LAWNDALE — Former Mayor Edward C. Roberts said last week that he will conduct a write-in campaign for mayor because he is unhappy with the positions that the two announced candidates, Mayor Sarann Kruse and Councilman Jim Ramsey, have taken on the House of Yahweh, the city's only soup kitchen.
Roberts, 74, a retired Lawndale school district maintenance worker, was on the council from 1970 to 1982 and served three terms as mayor.
He said Kruse and Ramsey "are against the soup kitchen, you know. Somebody has got to be for it. It can't be all one-sided."
In response, Kruse said, Roberts had been "removed from the scene for some time and does not have the knowledge of what we have been doing." Ramsey said Roberts does not understand his position.
Lawndale will elect a mayor and a councilman April 8.
The House of Yahweh has been at the center of controversy ever since the City Council voted Feb. 3 to include soup kitchens and employment agencies among businesses requiring a special license and review before a five-member board.
Supporters of the House of Yahweh say it provides a valuable social service, and that the council's move was intended to shut down the soup kitchen. Opponents say homeless people loiter near the soup kitchen in a neighborhood that includes City Hall, occasionally soiling public places with bodily wastes, and that the special license review was needed to regulate the situation.
Ramsey and Kruse, who voted for the ordinance, were the minority when the council voted 3 to 2 to repeal it on Monday. At that time, they argued that the question should be decided by the voters, rather than reversed by the council, because House of Yahweh supporters had gathered signatures to put the issue on the ballot.
Roberts said he was one of the people who gathered signatures for the repeal petition supported by the House of Yahweh.
"I don't agree with the way (council members) are handling it. I think the city should come in and do something to help them out, not fight them," he said.
Ramsey said he and Roberts have disagreed about "many things over the years. . . . From the position he is taking on this, it is quite apparent that he doesn't understand my position."
Ramsey said he wants the House of Yahweh to cooperate more with the city in alleviating problems caused by soup kitchen clientele. He said that it is unfair that Lawndale bears the burden of feeding homeless from surrounding cities who do not have soup kitchens. He has been critical of the House of Yahweh because many volunteers who work there live outside the city.
Kruse said the city needs to address the issue of the needy and hungry and, pointing to a discussion session that the council arranged for April 30, denied that the special license permit was intended to shut down the soup kitchen.
Of Roberts, she said: "If he chooses to listen to outsiders, that is his prerogative. I choose to listen to people who live in the city."
Roberts took out write-in nominating papers on Tuesday and said he intends to file them Monday with the city clerk. Write-in candidates, whose names will not appear on the ballot, must turn in papers, signed by 20 voters, supporting their candidacy.