Elections for two San Diego City Council seats will be determined today, while voters in four other communities will decide on propositions that would raise funds for parks, schools, water service improvements and--in one case--to keep the city itself alive.
Polls in the two San Diego City Council districts, as well as in the four communities where ballot propositions are before voters--Encinitas, Imperial Beach, Ramona and Vista--will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters uncertain of their polling place or who experience other Election Day problems can contact the county registrar of voters at 565-5800 for assistance.
In San Diego's first district-only council runoff elections in nearly 60 years, two incumbents face two former City Hall aides in races that could significantly alter the council's philosophical balance on growth-management and other sensitive issues.
In the 1st District in northwestern San Diego, Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer is seeking a second four-year term against Bob Trettin, a former aide to the councilman who was unseated by Wolfsheimer in 1985, Bill Mitchell.
The 5th District contest, which covers the city's north-central portions, features Councilman Ed Struiksma's bid for for a third term against land-use consultant Linda Bernhardt, a former Wolfsheimer aide.
Wolfsheimer and Bernhardt, who finished first in their respective primaries, have been endorsed by the Sierra Club, while Struiksma and Trettin have drawn strong backing--financial and otherwise--from the development industry.
Coupled with Democrat John Hartley's upset of Councilwoman Gloria McColl in the September primary, a victory by both Wolfsheimer and Bernhardt would create a solid managed-growth majority on a council that in recent years has been dominated by the conservative "Gang of Five." A Struiksma-Trettin tandem win, meanwhile, would maintain the conservative coalition's dominance, and a split between the environmental and pro-development camps would leave the council nearly evenly balanced.
Today's election marks the first use of district-only council runoffs since the City Charter was approved in 1931. Last November, San Diego voters narrowly approved the shift to district-only races, replacing the city's former two-tiered format of district primaries followed by citywide runoffs between the top two vote-getters.
Elsewhere in the county, though proponents of the four ballot propositions before voters would argue that each measure is crucial, arguably none is more so than Imperial Beach's Proposition B, a proposed 5% utility tax that city officials contend is necessary for the city's economic survival.
Without the tax, which would raise an estimated $450,000 annually, Imperial Beach Mayor Henry Smith and other city leaders warn, the city will not be able to pay its bills next year. If that should occur, Imperial Beach's cityhood would be in jeopardy, and the city might be forced to disincorporate, city officials argue.
The proposed utility tax, which requires a majority vote for passage, would be added to Imperial Beach residents' gas, electric, water, telephone and cable television bills starting Jan. 1. City officials estimate that the surcharge would cost the average taxpayer about $45 a year.
The three other ballot measures are:
* Proposition A, a proposed $25-million bond issue to raise money to purchase and develop parks in Encinitas. If it receives the two-thirds of the vote needed for approval, the proposition, the first tax request put before Encinitas voters since the North County city incorporated three years ago, would be used to buy at least 150 acres of parkland and to develop recreational facilities. The measure would cost homeowners about $55 more in taxes per $100,000 in assessed valuation every year.
* A proposal asking voters in the Ramona Municipal Water District to spend $2.2 million to purchase electrical generators to be used for power pumps at the Poway pump station. Though seemingly minor in scope and administrative in detail, Proposition F is on the ballot because of the provisions of another proposition passed last November requiring the water district to obtain voters' approval of another project costing more than $1 million.
* Proposition C, which would raise $38.8 million in bonds to finance new schools in the Vista Unified School District. Like Proposition A in Encinitas, the Vista measure faces the politically formidable obstacle of needing a two-thirds vote for approval.