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Voters Opt for the Familiar in Balloting for Council

Times Staff Writer

In the most widely contested Glendale municipal elections since before World II, voters opted for continuity Tuesday by returning two incumbents, Carl Raggio and Ginger Bremberg, and electing civic leader Dick Jutras, who has helped shape the present council’s zoning and transportation policies.

Raggio finished first among the 13 candidates competing for three seats. He received 7,410 votes, 18.5% of the total, followed by Bremberg with 6,983 votes for 16.5%, and then Jutras, with 5,445 votes and 12.9%.

Dick Matthews, a Carnation Corp. vice president of communication who lost a tight race for a Glendale Unified School District board seat in 1981, was edged out again Tuesday, receiving 4,128 votes, or 9.8% of the total. Attorney Shirley Griffin, the only representative of a homeowner’s group in the race, received 2,845 votes, or 6.8%.

Amid the interest generated by the council’s growth control policies in the city’s increasingly crowded neighborhoods, the voter turnout nearly doubled from a low of 11.9% in 1987 to 21.7% this year.

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But most challengers were unable to separate themselves from the pack. As a result, they divided what appeared to be a protest vote by residents who oppose the current City Council, which both imposed a moratorium on apartment building and encouraged downtown commercial development. Raggio, Bremberg and Jutras defended these policies throughout the campaign.

However, the election’s results showed a clear split, with the incumbents retaining their traditional power base, and the new voters opting for change. Bremberg, for example, garnered 417 votes less than she did in 1985. Her percentage of the total vote dipped from 23.7% to 16.5%. Raggio improved on his 1985 voting total by 1,328 votes, but his share of the vote also fell, from 20.7% to 18.5%.

Retired sheriff’s deputy Ed Dorris received 2,424 votes, or 6%; attorney Nida Solana Brown tallied 2,411 votes, or 5.7%; real estate broker Joe Ayvazi obtained 2,348 votes, or 5.6%; forensic laboratory technician Gary Siglar received 2,138, or 5.0%; homemaker Robin Westmiller tallied 1,637 votes, or 3.8%; public relations executive Berdj Karapetian obtained 1,479 votes, or 3.4%; landscaper Richard Seeley tallied 1,313 votes, or 3.1%, and architect Richard Diradourian received 1,191 votes, or 2.8%.

Bremberg, who won her third term, said she was pleased with the voter turnout. “It shows that people are concerned with the city’s direction, and it’s a confirmation that we’re on the right track.”

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Raggio, an aerospace engineer who was reelected for the first time, said: “The contrast with the challengers was very distinctive. We have a positive view of the city. We are proud of Glendale and want to add to it. The challengers didn’t exhibit that pride and didn’t offer a great deal of solutions as to where the city should go, but chose to criticize instead.”

Jutras, who was endorsed by Raggio midway through the race, said he was elected because voters realized that he was the most experienced challenger, and because he was the only challenger to run a “positive” campaign.

The biggest issue in the campaign involved the arduous process now under way of rezoning the entire city so that it conforms with the 1977 General Plan--and its projected population cap of 200,000 to 230,000--as well as beefing up the current zoning code to force developers into building smaller, higher quality buildings. The present population is about 165,000.

All three of Tuesday’s winners have said that they support a proposed ordinance to require higher aesthetic standards from developers, and that they are eager to begin work on a new ordinance to downzone Glendale--planning for decreased population density--for the second time since 1983.

Ayvazi raised the most campaign funds, according to spending reports filed February 18. Ayvazi reported that he raised $16,824, followed by Jutras with $15,702.00, Bremberg with $12,936 and Raggio $6,736.

Final Reports

Final reports, however, are not required until July 31, when some of the top spenders may show they spent more than $25,000 in the race, they say.

Ayvazi and Karapetian, who borrowed heavily to finance his effort, lost despite matching the winners in campaign spending and sophistication. The other challengers spent considerably less and relied more on grass-roots campaigns.

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Ayvazi, who said he outspent the incumbents, early in the race was considered a strong challenger for the third spot behind Raggio and Bremberg. In February, he beat out Jutras for the local Republican Party endorsement, and then was endorsed by the Glendale-based Armenian National Committee.

Karapetian, a former legislative aide in Washington and Sacramento, was the only candidate to establish a campaign office. From there, nearly 20 volunteers worked almost nonstop, calling registered voters in the last few days before the elections.

