At first, it looks like one of those fast-talking car commercials that come sandwiched between the Saturday afternoon television movies.
Stepping from between two brand-new Jeeps, the manager of the car dealership begins his pitch at a rapid-fire pace. “Hello, I’m Clive Skilton here at Don-A-Vee Jeep Eagle in Bellflower, the fifth-busiest Jeep dealer in America. As you can see, we’re really jammed for space here.”
But the 30-second taped message is not meant to sell cars. The message, part of a half-hour video prepared by this city’s pro-redevelopment group, the Yes for Progress Committee, is an appeal to voters to approve three redevelopment initiatives that will appear on the Nov. 8. ballot.
“If the redevelopment agency gets passed here in Bellflower, we will be able to build a new dealership, employ more people, sell more cars and generate more taxes,” Skilton says in the video, as he ticks off the points with his hands.
The polished Yes for Progress video, which features music, interviews with supporters, and a 10-minute history of this mostly residential community of 66,000 residents, is one example of the sophisticated kind of campaign that pro-redevelopment leaders lacked 5 years ago when a somewhat broader redevelopment initiative was overwhelmingly defeated.
Still smarting from that 1983 loss, redevelopment supporters--who include developers, businessmen, and several City Council members--say they are determined not to let history repeat itself.
Voters going to the polls will be asked to rescind a 5-year-old law that prohibits the council from creating a redevelopment agency without voter approval. Voters will also be asked to limit such an agency’s land-taking power and approve a redevelopment corridor that includes most of Bellflower, Lakewood and Artesia Boulevards.
The council would then have the authority to establish a redevelopment agency by council vote.
So far, the Yes for Progress Committee has collected more than $23,359 in campaign contributions--almost nine times more than has been collected by the anti-redevelopment committee, Citizens Against Another Redevelopment Plan (CAARP).
The Yes for Progress Committee has also sent speakers to stump for the redevelopment cause at numerous community meetings and breakfasts, passed out hundreds of campaign posters, sent several mailers to residents’ homes and garnered about 700 signatures of support from local businessmen and residents.
“People are seeing the growth all around us,” Yes for Progress chairman Keith Baker said. “They are now seeing that redevelopment is a plan that is very reasonable.”
By comparison, a handful of campaign signs urging voters to reject the three initiatives have been posted in the city. But CAARP has an anti-redevelopment video.
Both videos were produced for free by the local cable firm, American Cable Co., officials said. The company offered technical assistance, but the committee members wrote the scripts and directed all aspects of the programs. Both videos will be shown twice on Cable Channel 28: The pro-redevelopment tape will run on Tuesday and Nov. 7 at 8 p.m., and the anti-redevelopment tape will run on Friday and Nov. 7 at 8:30 p.m..
Dale and Ruth Gilson, who organized CAARP with former mayor James Earl Christo, are the only volunteers who have canvassed the city seeking support. And two informational meetings that the group has sponsored have had meager turnouts, Christo acknowledged.
Expect to Win
Christo, who launched a full-scale assault on a redevelopment drive five years ago, said that CAARP organizers expect a “silent majority” of anti-redevelopment sentiment to emerge on Election Day and “put this thing to rest again.”
“The issue isn’t money here,” said Christo when asked about CAARP’s fund-raising efforts, which have collected a relatively scant $2,841 since the group formed in late August. “The whole issue boils down to this: Do we lose control of our private property to the city?”
CAARP treasurer Ruth Gilson said she is confident that residents will again reject the redevelopment proposal. She agreed that the group’s campaign strategy is not to saturate the city with anti-redevelopment information. “We are mainly trying to get out the quiet vote,” Gilson said.
She charged that the pro-redevelopment campaign has misled residents into believing that the city is suffering financially and aesthetically without redevelopment.
In the introduction of the anti-redevelopment video, Gilson says, “This program was made to dispel the rumor that Bellflower needs redevelopment. Bellflower is not dying on the vine. Bellflower’s death has been greatly exaggerated.”
But Yes for Progress’s Baker, a 5-year resident of Bellflower, argues that the city is indeed suffering without redevelopment. He estimated that since 1983 the city has lost about $3.5 million in taxes it would have collected from development projects.