LAWNDALE — In this city of narrow streets, the main issue in the April 8 City Council election is not control of the council, not the plight of the homeless, not the pace of development, not ballot measures, not the sway of special interests.
It is parking.
To be sure, those other subjects have come up in one campaign or another as three candidates vie for the mayor's post and four seek one spot on the council. But parking is the common denominator in all the campaigns, the candidates report and residents confirm.
"The issues are basically parking and what the city is doing to alleviate the lack of off-street parking," said Mayor Sarann Kruse in a comment echoed by others.
Campaign Heats Up
The campaign has heated up as the election nears, and candidates are verbally attacking each other with an abandon rarely seen at council meetings.
"Opportunist" is what council candidate Virginia Rhodes called Kruse, who as mayor sits on the council.
"A very destructive woman," the mayor said of Rhodes.
"Abrasive" was Kruse's word for her principal opponent, Councilman Jim Ramsey.
Retorted Ramsey: "I don't tell one person one thing and another person another," implying that Kruse does.
Two candidate factions have emerged, almost mirroring the political alignment on the council, which frequently splits 3 to 2 with Kruse, Harold E. Hoffman and Dan McKenzie voting one way and Ramsey and Terry Birdsall voting the other.
Most attention is focused on the shoot-out in the mayor's race, with Ramsey forsaking the safer task of seeking reelection to his own council seat for the riskier enterprise of taking on, for a second time, incumbent Kruse.
In the election as a whole, Ramsey, Rhodes and council candidate Anthony Smith all voice criticism of the way Kruse and her council allies have managed things. In particular, they allege that development interests have gotten special favors from City Hall.
On the other side are Kruse and council candidates Louise Jones and Larry Rudolph, who generally approve of the way matters have been handled. Kruse dismisses complaints raised by opponents as "non-issues."
In the mayoral race for a two-year term, the candidates are, in alphabetical order:
- Kruse, 46, an executive assistant for Northrop Corp. A 10-year veteran of the council, she was appointed mayor in 1980. When the city switched to an elected mayor, she won election in 1982 and again in 1984.
- Ramsey, 48, an agent for the Farmers Insurance Group. Ramsey was first elected to the council in 1974 and reelected in 1978 and 1982. In 1984, when his own seat was not up for election, he ran against Kruse and came in second, 889 to 542, in a three-way race.
- Edward C. Roberts, 74, a former mayor and retired Lawndale schools maintenance worker. Roberts, who is running a low-budget, write-in campaign, was on the City Council from 1970 to 1982. He was mayor three times: 1972-73, 1978-79 and 1981-82. He belatedly decided to enter the race to support the House of Yahweh, a soup kitchen that he felt the city administration was hostile to.
The candidates in the council race for a four-year term are, in alphabetical order:
- Jones, 75, an escrow officer for Elite Escrow Service, who has never run for public office before. Jones cites numerous civic activities and honors in her background, including the 1985 Lawndale Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame award. She supports Kruse for mayor.
- Rhodes, 50, office manager for Advance Aluminum and Brass Co. Inc. Rhodes, who has never held public office, narrowly lost a race for the Centinela Valley Union High School District board four years ago. She has a suit pending against the city, alleging that Councilman Harold E. Hoffman had a conflict of interest when he voted to make his term four years instead of two.
- Rudolph, 48, a production control employee at Farr Manufacturing Inc. Rudolph, another political newcomer, plans the most expensive campaign of the four council candidates. He plans to spend about $3,500--about $1,500 more than any of the other candidates--and says most of it is for mailers.
- Smith, 37, a truck driver for Warren Trucking Co. Smith, who has never run for political office before, said he wants the council to put major issues affecting property values on the ballot.
The parking issue that has attracted so much attention is not new.
"When the city was laid out, way back when, they just made the streets too narrow," said Rudolph.
While the city code now requires a minimum width of 36 feet for new residential streets, many existing streets in the city are as narrow as 26 feet.
Kruse said that the city has been working on the problem but that its efforts toward a solution are not well known.
"Most of the people don't realize that we have a committee that is looking at some of the alternatives to the problem," she said, conceding that "we don't have any solutions before us."