Residents may be forgiven if they are confused about the upcoming City Council elections, which will take them to the polls twice in the next few weeks to choose new leaders from a total of 24 candidates.
On Tuesday, voters will elect one person to serve a two-year council term and two others to serve terms lasting about a month. Then, on Nov. 8, voters will return to the voting booths to choose two council members for four-year terms.
This unprecedented election schedule was prompted by June’s successful recall of three council members who last year approved a 2% utility tax. Tuesday’s special election was called to fill the seats of recalled Mayor A.B. (Buck) Catlin and council members Molly McClanahan and Don Bankhead.
Catlin, McClanahan and Bankhead will remain in office until Oct. 25, when Tuesday’s winners will be inaugurated.
Donald F. Tanney, Orange County’s registrar of voters, said he cannot remember another situation like Fullerton’s back-to-back elections.
Holding two elections was not the idea of the City Council. City officials originally consolidated the special election to replace those recalled with the general election but were sued by the Fullerton Recalls Committee and forced to hold separate elections. The cost of the dual elections is about $117,000, city officials say.
Because Catlin’s and McClanahan’s terms were to expire in November regardless of the recall, their seats will be contested again in November. The City Council later this month will set the inauguration date for the November winners, so those elected to the two short-term seats will serve between three and six weeks.
Regardless, Bankhead’s term expires in 1996 and whoever replaces him in Tuesday’s election will remain in office until then.
Candidates vying Tuesday for Bankhead’s two-year seat are: attorney Peter Godfrey, 49, administrative office assistant Brent Hardwick, 50, data processing supervisor Claudia M. Keller, 37, stock broker Dreux D. Valenti, 25, software engineer Jacob Spaargaren, 35, and business owner Dave Zenger, 35.
Robert E. McNutt’s name will also appear on the special election ballot for the two-year term, but the 50-year-old manufacturing company owner said he made a mistake when he registered for that election. Instead, he has asked his supporters to vote for him in the November election; his name is on the ballot then as well.
Three of the 11 candidates vying for the two short-term seats are not running in the November election, when the seats’ four-year terms will be contested. Those in it just for the chance of being on the council for a month are: David H. Jerome, 29, publisher of a comedy newspaper, Bradley M. Kimball, 33, a systems analyst, and Armand A. (Vic) Victoria, 65, a businessman.
The other eight on Tuesday’s ballot are all running in the general election also, for four-year terms. They are: business people Jack Dean, 46, Conrad DeWitte, 46, Gary E. Nouskajian, 43, James Tanaka, 37, Michael J. Wagner, 46, and Bahia Wilson, 44, attorney Jan Flory, 50, and real estate agent Leland C. Wilson, 24.
Running just in November for the four-year terms are Bankhead, 62, a former police captain; Edith J. O’Donnell, 65, a librarian; McNutt; Michael J. Mummert, 35, a free-lance writer; Stuart Stitch, 25, a political campaign consultant, and Carole E. Wink, 55, a transportation administrator. Dick Logemann, 51, is on the ballot but has stepped out of the race, saying it is too expensive to run a campaign.
If they win, Bahia Wilson, a former grand juror, and Tanaka would become the first African American and Japanese American, respectively, to serve on the council.
Hardwick, who is endorsed by the police officers’ union, has portrayed himself as the anti-recall candidate. He was against the recall effort and backed the three recalled council members when they voted for the utility tax because it saved the city from possibly having to cut jobs in the police and fire departments.
Among the most controversial issues in the back-to-back elections are whether the utility tax should be repealed and whether the Redevelopment Agency should be abolished.
The Fullerton Recalls Committee, which led the successful recall campaign, says voters ousted Catlin, McClanahan and Bankhead because they approved the utility tax. The group has endorsed DeWitte, Dean and Spaargaren, candidates who promise to vigorously pursue a repeal of the 2% levy.
Other candidates--Wink, Keller, Victoria, Stitch, Godfrey, Mummert, Valenti, Wagner and Zenger--have also pledged to repeal the tax, as long as it can be done without seriously impacting city services. The tax is expected to provide $4.6 million in revenue to the city in the 1993-94 and 1994-95 fiscal years, and balance the city’s $81.2-million budget.
Most candidates said they would favor allowing the tax to expire on schedule, Sept. 30, 1995. Bahia Wilson said, however, that she would like to put the issue before voters.
An overwhelming number of candidates said the Redevelopment Agency should not be abolished because it helps prevent blight and keep businesses and city streets attractive to visitors and also generates tax revenue.
Foes of the agency--such as DeWitte, Dean, Spaargaren and Valenti, who have pledged to vote to abolish it--said it creates unfair advantages for business within the city’s redevelopment areas.
City officials defend the Redevelopment Agency, which was created in the mid-1970s, saying it has made possible several projects, including badly needed parking structures downtown, the Marriott Hotel and Sports Complex at Cal State Fullerton and the Metro shopping center. Redevelopment money also was used to help renovate some historic buildings.
The agency is scheduled to be phased out by the year 2018. Abolishing it sooner may be illegal, City Manager James L. Armstrong said.
The large field of candidates has been facing off at a series of community forums, sometimes engaging in fierce debate.
“I think it’s absolutely critical with all the confusion regarding issues in Fullerton that voters attend forums and find out what candidates are saying to be able to make an informed choice,” said Diane Ross, a League of Women Voters spokeswoman and long-time Fullerton resident.