INGLEWOOD — The need to end what critics have termed a closed, unresponsive style of government is the unifying thread running through most candidates' platforms for the April 2 elections here, where two of the City Council's five seats are being contested.
Among the seven candidates, only incumbent District 1 Councilman Daniel K. Tabor represents the council majority. Incumbent Anthony Scardenzan, representing District 2, is generally regarded as an outsider, and is often the lone dissenting vote on the council.
Challengers in both districts say they would like to see a shift toward a more open style of government, with more discussion during council meetings and greater resident participation.
Tabor, who faces two challengers in his bid for a second term, acknowledged that council members "usually talk about the issues among ourselves and pretty much have our minds made up by the time we come to the meeting," but he defended the method as one that he is "comfortable" with.
His view extends to one of the council's most controversial recent decisions--to award Western Waste Industries a lucrative $11-million contract without competitive bidding or public hearings. The decision also effectively dismantled the city's own Sanitation Department.
Tabor said that while he "regreted not having taken more time with the decision, I don't think a public hearing would have added anything. We negotiated a deal that was in the best interests of the city. I'm comfortable with the decision we made and the manner in which we made it."
But the decision has drawn a storm of protest from citizens and has become a focal point of candidates' platforms in both districts as an example of the city's closed style of government.
The District 1 contest is the more spirited of the two.
Candidate Yvonne Mitchell, thought by many to pose the more serious threat to Tabor, said residents have become increasingly unhappy with what she described as an "inflexible" council.
'Very Cocky' Council
"No matter how many people show up at a meeting, or what they say, the City Council will not reconsider its actions," she said. "That has become an established trend in this government. That's really why I'm running. The people no longer have a say in matters pertaining to the city. In fact, what they say is often discounted and they are openly ridiculed at council meetings. The present council is very cocky. They are not governing for the people, but for themselves."
Mitchell, 31, an independent financial consultant, said that with eight years' experience as a budget analyst for Los Angeles County, she would use her background to take a "hard look" at the city's budget priorities and to reform what she considers "slipshod practices" among the city staff.
"The report I saw on Western Waste was a loosely documented, two-page report that in no way contained the kind of detail needed to make a responsible decision," Mitchell said. "To a trained eye, it was obvious that the report was hastily done. We need to demand a much more professional product."
Mitchell, president and co-founder of the Inglewood Image Assn., a resident booster group, said her priorities include establishing "an honest, completely open form of government," resolving the long-standing feud between the City Council and the Inglewood Unified School District, and promoting steady, controlled growth in the city.
Tabor disagrees that the city government is closed or unresponsive to residents. Instead, he said, the council majority just prefers a more "harmonious" style of governing.
"I would like to see more participation on the part of residents," he said, "but we just don't like a lot of infighting done out in the open. That sort of thing can be negative and destructive."
Tabor, 30, said that he is interested not only in promoting growth, but in "repackaging" the city as "a progressive city interested in investment dollars and consumer dollars."
To do that, he said, city government will have to take a more active role in promoting existing attractions--such as the Forum and Hollywood Park Race Track--and in highlighting its more positive features.
"We need to help build an image of Inglewood as a positive, pleasant place to live," Tabor said. "and get away from this image of Inglewood as a crime-riddled, drug-riddled urban slum.
"A tremendous number of people pass through this city every day, and we don't really take advantage of that. For one thing, I would like to see us emerge as a major conference center. Why should people coming in from the airport go all the way to Long Beach or Anaheim for their conventions?"
Tabor said he would attempt to promote existing hotels in the city as potential conference sites and possibly encourage builders to construct a major conference facility in the area.