Caught in an angry debate over eminent domain, six of nine candidates for City Council are being targeted in last minute "hit" mailers by two political action committees.
The two committees, Citizens for a Safer Montebello and Citizens Against Eminent Domain, added to the deluge of political mailers sent to prospective voters in Tuesday's election.
The two organizations attacked candidates on both sides of the eminent domain issue. In a special election last May, voters overwhelmingly repealed an ordinance that gave the city the power to take private property for redevelopment.
The mailers have drawn criticism from candidates who said outside business interests are trying to unduly influence local politics. Other candidates simply attack the committees for mudslinging.
"The real question is whether or not any kind of dirty politics should ever go on, and it simply should not," said Councilman Arnold M. Glasman, who is seeking reelection. "The voters are getting truly tired of those kinds of committees coming up."
Ironically, Citizens for a Safer Montebello supports Glasman's reelection.
The committee is headed by Brad Perrin, president of Montebello Quiet Cannon Inc., the Tustin-based firm that runs the Quiet Cannon restaurant and discotheque in Montebello. The committee has raised $10,000 in a single contribution from the Bear Tracks Corp. of Tustin, which also lists Perrin as its president.
As of late last week, the committee had put out a mailer that attacked candidate William M. Molinari as a "power-hungry" liar who cannot be trusted. Molinari and two other candidates being targeted by the committee expect more critical mailers.
"I am always very much concerned when large sums of outside money are put into a local election like this," Molinari said. "I would assume it's either economic or political benefit they want to achieve. It has an impact of distorting the election."
Perrin could not be reached for comment.
Molinari, a former councilman, is no stranger to hit pieces. Some of Perrin's business associates, including his father, David Perrin, formed a political action committee and spent more than $15,000 on a potent mail blitz to defeat Molinari and former city Treasurer Thomas C. Wong in a 1987 election.
One of the tactics that committee used was to ask the district attorney's office to investigate Molinari's campaign finances two weeks before the election. The request formed one of the cornerstones of the committee's biting mail campaign. After the election was over, the district attorney's office forwarded the request to the state Fair Political Practices Commission. The commission found no basis to investigate the allegations.
Molinari has sued the committee's organizer, local developer Michael Minasian, and David Perrin and others for libel in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Molinari said he first incurred the wrath of the Perrins in 1987 for voting against the expansion of the Quiet Cannon, which is on city property. Molinari also opposed spending $1.1 million on a city parking lot to accommodate the expansion.
Citizens for a Safer Montebello also opposes the election campaigns of Larry Salazar, who owns a marketing management firm, and Shirley Garcia, a paralegal.
Salazar and Garcia, along with Molinari, were leaders in a campaign that urged voters to bar the city Redevelopment Agency from using eminent domain in South Montebello.
The eminent domain issue sharply divided Montebello residents.
Proponents of eminent domain argued that it was a necessary tool of last resort to enable the city to assemble land to attract new business and industry, tax revenue and jobs.
Opponents argued that long-time business owners would be unfairly moved off their property to make way for larger private developments. They also argued that it would bring more air pollution and noise into their neighborhoods.
Glasman, Joseph Coria and Betty Escobar, supported by Citizens for a Safer Montebello, favored allowing the Redevelopment Agency to use eminent domain if necessary. Coria is a medical administrator. Escobar is a judicial administrative assistant and a former planning commissioner.
Citizens for a Safer Montebello recently spent $3,200 to issue a mailer urging voters to elect Coria. Coria said he did not know who was behind the political action committee. He said he won the committee's support in a telephone interview.
"They asked me (if I am) for good police protection. I said, 'Yes, of course I am,' " Coria said. "All I know is they're a group of citizens who like my ideas. I've never been in this arena before. I do not represent any special interests."
Glasman said he has accepted "limited" campaign contributions from Perrin or his business associates. The exact amount could not be documented because Glasman had not filed his campaign disclosure statement as of late last week.
Escobar apparently had received no direct contributions from Citizens for a Safer Montebello as of Oct. 21, according to her disclosure statement. Escobar could not be reached for comment.
The city's other political action committee, Citizens Against Eminent Domain, has targeted Glasman, Coria and Escobar for defeat.
Contributors to the committee are primarily Montebello trucking firms, disposal firms and small business owners and residents who feared they would be the victims of eminent domain. The committee has raised $2,850, according to a campaign disclosure statement.
It has sent out a mailer that urges voters, "Don't let them (Glasman, Escobar, Coria) lie to you! They were for eminent domain last year, this year, next year."
Committee Chairman Ray Broguiere owns the Montebello Sanitary Dairy, which is in one of the redevelopment areas that could have been affected by eminent domain. He fears the council will vote for the use of eminent domain in the future.
"We want to keep the people aware that eminent domain can come back," Broguiere said. "It's not something that is dead."
Both Glasman and Coria bristle at the suggestion that they would vote for eminent domain if elected. Glasman said the mailer was dirty politics.
"If eminent domain was ever again going to be raised as an issue, it's going to be placed in the hands of the people (for a vote)," Glasman said.
Said Coria, "Eminent domain is a dead issue. To me, the only way eminent domain will enter into Montebello is if the voters want it."
Candidates List Contributions
Candidates for three seats on the Montebello City Council and their reelection committees reported the following campaign contributions as of Oct. 21, according to statements filed with the Montebello city clerk:
Michael Baldenebro, less than $1,000; Joseph Coria, $23,610; Betty Escobar, $16,113; Shirley Garcia, $8,405; William M. Molinari, $4,900; Albert Phillips, less than $1,000; Incumbent Ed Pizzorno, $31,139, and Larry Salazar, $8,120.
Incumbent Arnold M. Glasman had $29,524 as of Sept. 23. Glasman had not submitted a more recent statement as of late last week.