Several lower-profile races in the Southeast area will be decided Tuesday as voters sort through dozens of candidates vying for seats on water districts and school boards.
So far, water board elections have attracted the most attention. A record 30 candidates are seeking eight seats in the Central Basin Municipal Water District, West Basin Municipal Water District and the Water Replenishment District of Southern California. The agencies store and distribute water throughout the Southeast area.
Incumbents and challengers alike wonder why so many candidates are running for the obscure posts. Some contenders appear to be true water buffs--engineers, environmentalists and others with a passion for water issues.
At least four of the candidates have ties to former Rep. Mervyn Dymally and are affiliated with the nonprofit Robert Smith Water Institute that Dymally created earlier this year.
Critics say Dymally is trying to stack the powerful water boards with his allies--including his son. Mark Dymally lists himself as president of the water institute and three other candidates--Charles M. Trevino, Joann S. Williams and Richard Mayer--list themselves as institute directors.
Mervyn Dymally acknowledges that the candidates are affiliated with the institute, but both he and his son deny that the organization is backing any candidate. Mark Dymally said the institute, as a nonprofit entity, is barred by state law from involvement in political activity.
Other local races and issues:
Compton Municipal Court Judge
This race between Compton Municipal Court Commissioners Thomas Townsend and Kelvin D. Filer has featured accusations that the city has attempted to interfere with Townsend’s campaign.
In September, city officials notified Townsend that he would have to remove some of his campaign signs because they violated a municipal law prohibiting such advertisements on fences and street corners, among other places. Townsend took the city to court, saying officials were selectively enforcing the law against him, an allegation officials denied.
In the end, the city agreed not to enforce the law and Townsend agreed not to take any further legal action.
The Los Angeles County Bar Assn., whose rating is highly valued by judicial candidates, has rated Filer “well qualified” and Townsend “not qualified.” A letter from the association’s judicial evaluation committee said that Townsend’s objectivity was in question and that the committee believed Townsend had preconceptions that could affect his judgment of the law. Townsend said the negative rating was the result of insider politics and his aggressive campaign against Filer.
Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District
Five people are vying in a special election to fill an empty Norwalk-La Mirada school board seat.
La Mirada businessman David H. Cosper was appointed to the board in June, but had to vacate the seat in July when a group of citizens successfully petitioned to hold a special election.
Cosper is running for the seat. The other candidates are Richard A. Blodgett, a Norwalk house painter; Jason Garber, a Norwalk salesman; Eliseo (Lee) Millen, a La Mirada teacher, and Kim Marie Geiger, a Norwalk homemaker.
The winner will fill the seat vacated last April by Jesse M. Luera, who resigned with more than three years left in his term, after he was elected to the Norwalk City Council.
Lowell Joint School District
Incumbents Janet Averill, Jerry Powell and Gayle Rogers and Whittier businessman Bob Sargent are vying for the three seats on the Lowell Joint School District board. The district serves Whittier and La Habra Heights in Los Angeles County, and La Habra in Orange County.
Long Beach Proposition D
Rarely have so few objected to spending so much in Long Beach.
Proposition D, a proposal to sell $48 million in bonds to make the city accessible to the disabled, has been endorsed by a City Council that has a history of distancing itself from measures that ask taxpayers for money. Last month, in fact, Mayor Beverly O’Neill and eight council members appeared en masse at a downtown march in favor of the measure.
This doesn’t mean the bond measure is a shoo-in, however. Supporters need a two-thirds’ vote to win. The Englander Group, a political consulting firm helping out the “Yes On D” campaign, conducted a 200-person telephone poll last month and found widespread support, but not enough, said consultant Peter Murphy. The poll found 53% would vote yes, 17% were opposed, and 29% were undecided.
The bond money would be spent to create wheelchair-accessible curbs, bus stops and buildings, to install a hydraulic lift at the Belmont Plaza Pool, and to purchase listening devices in City Council chambers, among other things.
If voters reject the bond, the city will face a real predicament: how to raise the money and bring the city in line with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Long Beach, like most other municipalities, is already behind schedule, acknowledged Dolores Barrows, the city’s ADA coordinator. The federal law set a deadline of Jan. 26, 1995, for compliance.
El Rancho Unified School District Proposition C
Pico Rivera residents will vote on a $13-million bond measure to fund renovations at city schools and other buildings.
Officials of El Rancho Unified School District, which serves Pico Rivera, say money generated by Proposition C is needed to make the district’s 16 schools earthquake safe and accessible to wheelchairs. The funds would also pay for repairs at other district buildings.
Opponents of the measure contend that repairs should be put off until the district can afford them.
The measure, proposed by the district’s school board, would extend for 25 years an annual property tax of $26 that was established in 1969 to pay off a $5-million bond for school facilities. The tax will expire in July if two-thirds of the voters do not approve the measure.
Cerritos Proposition B
Voters are being asked to move the date of City Council elections to odd-numbered years. The measure, which requires a majority vote to pass, would move the April, 1996, election to March, 1997.
The city wants to distance its elections from statewide and presidential races, which are held in even-numbered years. Council members whose terms expire in 1996 and 1998 would get 11-month term extensions.
Correspondents Psyche Pascual, John Canalis and John Cox contributed to this report.