In a three-way race to complete the term of the late Councilman Robert DeCocker, two candidates are capitalizing on their ties to City Hall, while the third is depicting himself as an outsider beholden to nobody.
DeCocker, 64, died Oct. 19 of complications from a brain tumor. Tuesday’s election will decide who will serve the rest of his term, which expires in April, 1992.
The candidates are Planning Commissioner Margaret Clark, 48, who has the backing of three City Council members; Jean DeCocker, 58, the late councilman’s widow, who is supported by the mayor; and Joe Vasquez, 42, a school board member who has garnered no City Hall endorsements. Whoever captures the most votes will win.
Rosemead is a largely low- to middle-income bedroom community of 50,000 residents.
Clark, a planning commissioner since 1988, is the candidate most directly involved in city government. She served on the traffic commission from 1987-88 and has worked on several council members’ campaigns, including Robert DeCocker’s.
She has the endorsement of City Councilmen Robert W. Bruesch, Jay T. Imperial and Gary A. Taylor.
Clark, a mother of three and a former kindergarten teacher, became politically active five years ago, when she helped lead a group of residents fighting plans to build a high school in Rosemead. Several hundred homes would have had to be condemned and demolished to make way for the school.
Clark and others lobbied state officials to block the plan. They eventually won; the Alhambra High School District decided to expand instead.
From that experience, Clark said, she became wary of government powers to condemn land for public or private projects through eminent domain. If elected, she said, she would oppose any redevelopment project that required land condemnation. Instead, she said, Rosemead should use redevelopment funds for street repairs and other improvements.
Jean DeCocker, who moved to Rosemead in 1943, stresses her experience working with her husband on community issues, starting in the 1960s, when residents on her block fought plans to use their street as a feeder to the Pomona Freeway.
After her husband was elected to the council in 1988, DeCocker said she would accompany him on Sunday afternoons when he visited city areas to be discussed at the next meeting.
“I have been involved behind the scenes because my husband was involved, and we were a team,” DeCocker said. “I really know a lot about the city and was always interested in government. But there can only be one in the spotlight at a time.”
She said she also would bring her own priorities to city government. For example, she said, she would push for swift adoption of a recycling program and construction of senior citizen housing.
She has the endorsement of Mayor Dennis McDonald, but many of the volunteers who worked on Robert DeCocker’s campaign in 1988 are supporting Clark.
Vasquez, a board member of the Rosemead School District since 1985, is the most detached from City Hall politics. He said his minimal involvement in city affairs is an advantage because he would be less beholden to special interests and powerful political allies.
“I feel like the outsider against the insiders,” he said. “Maybe that could be a plus for me. I have nobody in City Hall supporting me.”
Vasquez, a technician for Pacific Bell, said his six years of experience on the school board have given him insight into gangs and juvenile delinquency, problems he says cities should address more aggressively.
He said that if elected he would push for the establishment of a task force made up of city officials, teachers, students, businesses and union members to come up with ways to combat drug use and other crimes among youth.
He also said he is concerned that the city suffers from poor planning, especially in commercial areas.
“I hear so many residents complaining we have too many malls,” he said. “I notice a lot of duplication of restaurants and a number of video stores. We can’t tell the businesses they have to do this or that, but we can go out there and attract the ones we like.”