BELLFLOWER — Councilman Ray O'Neal's decision to seek an Assembly seat at the same time he is seeking reelection to the City Council has given two other incumbents--who are also seeking reelection--ammunition to fire at their colleague.
Meanwhile, most of the six challengers who have lined up to run in the April 8 election are aiming their shots at a number of council decisions--from the sale of a city-owned theater to the way the city decided to legalize bingo.
Three of the council's five slots will be decided in the balloting. Council members receive $406.25 a month.
O'Neal, seeking his second four-year term on the council, announced earlier this month that he would run for the Assembly seat being vacated by Speaker Pro Tem Frank Vicencia (D-Bellflower). The primary for the legislative seat will be held June 3, with the general election in November.
Mayor James Earle Christo and Councilman John Ansdell, who are also seeking second terms on the council, said O'Neal's decision to seek higher office at the same time he runs for reelection is unfair to Bellflower voters, and potentially costly.
If O'Neal were reelected to the council and then elected to the Assembly, the council would have the choice of either appointing his replacement or holding a special election. Christo said he would be opposed to appointment because "voters should be allowed to speak." But, he said, a special election to fill the vacancy would cost between $35,000 and $50,000.
Ansdell, who was also critical of O'Neal's political plans, said he did not know why O'Neal was seeking the Assembly seat.
"I don't know what he is trying to do. Maybe it is a publicity stunt. He is just trying to get his name before the voters," said Ansdell, 66, the owner of A and D Upholstering.
O'Neal, a 48-year-old industrial engineer at Northrop Advanced Systems Division in Pico Rivera, said he did not see problems with seeking the two positions.
"I look at this (running for the Assembly) as an opportunity to advance," he said.
O'Neal has left the door open to pull out of the Assembly race. His decision would rest partially, he said, on the results of a recent telephone poll that campaign volunteers conducted among randomly selected voters. O'Neal said the results have not been compiled yet.
Christo, O'Neal and Ansdell were elected in April, 1982, on a slate opposed to a redevelopment plan that included all of the city's commercial and business district and parts of most residential areas.
Once in office, Christo and Ansdell pushed for and were successful in getting an ordinance passed by voters that requires voter approval before a redevelopment agency can be formed in the city of 57,000. O'Neal supported the ordinance.
However, Christo and Ansdell accuse O'Neal of changing sides on other issues after the election.
"He votes against everything we support," Ansdell said.
As an example, Ansdell and Christo said they support the city's transit system, known as The Bus, which is funded through money from Proposition A, the half-cent county sales tax for transit projects. The city has received nearly $2 million in transit funds since the program took effect in 1982.
O'Neal said he opposes The Bus "because I never see anybody riding it." (Between Nov. 4, when The Bus started operating, and Feb. 22, there have been nearly 15,000 passengers, according to statistics complied by the Bellflower city staff.) O'Neal said he would like to see the funds returned to the county, which could use the money to supplement and reduce RTD bus fares countywide.
As a result of their disagreements with O'Neal, Christo and Ansdell have endorsed one of the nine challengers, LaVerne Smith. Smith, who was Christo's treasurer during the 1982 campaign, has endorsed Christo and Ansdell.
"O'Neal's signal that he was running for two offices swayed me to support a third candidate. I don't think it's fair to the voters for him to run for both offices," said Christo, owner of Earle's Tuxedo Rentals. Christo, who was 75 when elected in 1982, will not discuss his age. He says it is not an issue. The position of mayor is an honorary one and selection is made annually by fellow council members.
Smith, 49, said she is running because she believes the council can "use a woman's point of view." If elected, Smith said, she would pursue construction of more housing for senior citizens. She said she would also like to see a safer and cleaner city.
Smith is a real estate counselor for Golden West Realtors in Lakewood, and president of Chart Masters Printing Corp. of Downey, which she runs with her husband, Leo.
The other challengers have stayed out of the fray over O'Neal's political ambitions. But they have drawn up their own lists of complaints about the council.
For instance, Ralph Ball, 59, said he believes the three incumbents have done "an extremely poor job of conducting city business."