Try as they might, try as they may, Grinches can't take their Christmas away.

DEBORAH SCHOCH, with staff reports

THE GRINCH ARRIVES EARLY: For a while last week, Torrance's Christmas spirit appeared in jeopardy: Thieves vandalized the float that police officers use in the weeks before Christmas to dispense candy and good cheer along the streets.

The cherry-red float with its garlands and strings of lights was in storage at a Torrance commercial building where members of the Torrance Police Officers Assn. were decorating it.

Last weekend, four wheels and rims, cushions, a cassette player, amplifier, speakers and a wireless microphone were stolen from the float. The Scrooges took the tuner, too.

To get to the electronic equipment, the thieves had to crawl under a sign that reads: Dedicated to the Children of Torrance.

But cheer up, kids. When news of the crime spread last week, cash donations poured in from officers, residents and businesses. A local business donated new stereo equipment, and volunteers put in long hours to repair the damage.

Atop gleaming new wheels, the reindeer-bedecked float was scheduled to start its tour of city streets last night.

And police interest in this case remains intense.

"We've got 250 officers who'd be more than glad to know who did this," Sgt. Michael Terry said.

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AT LAST A LICENSE?: A year after Inglewood voters approved a card club at Hollywood Park, an application for a gaming license has been submitted to the state attorney general's office, naming Dr. Edward C. Allred and Haig Kelegian as the prospective owners.

According to state officials, the two would lease the newly renovated Cary Grant Pavillion from Hollywood Park for the club, which would have 140 gaming tables.

Allred owns a string of family planning and abortion clinics in the state and also owns stock in Hollywood Park. Last year, he was one of three partners who tried unsuccessfully to get a card club at the Los Alamitos Race Course.

Kelegian, according to state records, is a partner in the California Commerce Club, a card casino in Commerce. According to the application, Kelegian would participate in the day-to-day management of the proposed Inglewood card club, as well as have a financial interest in it.

Hollywood Park has tried unsuccessfully for a year to get changes in state law that would allow the racetrack to own and operate the card club.

Publicly held corporations are prohibited from owning card clubs because every person with a financial interest in a proposed club must undergo a background investigation before licensing. That's impossible in the case of publicly held corporations with millions of anonymous stockholders.

It may take up to six months before Kelegian and Allred know if their application is approved. That could pose problems for Inglewood, which balanced its budget this year by figuring in more than $4 million in anticipated revenues from the yet-to-open club.

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PAPER CHASE, CONTINUED: Most Torrance political watchers had fully expected attorney Burton Fletcher to announce any day that he would run again for City Council, his appetite whetted by his unsuccessful 1992 bid.

But now, in the wake of Fletcher's admission that he removed copies of a community college student newspaper criticizing him, it seems his political hopes are unraveling.

Fletcher, an El Camino College tenured professor of business administration, came under fire in the Nov. 4 issue of the student newspaper The Warwhoop, which questioned his teaching methods.

Angered by the front-page article, which he described as slanted, Fletcher removed copies of the issue the morning it appeared. After Warwhoop editors were forced to print 2,000 extra copies, Fletcher apologized in a full-page advertisement and paid the paper $350 to cover printing costs for the extra copies.

In a Nov. 19 letter to friends and supporters, he reiterated his apology and said " . . . I will not be a candidate for the City Council in 1994 . . ..

"I've admitted to the biggest mistake in my life, and I've learned from it. I intend to give my full energies to the college and to the community to pay back what I consider a debt of gratitude for my lapse of judgment."

Fletcher declined further comment on his political plans in an interview Wednesday. But in his letter he did not rule out ever running for public office.

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POLITICAL FOOTNOTE: Longtime community activist Martha Bails was appointed to the Hawthorne City Council last week.

In the 3-1 vote, the council picked Bails to fill the seat vacated by Larry Guidi, who was elected mayor this month. Bails will serve the remainder of Guidi's term, which expires in November, 1995. The council decided to appoint someone to the post to avoid the costs of a special election.

Bails, 52, ran in the Nov. 2 municipal election on an anti-tax platform. An executive planning adviser for Rockwell International, she said the first order of business will be seeking the consolidation of city services, without eliminating jobs.

Guidi said the council "is fresh, and is going to make an impact on the community."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"I personally don't feel it's fair to lay a guilt trip on anyone. The deed has been done. The turkey is dead. I don't think it's fair to go into a long, haranguing discussion."

--Linda Dillon of Hermosa Beach, a founder of Vegetarian Singles, advising those who eschew meat to mind their manners if they are invited to a Thanksgiving turkey dinner. She suggests vegetarian guests bring a dish of their own.

THIS WEEK'S HIGHLIGHTS

Inglewood: The Inglewood-Airport Area Chamber of Commerce will host its annual "State of the City" program Thursday with Mayor Edward Vincent and City Manager Paul Eckles. The luncheon will be at noon at the Forum Club.

Lawndale: City Councilman Norm Lagerquist will be formally censured by the City Council during Thursday's meeting. The council last month voted to censure Lagerquist for writing a letter to a judge on city stationery seeking leniency for a former political consultant convicted of child molestation.

LAST WEEK'S HIGHLIGHTS

Hermosa Beach: John Bowler, Julie A. Oakes and J. R. Reviczky were sworn in as Hermosa Beach City Council members Tuesday night. They replace Bob Essertier and Kathleen Midstokke, who did not seek reelection, and Albert G. Wiemans, who was defeated.

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