When Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley proposed that a prison be built on city-owned property in Saugus, outraged Santa Clarita Valley residents barraged City Hall with protests.
Angry letters were addressed to the offices of all 15 council districts, including those of council members Michael Woo, Joel Wachs and William McCarley.
That was the name on a letter sent last week to the 14th Council District, represented by Arthur K. Snyder until he resigned Oct. 4 after holding the seat for 18 years. Since then, there has been no councilman for the district, where seven candidates are waging intense campaigns to succeed Snyder.
However, the Saugus protester got his message to the right man. The city's chief legislative analyst, William R. McCarley, was designated as caretaker of the 14th Council District by council President Pat Russell upon Synder's resignation. McCarley is the new boss of Snyder's district staff, which is still charged with meeting the needs of residents of Eagle Rock, Highland Park and the rest of the Eastside district until a new council member is elected, possibly as late as March.
Meanwhile, McCarley refers the prison-site protest to Russell. He won't take a stand on the issue, nor anything else of a political nature.
"I'm a caretaker and not a council member," McCarley said. "I don't have a vote. My job is apolitical. I'm just here to keep things moving. There are lots of things in the pipelines. We need to take care of them with the least disruption to the community possible."
Problems in the 14th District obviously didn't cease when Snyder resigned. Residents still call district offices to complain about barking dogs, potholes, clogged sewers, gang problems, unkempt property and other grievances.
But staff members have been admonished not to get involved in political issues. "We don't have a say in anything anymore," one deputy said. "We can't stir the pot."
Calls from constituents are fewer than they were when Snyder was still in office. Apparently, many residents of the 14th District assume that they lost all representation when Snyder resigned.
"People are not utilizing us as much anymore," said Conrad Corral, who continues to serve as district field deputy in Highland Park. "It seems a lot of people don't know we're still here." He said staff members are attending more community meetings than ever "to make sure the public knows we are still around."
Arline DeSanctis, Highland Park field deputy for Wachs in the adjoining 2nd Council District, said she receives about half a dozen calls a week from concerned residents of the 14th District. "Many are retired and fearful that no one represents them," she said. "Once we reassure them that Synder's staff is still working, then they are fine."
Removal From Directories
All mention of the 14th District has been removed from office directories at City Hall. There is only a blank line on the directories between the 13th and 15th District listings. Snyder's name was also scraped off the doors to district headquarters in Room 333 within a week after his resignation. The only sign on the door now is: "Chairman, Government Operations Committee," which had been Snyder's key assignment.
But district staff members said regular visitors still find the office, which has been in the same location in City Hall for more than 50 years. And they stress that field offices for the 14th District in Eagle Rock, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights and Boyle Heights are still open.
The district staff has been in flux since January, when Snyder announced that he would resign but set no date. Speculation over when and whether Snyder would actually step down dragged on for months. Meanwhile, his staff members felt uncertain and anxious about their own positions. One field representative described the transition from Snyder to McCarley's caretaker administration as "a hassle before, during and afterward."
McCarley, who has the power to hire and fire district workers, instituted a few changes, including a requirement that employees account for their workday in and out of the office. Five of the 20 staff workers have left and others are searching for new jobs because they expect to lose their positions when Snyder's successor takes office. McCarley said the workload has been eased gradually, allowing deputies "to wind down a little bit, rather than face the sudden trauma" of being jobless.
2 Recall Elections
Snyder, a former Republican who changed his affiliation to independent, weathered two recall elections in a career marked by a series of scandals and political resurrections. Several community leaders said voters were disappointed that Snyder resigned without completing his term, which would have ended in 1987, because he was known for his effectiveness in obtaining significant improvements for his district.