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Voters Decide on City, School Board Races; Burbank Rejects Tax

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Burbank voters rejected a police and fire facilities tax Tuesday as voters throughout northern Los Angeles County cast ballots in local elections for city councils and school and water boards, and on school bonds.

These were early results of polling in Burbank, Agoura Hills, the Las Virgenes Unified School District, Westlake Village, and the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys:

West Valley

* Agoura Hills: Mayor Louise Rishoff held onto her City Council seat by two votes, defeating Agoura-Las Virgenes Chamber of Commerce President Paul G. Mueller and his running mate, Lyle Michelson, in a bitter race for two council seats. Planning Commissioner Joan E. Yacovone was the top vote-getter in a close race that focused as much on personalities as issues.

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Mueller and Michelson, along with two other challengers, charged that Rishoff and Yacovone were part of a bloc in city politics that ignored many neighborhoods while doting on others. Rishoff and Yacovone denied the claims.

* Westlake Village: Mayor Kenneth Rufener and Councilwoman Berniece Bennett held onto their City Council seats in a tight race against challenger Daniel Murphy. The challenger, who campaigned against a housing development proposed near the Las Virgenes Reservoir, closely trailed the two incumbents.

Bennett, on the council since its creation in 1981, was the top vote-getter and Rufener, elected in 1987, was a close second.

* Las Virgenes Unified School District: Proposition K, a property tax that would add $150 to annual bills in the district, got widespread support in early returns, but was a handful of votes short of the two-thirds necessary for passage.

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Proposition K would raise about $12 million over four years for the cash-strapped district, which has lost 31% of its state funding since the 1984-85 school year. Money from the tax would be used to reduce class size and add electives in the 10,000-student district.

Andrew Glassman, chairman of the Committee for Quality Education, said he thought the tax would pass, regardless of early returns. “We believe there will be an overwhelming turnout at the polls and that the public will support education,” he said. “There is never a good time for taxes, but we believe this tax is different.”

Burbank

Burbank voters Tuesday rejected a residential and business tax that would have financed a new $43-million police and fire headquarters to replace what city officials said are deteriorating facilities.

With slightly less than 20% of the city’s electorate casting ballots, Measure D, which needed a majority vote to win, drew only 37.5% in support.

Mayor Michael Hastings said he was “hurt and disappointed” by the measure’s defeat but added that he was not totally surprised.

“It’s a sign of the times,” Hastings said. “People are being very conscientious when it comes to the pocketbook and they’re scared.”

If the tax had been approved, the fire and police headquarters would have been consolidated into one building on vacant land at Orange Grove Avenue and 3rd Street, which would have had parking for 450 vehicles, a jail, fire station, emergency operations center, crime and film laboratories, and a detective bureau.

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The measure, the only item on Tuesday’s ballot in Burbank, had the support of the City Council, which authorized the special election. There was no organized opposition.

All residences, both houses and apartments, would have paid a monthly charge of $3.58, and commercial establishments would have been taxed $2.02 per month for each full-time employee.

The 30-year tax would have been collected along with utility bills, business tax payments or by direct billing.

“Any issue that hits the pocketbook is a tough one,” Vice Mayor Robert Bowne said after the results were in. “These are tough economic times, and my sense is that this failed because of the spiraling recession.”

City Manager Bud Ovrom and other officials said before the election that it would be more practical to build new headquarters than rehabilitate the existing police and fire buildings on Olive Avenue. He cited “deplorable working conditions” caused by severe crowding, and faulty plumbing and electrical systems.

The fire headquarters, built in 1958, and the police headquarters, built in 1961, are too small for present personnel and cannot properly accommodate expanding staffs, emergency services, special patrols and other divisions, he said.

Councilman George Battey said he was concerned about the significance of the vote.

“The police station right now is an insult, and people can’t expect the quality of police and fire service they’ve gotten with these facilities that are run-down and inefficient,” he said.

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City officials said they would begin today to explore other ways to fund a new police headquarters, which could include using redevelopment funds.

Santa Clarita Valley

* Castaic Union School District: Challengers Lester M. Freeman and Bruce Fox appeared to be beating incumbent John W. Johnson in the race for two seats in Santa Clarita Valley’s smallest school district, with about one-third of the votes counted.

* Newhall School District: With about one-third of the votes counted, a bond measure that would provide $20 million for new elementary schools was trailing with about only 50% of the vote. Measure C needed approval by two-thirds of voters to pass. In June, a similar proposal lost by only 121 votes.

District officials have said the measure is crucial to relieve overcrowding in the 4,800-student district, which is 900 students over capacity.

“What this means is that it’s the turn of the people who opposed this to come up with a solution” to overcrowding, said George Pederson, chairman of Taxpayers for a Better Community, proponents of the bond.

“It’s going to speed up multitrack, year-round schools and make it necessary to transfer more students among our schools to balance the population,” he said of the measure’s possible defeat. “It’ll mean more kids in the classrooms, and to me, that’s unacceptable.”

In the race for two Newhall school board seats, incumbent Gonzalo Freixes and Frank McKendall were leading six other candidates, with almost a third of the votes counted. Freixes and McKendall supported Measure C.