Karapetian based his complex strategy on sending tailor-made campaign mailers to five target groups spread across the city. He sent Republican voters a brochure picturing him with Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Garden Grove); to Democrats he sent a mailer featuring endorsements by several party leaders, topped by Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.).

Armenian-Americans received a picture of Karapetian embracing governor George Duekmeijian; Latinos were shown a picture of Karapetian with Assemblyman Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles). In a mailer aimed at apartment residents, he called for more funding for low-income and senior citizen housing.

Results Disappointing

After the election, Karapetian said he was disappointed with the results but encouraged about the future. “This is just the begining,” he said. “I plan to stay involved in city politics.”

The last week of campaigning also brought about signs of ethnic tension among the city’s increasingly diverse population, as well as fear among some residents of the rise of a large Armenian-American voting bloc, which failed to materialize.

Last Wednesday Ayvazi, Karapetian and Diradourian, the three candidates of Armenian descent, reported that scores of their campaign signs had been stolen citywide, and one candidate said that a sign had been defaced with a “white power” sticker.

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Later that day, at the League of Women Voters candidates forum, Ayvazi led a group of seven candidates who refused to participate in a question-and-answer session with moderator James Gressinger, publisher of the Glendale News-Press.

Ayvazi contended that Gressinger had attacked him personally when he wrote in a March 29 editorial that “serious questions are raised by Joe Ayvazi and Berdj Karapetian whose contributions are almost solely from people of Armenian descent. . . . I wonder, if elected, will they truly represent the rest of us.”

Objectivity Questioned

Other challengers questioned Gressinger’s objectivity because he had endorsed Jutras, Bremberg and Raggio in editorials. Gressinger agreed to step down and a News-Press reporter took his place.

On Thursday at a candidates forum on homelessness in Glendale, Karapetian criticized the incumbents for not attending the forum and being insensitive to the homeless and the city’s ethnic minorities.

“Isn’t it ironic,” he said, “that the only two forums that the incumbents and Jutras choose to miss deal with human relations in this city?”

On February 26, Raggio and Bremberg refused to attend a forum on racism and hate crimes at Temple Sinai, which was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti in 1986. They said that by holding the event on a Sunday morning, the temple was discriminating against Christians.

They further charged that the forum was a “political ambush” set up by Westmiller, one of two Jewish candidates in the field. Jutras later said he skipped the forum because he agreed with the incumbents.

Acknowledging defeat in his campaign quarters Tuesday night, Ayvazi attributed his loss to anti-Armenian prejudice.

He said Gressinger’s article caused an “Armenian backlash, and that’s when the whole thing turned around.” He accused the incumbents of spreading the rumor that “Armenians are trying to take over the city” to rally support.

But the vote’s results, he said, showed that “Armenians are just as lazy as the rest of the voters” because the voter turnout was average in precincts with a heavy Armenian-American voter registration.

He said that the endorsement he received by the Armenian National Committee “if anything, it hurt me.”

Karapetian said he expected a larger Armenian-American turnout, but he learned that “to get recent citizens interested in voting requires much more education” than he was able to provide during his two-month campaign.

He said that “all these people that are so scared about our immigrant group don’t need to worry about it. These people are no different than the rest of the citizens,” referring to the average voter turnout in polling booths dominated by Armenian-Americans.

Concern About Feelings

Westmiller said she noticed with concern a growing anti-Armenian sentiment among many prospective voters she contacted.

“Armenians have been made into scapegoats and are blamed for all of the city’s problems--development, school overcrowding, ‘English Only’ in schools, you name it.”

Mostly as a result of the easing of Soviet immigration policies, the influx of Armenians to the United States has soared in recent years. More than 18,000 Armenians, most of them from the Soviet Union, have immigrated to Los Angeles County in the last three years. Ninety-five percent of them have made their homes in either Hollywood or Glendale, State Department officials said.

Armenian-Americans constitute about a fifth of Glendale’s population of 165,000, but they represent a small fraction of registered voters--less than 5%.

In the other city race, acting City Clerk Ailleen B. Boyle easily beat out two challengers for the vacant city clerk position. Boyle received 7,969 votes, or 58.1%. Jeri Ann Browne, a records manager for the city of Burbank, received 3,767 votes, or 27.5%, and Kurt John Erikson, an employee of Glendale’s Engineering Department received 1,985 votes, or 14.5%.

City Treasurer Betty Evans was reelected without opposition.


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