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SAN GABRIEL VALLEY ELECTIONS : Local Issues Decided at the Ballot Box

San Gabriel Valley voters Tuesday opted to continue the sale of “safe and sane” fireworks in Azusa and Temple City, defeated four of seven revenue measures in Azusa and decided to stop the practice of electing mayors in separate elections in South El Monte.

Those were among a number of local issues settled at the ballot box. Here are the unofficial results:

Alhambra Board of Education

Board President Phyllis J. Rutherford, Police Detective Stephen R. Perry and Alhambra City Councilman J. Parker Williams won three seats on the 5-member school board.

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The unofficial returns from all 132 precincts showed Rutherford, in winning her second four-year term, led the field with 20,657 votes, or 21.7%.

Perry, a 25-year-old Alhambra detective in his first bid for elective office, took second place with 19,462 votes, or 20.5%. Williams, 51, was unable by law to run for a fourth term on the council. He polled 16,987 votes, or 17.9%, narrowly beating Ronald Hirosawa, an assistant principal in the Los Angeles Unified School District, who received 16,104 votes, or 16.9%.

Retired Los Angeles Police Officer John W. Gillis finished fifth with 14,498 votes, or 15.3%, and Robert K. Kwan, the president of the Chinese-American PTA of Southern California, came in last with 7,307 votes, or 7.7%

Alhambra resident Rutherford, a teacher with the county Office of Education, interpreted her first-place finish as a public affirmation of the board, which she says truly has become “the voice of the people.”

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Rutherford, Perry and Hirosawa had been endorsed by the teachers association of the school district, which serves Alhambra, Monterey Park, San Gabriel and Rosemead and has 71,985 registered voters.

Perry, of San Gabriel, said: “I can’t wait to get working” and Williams said his serving on the board “is going to be great, just great.”

Diamond Bar

Incumbents Paul V. Horcher and Cleve Holifield and newcomer Gary L. Neely were elected to Diamond Bar’s Municipal Advisory Council.

In unofficial returns, top vote-getter Horcher received 7,518 votes, followed by Holifield with 5,742 votes. Neely, with 5,439 votes, edged out Gary G. Miller, who had 5,322 votes.

All three winners, elected to four-year terms, have said they will run for city council seats if Diamond Bar residents vote to incorporate in March.

The Municipal Advisory Council has been concerned with problems of increased development and traffic, particularly a proposed extension of Grand Avenue. “We have got to have some assurances that this project won’t go through,” Holifield said Wednesday.

Temple City

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A ballot measure to ban all fireworks was narrowly defeated, 5,944 votes to 5,606.

Joseph Vainor, executive officer of the American Legion’s San Gabriel Valley district, responded to the news with relief. About 30% of the legion’s fund-raising revenue comes from the sale of fireworks, he said.

The city now allows “safe and sane” fireworks, which do not explode or leave the ground and are approved by the state fire marshal.

Mayor Mary Lou Swain said the vote would be the final word on the issue, which has been coming up every year.

Azusa

Voters rejected four of seven revenue measures, although city officials had said the business community, and not the public, would pay the tab for them. Despite support from the local business community and the lack of any organized opposition, voters turned down an estimated $367,000 in potential revenue.

City officials estimate that the measures that passed, which includes increases in taxes on hazardous waste facilities, sanitary landfills and mining operations, will raise almost $1 million in new revenue for capital improvements.

“It puts us in much better shape than we were before,” said City Manager Julio J. Fuentes.

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Fuentes blamed voter apprehension about increased taxes for the defeat of measures that would have increased taxes on motel guests, business licenses, swap meet vendors and the Edwards Theaters. The city staff had been advised not to campaign for passage of any of the measures.

“Had we been able to do an avid campaign and provide as much information as possible, we might have had three out of the four,” Fuentes asserted, noting that the theater tax, which lost by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, would not have passed in any event.

Azusa voters also expressed a preference for the continued sale of “safe and sane” fireworks within the city by passing an advisory measure 4,483 to 3,522. Going into the election, city officials had said they would consider banning all fireworks if the voters expressed that preference.

South El Monte

South El Monte voters approved a measure to end the 8-year practice of electing a mayor separate from the City Council. The new system, which will rotate the post of mayor among City Council members, will take effect in April of 1990. At that time, Mayor Al Perez, who was reelected in April for a two-year term, will become a councilman with his term extended to 1992.

Water Districts

Although last year’s $1.5-million investment loss by the Three Valleys Municipal Water District dominated the debate in the race for three seats on the district’s board of directors, effective campaign strategy determined Tuesday’s outcome.

Although board member Douglas R. Miller was defeated by challenger Bruce R. J. Milne, who had made the investment loss the crux of his campaign, incumbent Sandy Baldonado handily won reelection by convincing Claremont voters that if she lost her seat they would lose representation.

Paul E. Stiglich, an engineer with Anaheim’s Department of Water Quality, soundly defeated both his opponents, including the Rev. Richard Engdahl, who was appointed to the Three Valleys board in August after the death of Carlton Peterson. Stiglich was the only candidate to list a water-related occupation on the ballot, and may also have benefitted by his appearance on a mailer that listed him as part of a slate of Republicans.

Baldonado, 53, a Claremont attorney who has been on the board since 1980, defeated two prominent Pomonans, former Mayor G. Stanton Selby and former Planning Commissioner R. V. Armstrong, who had criticized her support of the district’s ill-fated investment of $1.5 million with E. F. Hutton & Co. The money was lost through high-volume margin trading.

