Members of the La Cañada Flintridge Republican Committee gathered on Wednesday to endorse candidates for the three City Council seats up for grabs in the March 8 election.
Mayor Donald Voss, Planning Commissioner Michael Davitt and former Planning Commission member James Hill won official support from the group after answering questions about public pensions, plans to raise freeway sound walls, extending the 710 Freeway and support for city/LCUSD joint-use projects.
The group of some two dozen committee members also voted during the evening event at La Cañada Flintridge Country Club to retain Al Restivo as the group's chairman and name David Stassel president.
"We want people in local government who believe in the values we share as Republicans — smaller government, fiscal conservatism, honesty and integrity," Restivo said.
Panel participants also included anti-sewers activist Robert Richter, the only council candidate who is also member of the committee, and nurse Jacqueline Harris, the only registered Democrat among the field of seven.
Local businessman Charlie Kamar and council incumbent Laura Olhasso did not attend, Olhasso submitting a written statement that she had been called away on business.
Candidates who spoke during the panel tended to express very similar views in response to audience-generated questions, with only Richter setting himself apart by pointing criticisms at past council decisions and even other candidates.
Members of the panel expressed staunch opposition to the proposed 710 tunnel.
"I'm totally, completely, utterly opposed to the tunnel in any shape or form," said Hill, joining Harris, Davitt and Voss in describing 710 Freeway extension as a threat to local quality of life.
Richter, a retired engineer who railed against the city's sewer installation process, said officials should lobby to expand capacity of the Ventura (134) Freeway in order to alleviate some of the traffic congestion that's prompting calls for extension of the 710.
Each of the candidates also voiced support for the city to continue pursuing joint-use agreements with the school district, with Harris describing shared recreation facility rights and responsibilities as "a win-win equation" for residents.
Voss, Hill and Davitt voiced support for consideration of sound walls but warned that the enormous costs of construction required a cautious, fiscally disciplined approached.
Harris said she opposed building sound walls in the near future on the city's dime as fiscally irresponsible, though she lives close to the freeway and would benefit from them.
Richter steered the sound walls issue toward criticism of the city's building permit requirements, which he said keep people from installing sound walls on their own property.
Reigning in costs associated with public employee pensions was also a topic of interest, though Voss pointed out that the city's pension liabilities are small because contracting with the county for police, fire and street maintenance services has drastically limited full-time city employees.
"It's incumbent upon any elected official to work toward changing the [public] pension system on some level," said Davitt, who also supports continued contracting for services rather than hiring.
Richter said he would outright eliminate guaranteed public employee benefits if he could.
"Everybody here is talk, talk, talk," said Richter. "Words are cheap, but I'll tell you 'Go out and vote.' We need change on City Council."
Such criticisms failed to strike a chord with city Youth Council member Kevork Kurdoghlian, a junior at La Cañada High School and member of the local Republican committee.
"I definitely think the city's going in the right direction," he said.