EL SEGUNDO — Voters will determine the fate of the city manager and, ultimately, the pace and character of commercial growth here when they choose two City Council members on April 8.
Incumbents Charles Armstrong and Le Synadinos are being challenged by Harry Robert Anderson, Robert H. Stull and Alan West in an increasingly bitter campaign that has become a referendum on City Manager Nicholas Romaniello and his controlled-growth recommendations.
The majority faction on the five-member council, including Armstrong and Synadinos, has backed Romaniello and nearly all of the zoning and hiring recommendations he has made since his appointment as city manager last May.
But Anderson and West agree with the other two council members that Romaniello should be fired. Stull has declined to give his views on the manager, but said he favors limiting commercial and industrial growth in the city.
Armstrong and Synadinos say the council hired Romaniello on the basis of his experience as a city planner in El Segundo, Seal Beach and Beverly Hills. "In a city like ours, it helps to have someone who understands complicated planning issues," Synadinos said in an interview this week. The incumbents praise him for proposing zoning changes--adopted by the council--that restrict commercial and industrial land uses.
Anderson and West accuse Romaniello of trying to create a "political machine" by firing employees who disagree with his management style and slow-growth philosophy. They say his zoning recommendations have led to an anti-business environment.
Candidate West, who owns the El Segundo Brake and Wheel Shop, said the incumbents have imposed excessive service fees, employee taxes and what he called surplus building requirements that make it difficult to build or operate a profitable business in El Segundo.
Anderson agreed. "Business should have to pay its share, but not more than what is required," he said. "Business is El Segundo's lifeblood. We can't afford to make an enemy out of industry."
El Segundo does, indeed, depend upon industry. Only 20% of the city's approximately five square miles is zoned for residences. The rest is dominated by industrial giants such as Hughes Aircraft Co., TRW and Chevron USA, and business and employee taxes from those firms are the city's main source of revenue.
Pay for Services
Incumbents Armstrong and Synadinos maintain that the businesses that dominate El Segundo should pay some of the cost of the fire, paramedic, sewage and traffic management services that the city provides.
"The city's population is actually shrinking," Synadinos said. "Yet there is an increasing demand for city services. It's obvious that this increased demand is caused by business and not residents, so residents shouldn't have to pay for it."
Synadinos and Armstrong also support limited commercial growth in and adjacent to the city's residential neighborhoods, all of which are west of Sepulveda Boulevard. Their votes in favor of an ordinance restricting heights of new buildings west of Sepulveda Boulevard to 45 feet--about four stories--drew criticism from the pro-business candidates and councilmen who say the ordinance could scare away potential developers.
Anderson says that the council should have "added a grandfather clause to the ordinance that would allow existing businesses to rebuild in case of a fire or earthquake or some other kind of unforeseen disaster."
The candidates appear to be less divided on other issues, including the need to work with industry and surrounding communities to improve traffic flow, and the need to attract more retail business to balance the city's revenue sources and reduce its dependence on the giant companies.
Council members, who are paid $327 a month for the part-time position, serve four-year terms. The mayor, who receives the same salary, sits on the council and is elected to a two-year term by fellow council members two weeks after the council election.
Following are the candidates' backgrounds and some of their views:
- Anderson, 62, a retired maintenance division superintendent for Standard Oil Co., now known as Chevron USA, is married with 3 children.
A native of Vallejo, Anderson has lived in El Segundo for 11 years. As a council member, he said, his goals would be to establish a healthy business climate and to "close the gap between residents' and business concerns."
"We're actually two communities," Anderson said. "On one side we have business and on the other we have residents and the two have to look out for one another. Being a friend to business doesn't mean I'm a foe to residents. The city must promote a positive business environment and, in turn, the businesses must protect the residents from traffic, noise and other things."