In the campaign, Baldonado had argued that the loss was the result of deception by an investment broker, not bad judgment by the board. Baldonado, whose division represents Claremont and part of Pomona, distributed campaign flyers warning Claremont voters that if either of the two Pomona residents won her seat, Claremont would lose influence on the board.

“I was very pleased with numbers,” Baldonado said. “I would say that I carried Claremont fairly strongly and the Pomona vote was split. I did a mailer to all the registered households and I think that’s critical when you’re running in a low-visibility race like this.”

Selby, who was defeated last year in his bid for a third term as Pomona’s mayor, said Tuesday’s election boiled down to whether more votes were cast in Pomona or Claremont. Baldonado won with 12,186 votes, or 56.1%, while Selby received 5,125, or 23.6%, and Armstrong received 4,392, or 20.2%.

“Claremont really turned out. . . . Armstrong and I split the Pomona vote,” Selby said. “It’s absolutely incredible. It’s not sour grapes, but . . . it’s hard for me to believe how Claremont can reelect this woman after that (investment loss) scandal. The only way I can understand it is provincialism in Claremont.”

Miller, 36, a former Glendora city councilman who had represented Glendora, San Dimas and Covina on the Three Valleys board since 1980, lost his seat by a margin of more than 2,000 votes. Milne, 36, a San Dimas consultant on waste-water projects, received 15,186 votes, or 54.9%, to Miller’s 12,492 votes, or 45.1%.

Milne, who said his campaign was limited to the distribution of 1,500 cards to voters, expressed amazement at his victory. Although his campaign focused on the loss of the $1.5 million, Milne said he does not believe this was a critical issue.

“I talked to quite a few of the voters and asked them what they were aware of about Three Valleys and the investment situation never came up,” Milne said. “I was surprised I won. Who knows why?”

Baldonado was also at a loss to explain the outcome.

“I cannot understand how Doug Miller lost, that’s a mystery to me,” she said. “I will miss working with him because he brought a very special incisive ability to cut through the rhetoric and get to the heart of a matter. I hope Mr. Milne and Mr. Stiglich will come on the board with open minds and won’t come on with any private agendas.”

Miller was not available for comment.

Stiglich, 36, defeated Engdahl, 51, by more than 4,500 votes to take over a seat that represents Diamond Bar, Rowland Heights and the City of Industry. Stiglich garnered 13,494 votes, or 54.5%, while Engdahl collected 8,941, or 36.1%, and Philip G. Crocker received 2,323, or 9.4%.

Stiglich, water quality supervisor for the city of Anaheim, said the difference in the race was his professional background.

“I think the people have spoken and they were looking for someone who had a strong background in water quality and felt my experience made me the most viable candidate,” Stiglich said.

Engdahl, pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church and a 16-year Diamond Bar resident, said he was surprised by Stiglich’s strong showing, because he is a relative newcomer to the community. Engdahl attributed the outcome to Stiglich’s identification of himself as a water engineer on the ballot and to the candidate’s inclusion on a “conservative voting guide for integrity in government” mailed to Diamond Bar voters.

The mailer, produced by a Marina del Rey-based firm called the Non-Partisan Evaluation Council, listed Stiglich’s name on a list that included Vice President George Bush and Senator Pete Wilson.

Engdahl said he was angry when he received the flyer.

“It may not have made any difference, but I don’t like that kind of campaigning,” Engdahl said. “It’s a rule of thumb that in nonpartisan campaigns, the partisan stuff is left out of it.”

Stiglich said he was contacted by the distributors of the mailer and met with them to discuss his experience and ideas for the water district. He said he was not expecting to receive any type of endorsement from the group.

“It was kind of a surprise to me,” Stiglich said. Asked to assess the impact of the mailer on the campaign, he said, “It certainly didn’t hurt.”

In the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, two incumbents were defeated by challengers who promised to tackle the problem of contaminated ground water more aggressively.

Royall Brown, who circulated a handbill declaring that area tap water is polluted with compounds that are harmful to health, defeated incumbent John Maulding by a vote of 20,643 to 14,902. Brown, of West Covina, and Maulding, of Hacienda Heights, are both engineers and ran for the Division 3 seat that represents La Puente, Hacienda Heights, Valinda and parts of the City of Industry and West Covina.

Maulding said that Brown’s assertion in his handbill that tap water from local wells “may be harmful to your health” is untrue. He said that water delivered to customers meets all state and federal standards.

In the district’s fourth division, serving Covina and parts of Glendora, West Covina, Baldwin Park and Bassett, Howard Hawkins, who has been on the board since the district was organized in 1959, was defeated by R. William Robinson, a former chemist with the state Air Resources Board. The vote was 22,320 for Robinson and 16,589 for Hawkins.

Hawkins, a former mayor of Covina and current member of the Mt. San Antonio College board, said he does not know why he lost to Robinson, who is not widely known.

“I never heard of the guy before,” Hawkins said. “I can’t quite figure it out.”

Hawkins said the district board has been doing all it can to deal with polluted ground water, working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others.

Robinson, who lives in West Covina, accused the board of being “passive and weak.”

In the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, which serves Monterey Park, Alhambra, Azusa and Sierra Madre, incumbent Myron (Mike) Johnson defeated challenger Joseph Reichenberger. Johnson, a former mayor of Monterey Park, polled 5,160 votes and Reichenberger, a civil engineer, also from Monterey Park, garnered 4,746 votes in the election for the third division seat.

Times staff writers Berkley Hudson, Jeffrey Miller, Craig Quintana, Siok-Hian Tay Kelley, Mike Ward and Kenneth Yamada contributed to this story.


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