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People and Events

<i> From Staff and Wire Reports</i>

The long ballot wasn’t the only delaying factor in one local polling place Tuesday.

Voters at a mansion-turned-polling station in Bel-Air were startled to see the security gate suddenly swing closed of its own accord. People who had finished punching holes in their ballot now punched buttons on a wall panel. The gate didn’t move.

Suddenly, after about 10 minutes, it magically reopened and democracy resumed.

Bel-Air security officers were unsure of the cause for the temporary closure of the polls. But if the same mansion is used again, the bugs will likely be worked out. For this will be the voting place of future Bel-Air resident Ronald Reagan.

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Like some other downtown workers, Raymond Mireles looks forward to playing basketball at lunchtime. But Mireles, a Superior Court judge, doesn’t have far to look for a game because he has a 6-foot-high hoop in his chamber.

“It’s a nice way to relax,” said Mireles, known to some colleagues as the Dunking Judge (he is, after all, as tall as his basket).

Mireles and court reporter Ron Dahl were playing a low-key game of H-O-R-S-E Tuesday, attempting shots with a miniature ball from such spots as his desk, a stack of legal newspapers, a shelf of law books and a tape recorder.

The hoop, which can be seen from the hallway when the judge’s chamber door is open, is apparently used by workers after he’s gone home and night court is in session. “I’ve heard dribbling in here at night,” Dahl said.

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Mireles isn’t the only magistrate with unusual furnishings. Superior Court Judge Tom Murphy occasionally cracks a whip in his chamber as a gimmick to loosen up the participants in settlement conferences. Superior Court Judge R. William Schoettler Jr. has a 2-inch-diameter crystal ball that he pulls out for the same purpose.

As for his court-within-the-court, the Dunking Judge said: “We draw the line at having opposing attorneys play to decide an issue.”

Avalon’s 59-year-old Casino ballroom, host of such legends as Lionel Hampton, Jimmy Dorsey and Benny Goodman, will soon be offering the talents of the Avalon Lancers. The Lancers aren’t a musical group. They’re the homeless basketball teams of Santa Catalina Island’s only high school.

The teams found themselves without their longtime arena recently when asbestos was discovered in the gymnasium. Fortunately, the Santa Catalina Island Co., owner of the art deco dome, opened its doors to the Lancers.

Isolated 26 miles off the coast, Avalon High offers a unique deal to lure school teams to the island: free meals and lodging.

And now it offers an opportunity to trod--five at a time--on a historic dance floor.

“We figure the Boston Celtics have their Garden,” said Avalon Principal Jon Meyer, “so we can have our Casino.”

Culver City Police Capt. Tom Mahoney looks upon errant drivers as “customers.” So it’s only natural that the department would conduct a marketing survey of its clientele.

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“In most cases, they aren’t bank robbers, they’re just law-abiding people who made a mistake,” he said of ticketed motorists. “And we want to know how they feel about our department.”

Mahoney, the traffic commander, sent out questionnaires to 100 drivers who had been ticketed for moving violations, asking them to rate the local smokey who had nabbed them. It may be, Mahoney said, the first ever marketing survey by a police department.

The 36 speeders, stop-sign ignorers and lane zigzaggers who returned the survey gave the officers high ratings in five categories but only slightly better than average reviews in the final category--whether motorists were given a chance to tell their side of the story.

Mahoney said that officers have since been instructed to take more time to hear explanations, though not to the point where “it gets to a ‘less filling/tastes great’ argument.”

Comment from a bleary-eyed surfer-type in shorts to a businessman-type in a suit and tie at a Manhattan Beach voting precinct at 7:05 a.m.: “We’re canceling out each other’s vote--we should have both stayed in bed.”


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