Voters threw out the incumbents in El Segundo and Hermosa Beach but reelected them in Carson, Gardena and Lawndale in elections in 10 South Bay cities on Tuesday. Another incumbent was defeated in Avalon.
New faces also will appear on the city councils of Hawthorne, Lawndale, Lomita and Manhattan Beach, where incumbents were not seeking reelection.
On ballot issues, Lomita voters said they want to stop the sale of fireworks there, and voters in Gardena overturned the City Council's approval of a rezoning for an apartment complex. In Palos Verdes Estates, voters decided by a 3-1 margin to continue taxing themselves for street maintenance and beautification. In Hermosa Beach, voters said they oppose offshore oil exploration.
Voter turnout varied widely, from a high of 58% in Avalon to a low of 13% in Lomita.
Here are the details:
The election of pro-business candidates Harry Robert Anderson and Alan West to the City Council over two incumbents marks the end of a two-year period of controlled growth and signals the imminent firing of suspended City Manager Nicholas Romaniello.
Anderson and West said they plan to join current council members Jack Siadek and Keith Schuldt in firing Romaniello, who was suspended with pay April 1 pending an investigation into allegations that he tried to obtain confidential police reports on West.
Romaniello had the steadfast support of defeated incumbent candidates Mayor Charles (Chip) Armstrong and Le Synadinos--a factor they credit for their defeat at the polls Tuesday.
Romaniello, the former planning director who was appointed to the city manager's position last May, has been criticized for what some call an abrasive management style and for creating an anti-business environment with restrictive zoning recommendations. West and Anderson maintain that current zoning standards make it difficult to build or run a profitable business.
Though the new council members favor eased zoning standards, they do not plan to unravel all the changes made during the past two years while the restricted-growth bloc controlled the council. "The intent is . . . to modify zoning standards to work with business instead of against it," Anderson said.
Though state law prohibits the firing of city employees for 90 days after an election, Anderson and West said they plan to initiate a search for a new manager after taking office at the next council meeting April 15.
West said his primary goal is to hire a "city manager that will protect residents' needs without offending business' interests."
Though Romaniello could not be reached for comment, he released a statement shortly after his suspension that said he was "being attacked so the (incumbents) will also be discredited simply by their association with me."
Armstrong agreed that "the crucifixion of Romaniello blurred voters' vision and kept them from seeing the real issues like controlled growth and traffic management."
Synadinos estimated that opponents outspent the incumbent candidates by a 10-1 margin. "It just shows you that money can sell anything, even a smear campaign like this one," she said.
Officials say El Segundo had it largest election turnout in more than 10 years, with a 43% of the voter going to the polls.
West, 57, president of the El Segundo Unified School Board, led the voting with 28.3%. Anderson, a 62-year-old retired Chevron maintenance superintendent was second with 28%.
Armstrong, 63, who along with Synadinos and Carl Jacobson formed the controlled-growth council majority, had 21.2%. Synadinos, 46, the first woman ever elected to the council, received 21%. A fifth candidate, Robert H. Stull, received 96 votes, or 1.2% .
The school board has yet to decide on a special election to replace West.
Incumbent City Council members Jack Wood and George Barks were swept from office Tuesday in an election that all three victors described as a cry for greater integrity in local government.
Etta Simpson, Jim Rosenberger and June Williams, all challengers, defeated the two incumbents for three seats on the council. Incumbent Gary Brutsch did not seek reelection.
The new council members are a diverse group, with both Simpson and Rosenberger having run aggressive campaigns in their second bids for a council seat, while Williams, clearly the underdog, ran a modest effort that involved virtually no door-to-door campaigning.
"I intended to knock on doors a lot, but every time I was in the mood, it was raining," Williams said after the election. "When it was nice out, I went and played golf. I really did not campaign."
All three winners, however, had in common what turned out to be the most important asset in the election: no experience on the council.
Simpson, a longtime community activist who ran for council twice before, said the results show that "the people didn't like some of the public carrying-on" by the incumbents.