development included rerouting Pacific Coast Highway, which affected his neighborhood. Troy became chairman of a group opposing it. He said he is pleased to not get the endorsement of either of the major growth-related groups because he is proud of his independence.
John F. Valentino, 65, is a retired aerospace worker. He would like to see sweeping changes in the city. “I’d like to see Huntington Beach become another French Riviera,” he said. “We need a real cultural renaissance in this city.”
Norma L. Vander Molen, 52, a community services commissioner, said she is delighted to be endorsed by Huntington Beach Tomorrow because its platform of “sensible growth” is compatible with her own views. Vander Molen served nine years on the Huntington Beach City School District board, which she left two years ago. That experience, she claims, gives her an edge over most of the other candidates: “I know what it is like to make tough decisions under pressure. I know what it’s like to walk a bill through Sacramento.” Vander Molen emphasizes the need for Huntington Beach to monitor the county’s plans to develop Bolsa Chica: “We don’t want skyscrapers there; we need a development that will help preserve the natural beauty of the area.”
Grace H. Winchell, 48, a planning commissioner, is a strong defender of Huntington Beach Tomorrow. “It’s a grass-roots citizen group that is concerned about over-development of Huntington Beach,” Winchell said. “It recognizes the need for redevelopment, but it has a very sensible platform.” Winchell sees Huntington Beach Together as a “rubber stamp” for the developers who want to get maximum return on the dollar for land use. Winchell criticizes the Together group as using desperate tactics in referring to the Tomorrow group as extremist. Winchell believes residents would like to see Huntington Beach keep “a small-town atmosphere in the midst of all this urban chaos. And that’s what we (the Tomorrow candidates) represent.”
Henry Yee, 59, is a certified public accountant. While Yee admits his views are closely aligned with Huntington Beach Together, he has also attempted to appeal to environmentalists. He emphasizes his opposition to offshore drilling projects and pledges to clean up toxic waste and prevent any dumping of hazardous materials in the city. While Rowe, Winchell and Livengood have been labeled extremists, Yee has been heavily criticized by most of his opponents for the amount of money he has raised. He has $65,000 in campaign contributions. Most of the candidates have raised less than $12,000. They claim Yee is ruining the grass-roots nature of the City Council race with so much money. But Yee counters that he needs more money than most of the candidates because they have better name recognition in the city. He has also been criticized because almost all the money comes from Los Angeles County. Yee said he did that deliberately so he would not have any conflicts of interest in Huntington Beach.