Antonovich Sticks by Stance to Bar Drilling

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich on Saturday defended his support of a proposition to prevent drilling in Pacific Palisades, saying recent spills in Encino demonstrate the danger involved in pipelines.

In the ninth of a series of debates with challenger Baxter Ward, Antonovich sought to deflect charges that he came out last week against the controversial Pacific Palisades project solely to broaden his appeal beyond his conservative base. Antonovich on Friday endorsed Proposition O, the Los Angeles city ballot measure designed to prevent oil drilling in the Pacific Palisades.

Cites Encino Incident

“We saw what happened in Encino. . . . If we allow drilling to happen in the city of Los Angeles, the county will be left holding the bag,” Antonovich said. “The city will have to be bailed out by the state, and those are our tax dollars.”


In two separate incidents in Encino last month, about 215,000 gallons of water and crude oil leaked onto Ventura Boulevard when a Mobil Oil pipeline ruptured. Exterior corrosion of the pipeline was blamed for both breaks.

Ward, who has been endorsed by the Sierra Club and numerous environmentalists, said he has always opposed drilling in Pacific Palisades.

“I’m delighted Mr. Antonovich has decided to join our side,” Ward said.

Saturday’s debate in Van Nuys, which was sponsored by the Coalition of Valley Communities, represented the first time the two candidates for the 5th Supervisorial District have faced each other in front of homeowners’ groups, many of which have been critical of Antonovich’s record on development. Ward’s supporters had charged that Antonovich was avoiding homeowners, since the majority of the other debates were sponsored by chambers of commerce.


But homeowners from the 19 groups in the Coalition of Valley Communities treated Antonovich mildly, in accordance with a request by moderators to allow the candidates to speak without being interrupted. On the other hand, about 30 Antonovich supporters brought in by his campaign organizers hissed and yelled when Ward spoke and applauded their candidate warmly.

One woman in the audience of about 100 people said Antonovich’s supporters were retaliating for the treatment that the incumbent received during an incident in May in Agoura. Several Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to protect the supervisor after he was surrounded by angry constituents at a public hearing about a proposed 6-acre park. Residents were upset because Gates Canyon Park would be the first county park built in Calabasas since Antonovich became a supervisor eight years ago.

During Saturday’s confrontation, Antonovich and Ward traded many of the accusations that characterized previous debates, which began after Antonovich failed in June to turn back an organized attack by slow-growth activists. Ward, a former supervisor and television broadcaster, placed second and has since received the endorsement of the eight candidates who ran in the primary.

Antonovich again accused Ward--who served two terms as supervisor from 1972 to 1980--of destroying all office files before he left office and with tainting the reputations of honest county officials through highly publicized investigations.

“During my terms in office, I didn’t attack people, I attacked problems,” Antonovich said.

Ward, in turn, assailed Antonovich for accepting large campaign contributions from developers and promised, if elected, to review all pending construction projects.

The prize in the race is the 5th District, a 2,615-square-mile area larger than the state of Delaware. It stretches from Westlake Village on the west across the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys past Pasadena to the desert communities in the Antelope Valley.

The most conciliatory moment in the debate came when the candidates were asked to say something nice about each other.


Antonovich said he and Ward share a concern about animals.

“We both agree they need to be protected,” he said.

Ward said his opponent was “lively and sarcastic” and “brings in new materials every time.”

Antonovich and Ward often have brought props--including notes, tapes, charts and hypodermic needles--to the debates. Antonovich brought the needles to demonstrate his opposition to a plan supported by Ward that would distribute the syringes to stem AIDS.

On Saturday, Antonovich brought a chart with pictures of Olive View Hospital after the 1971 earthquake and now.

“Olive View was an empty, steel, rusty hulk when Mr. Ward was in office,” Antonovich said. “Today it looks the way it does because we were able to get something done.”