POMONA : City Won't Put Firefighting, Card Club Issues on Ballot


After an hour of emotional speeches from residents, most of whom spoke in favor of establishing card clubs in Pomona, the City Council decided June 29 not to put the issue on the November ballot.

Instead, the council voted 5 to 2 to uphold its original decisions updating the city's gaming ordinance, the first steps toward approving two card clubs in Pomona.

The council also decided to go ahead with plans to transfer firefighting services to the Los Angeles County Fire Department rather than put the volatile issue on the ballot. The transfer is scheduled to take place next month.

The council considered putting the issues on the ballot because of the plethora of conflicting opinions among residents, Councilwoman Paula Lantz said.

"I really feel anything that has such a large response is a warning sign that people ought to be more involved," she said. Lantz and Councilman Willie White voted to put the issues on the ballot.

Although some residents said they believe the clubs would be too important a revenue source to reject, others said they were afraid that gambling would increase crime and violence in the city. Neither Lantz nor White supported the Fire Department transfer, but both council members favored card clubs in town.

"A city should have its own fire department," White said. "Given the chance, I think the majority of people would have voted to keep it."

But Ron Swearingen, a Pomona firefighter for 25 years, said the transfer was necessary. "I care about the safety of these citizens," he said. "I knew that if we didn't transfer, we'd end up going the way of the dinosaur."

Bob Baker, president of the Pomona Firefighters Assn., said he is glad the political maneuvering is over. But the issue continues to be mired in allegations of racial discrimination.

Two African American women sued the city last week seeking to stop the department transfer. Lydia Cook and Terrie Owens, who failed Fire Department entrance exams, charged the city with discrimination in its hiring practices. Attorney Leo James Terrell, whose law office represents the women, said that by transferring the department to the county, the city is circumventing its 1989 agreement with the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People to hire more minorities.

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