* Santa Clarita Community College District: With about one-third of the votes counted, incumbents Michele R. Jenkins and Richard Peoples were leading the race for two of the three seats. But incumbent William J. Broyles was losing to Bruce D. Fortine.

The board governs College of the Canyons.

* Saugus Union School District: Challengers Al Nocciolo and Deme Clare Larson were leading the field of 11 candidates, with almost half the votes counted. Incumbent Peggy A. Marrone, the sole candidate who defended the policies of controversial Supt. Chris Wilson, was in fifth place.

* Sulphur Springs Union School District: Ethelyn Glancy and Marilyn Sparks were winning the race for two seats with about one-third of the votes counted. No incumbents ran for reelection.

* William S. Hart Union High School District: With more than one-third of the votes counted, John R. Hassel and Paula Olivares were winning the race for two seats. Incumbents Gerald Heidt and Clara Jean Stroup were trailing in last and second-to-last place, respectively, out of a field of five candidates.

Water Boards

* Green Valley: Challenger Philip Brazier and incumbent David Phillips were leading incumbent Jim Zerillo and challengers Douglas Mull and James D. Steele in light absentee-ballot returns. Town Council President Terry L. Kaldhusdal had a one-vote lead over Jim Billesbach in the race to serve the remaining two years of the term of a board member who resigned.

* Palmdale: Three seats are being filled on the five-member board, whose members are elected from each of five geographic divisions. In Division 3, Jay Freeman, 65, a retired aircraft mechanic, held a small lead over incumbent Joe Sage, 78, in absentee returns. In two other divisions, incumbents Leslie O. Carter and John M. Sidwell ran unopposed.

* Quartz Hill: With absentee ballots counted, incumbent Lee Richardson and challenger Frank Tymon were leading challengers Ben Harrison--the district general manager until his retirement last year--John Mason and Craig D. Yoder in the race for two seats on the five-seat board. One incumbent chose not to run for reelection.

* West Valley: With only a handful of absentee votes counted in the tiny Antelope Valley district, incumbent Glyndon Fry was the top vote-getter in a field of nine candidates for three seats on the five-member board. Mark Gadzinski and Nat Karcham were tied in the race to finish the term of an incumbent who died earlier this year.

Antelope Valley

* Community College District: With few votes counted for two seats, incumbents Donald Ross and Earl Wilson were heading toward reelection, the latter with a small lead over challenger Felix LeMarinel, an insurance executive.

* Union High School District: With only a few votes counted for two seats, challenger Billy Pricer, leader of an anti-gang group, was the front-runner, with incumbent Wilda Andrejcik slightly leading former high school board member Bill Olenick. Close behind in a field of six candidates was Sue Stokka, a former elementary district board member.

* Union High School District: With few votes counted in the election for the two years remaining in a four-year term, Charles Whiteside, director of human resources at Antelope Valley College, was leading, followed by Nolan Negaard, a former Palmdale High School teacher, and Bob McMullen, the appointed incumbent.

Eastside Union School District: In absentee returns, district computer aide Elaine MacDonald and incumbent Willard Ritchie were ahead in races for two seats, but trailing by only a few votes were Debra Branch, a former district library aide, and incumbent Ida Ward.

Hughes-Elizabeth Lakes Union School District: In absentee returns, community activist Judy Toothaker and Michael Taylor, a motion picture company manager, were leading by a few votes in races for two seats, followed by Rick Sill, a pawnbroker-jeweler, Charles Slay, a former board member, and two other candidates.

Keppel Union School District: In absentee returns for two seats, Ruth Ann Bones, the wife of a local water district manager, and Ron Greene, a retired sheriff’s deputy, were leading, followed closely by appointed incumbent Cristina Arklin. Two other candidates, teacher Evan Postal and former board member Jerry Freeman, trailed.

Lancaster School District: In absentee returns for two seats, Sheriff’s Deputy James Jeffra and aerospace worker Andy Visokey were ahead, followed by parent-teacher group leader Val Holt. Trailing them were school volunteer Barbara McDonald and teacher Martina Grable, who dropped out of the race.

Palmdale School District: In absentee returns for two seats, challenger Helen Acosta, a drapery store owner, and incumbent Larry Ott were the front-runners, trailed by incumbent Sheldon Epstein.

Soledad-Agua Dulce Union School District: With almost half of the precincts counted, film producer Robert Daley and parent-teacher group leader Joyce Field were the front-runners, followed by school advisory committee member Rebecca Small and incumbent Martin Barofsky. Los Angeles City firefighter David Perez, who had withdrawn from the race, was in last place.

Westside Union School District: In absentee ballots for two seats, school board President Gwen Farrell and Littlerock High School teacher Christine LeBeau were ahead, followed by county probation camp teacher Scott Gmur.

Wilsona School District: For two seats, incumbents Maurice Kunkel and Gayle Duns were leading, followed by aerospace technician Marc Sas Sr. with about one-third of the vote counted. Behind them were parent Christina Behringer, Dave Brandt Sr., a civil engineering consultant, and Mack Lewis, maintenance director for a nearby district.


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