ELECTIONS ’88 : ORANGE COUNTY : Quiet Race Agreed On in La Palma

Times Staff Writer

One of the most low-key city council races in Orange County is under way in the tiny, bedroom city of La Palma.

The four candidates agree that there are no major issues to debate and no need to spend big money on their campaigns for the three open City Council seats in this city of just over 16,000.

Incumbents Richard T.Polis, 47, an aircraft design engineer; Keith A. Nelson, 43, an attorney, and Tom Wright, 47, a communications-computer specialist, are seeking to retain their seats on the five-member council. Two other seats expire in 1990.

The only challenger is Eva G. Miner, a 62-year-old management consultant for dentists, who is making her third attempt for a City Council seat.


Defeated Twice

Miner, who was defeated in the 1984 general election and again in a special election in 1986, said she wants “to break up that council majority I see there now.”

Miner said she sits “in the audience and sees the council use their own special interests to guide them in making decisions. . . . At least I know I will be a strong independent voice and I hope to bring the issues into focus.”

Wright, who was appointed to a seat in 1987 after former Councilman Dan Collins resigned, said that the current City Council has worked well together and that he would like to see that trend continue. Wright is mayor pro tempore.


“We have a council made up of five very distinct backgrounds and personality-type individuals who do not agree on everything before the council. But we usually work it out to end up with 3-2 votes on every issue, and it’s usually not the same three or the same two,” Wright said.

Wright, who lost a bid for the council during a special election in 1971, said he would use his next 4-year term to seek money for the city to improve maintenance services. He said services such as trimming trees and sweeping city streets have been curtailed because of budget constraints.

Major Obstacle

Nelson, who was elected to the council in 1984 and served as mayor the following year, said the major obstacle before the council is to find new ways of financing services the county no longer subsidizes fully.

“My major concern is planning for the future as far as providing the quality of services such as police, fire, streets and public works, with the ever-increasing budget constraints,” Nelson said.

“The county is passing to all cities . . . lots of programs and projects, and we are going to have to figure out ways to finance them, such as animal control, sanitation control and environmental concerns. Any contract for services we have with the county is going up in cost. That’s the challenge of the next administration.”

Polis, who was elected in 1984 and served as mayor during 1987-88, said one of his prime projects the past 4 years has been to bring cable television services to La Palma. He said the project is only half finished and he wants to be around to see that it is completed.

“I just feel it’s a case of ‘If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,’ ” Polis said of the current City Council makeup. “We’ve gotten a DARE program (anti-drug campaign) in our grammar schools, the water system has been evaluated and we’re going to add another reservoir. There are a lot of things we have accomplished in the last 2 or 3 years, and I want to continue with the progress that we are doing.”


Critic of Planning

Miner, who is president of the La Palma Homeowners Assn., said the council is doing a poor job of planning land-use and helping small businesses prosper.

“When you think about the way the city was laid out, some of the businesses are suffering . . . because the land isn’t utilized properly. The businesses at La Palma and Moody (the major thoroughfares downtown) have not had an opportunity to really flourish.

“If you have the businesses thriving, you have a tax base that can help the city. We should call all the (business) owners together and make some suggestions. They should work with the planning committee and look at how they can improve that corner,” Miner said.

LA PALMA CITY ELECTION CANDIDATES Four candidates, three of them incumbents, are vying for three city council seats in the city of La Palma. Candidates will be running citywide in the Nov. 8 election.

Eva G. Miner

Keith A. Nelson

Richard T. Polis


Tom C. Wright