MONTEREY PARK — Although he co-sponsored last year's unsuccessful initiative petition campaign to declare English the city's official language, newly elected Councilman Barry L. Hatch said he does not intend to raise the issue in the city again until the fate of a statewide initiative is decided.
Hatch said he wants to shelve the matter because it has become so divisive.
"I think the forces that got involved did more damage than good," he said, referring particularly to Frank Arcuri, who co-sponsored the city initiative with Hatch last year.
Arcuri was ruled out of order at this week's council meeting as he was about to raise the English-language issue again and then was arrested after allegedly elbowing a police captain who had been directed by the mayor to escort him out.
The altercation was the latest in a series of heated confrontations between Arcuri and the council. Arcuri ran for a seat on the council April 8, but was defeated.
Hatch said he supports a petition drive to qualify the English-language issue for the state ballot in November.
If that effort fails, Hatch said, he will ask the City Council to declare English the official language of Monterey Park. Councilwoman Pat Reichenberger said she supports Hatch's strategy. Like Hatch, Reichenberger was elected to the City Council last month and circulated English-language initiative petitions last year.
Although the city petitions were signed by more than 3,300 residents, the council refused in November to submit the issue to voters because of a legal defect in the petitions. The council's decision was challenged in court and upheld.
The only councilman who favored putting the measure on the ballot last year was Cam Briglio, who said this week that he is still willing to either vote for a resolution adopting English as the official language of the city or submit the matter to voters. Three council members, Lily Lee Chen, David Almada and Rudy Peralta, who had opposed the initiative, were defeated in April.
Hatch, Reichenberger and Briglio now constitute a majority of the five-member council and they could enact the English-language resolution at any time.
Briglio said council members are kidding themselves if they think the issue will go away. "It's here and we're going to have to deal with it," he said.
Hatch said many Monterey Park residents support the English language proposal "but nobody wants to go to war on the issue."
But Arcuri said he does not intend to let the matter die.
Arcuri intended to raise the issue at this week's council meeting, but midway through his speech he and Mayor G. Monty Manibog began arguing. Manibog asked Arcuri to lower his voice and accused him of straying from the issue the council was then considering--a moratorium on residential and commercial development.
Arcuri threatened Manibog with a recall campaign, then refused to leave the microphone. The mayor called for police Capt. Joe Santoro to escort Arcuri out. Police said Arcuri seemed to resist and threw an elbow that hit Santoro in the face. Police Chief Jon Elder and Sgt. Bill Risen quickly grabbed Arcuri and walked him out of the council chamber.
Police booked Arcuri on suspicion of disturbing a public meeting, resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. According to the district attorney's office, police are still investigating the case and will submit information today, at which time the office will decide whether to file charges.
Meanwhile, Arcuri filed a complaint with Monterey Park police Wednesday morning accusing Manibog of threatening him during a break in a City Council meeting in October. Manibog has denied threatening Arcuri, but Arcuri said the mayor grabbed him by his lapels and said: "If you say one more word tonight, I'm going to hit you in the face."
Nearly three hours after his arrest Monday night, Arcuri was released on $1,000 bond and tried to return to the council meeting to complete his speech, but was barred by police. His wife, Nancy, delivered the speech instead, asking the council to put the English-language issue on the ballot.
Arcuri, who got nearly 2,000 votes when he ran for City Council last month but finished last in the field of seven candidates, was called to the district attorney's office recently to resolve a dispute with Reichenberger and two other people who have been involved in city politics, Betty Couch and Frank Cuda.
Complaint Began Dispute
Deputy Dist. Atty. Bill Holliman said the dispute began with a complaint from Cuda about allegedly abusive telephone calls from Arcuri. Holliman said a police investigation led to similar complaints from Couch and Reichenberger, but that Arcuri argued that he was the one who was verbally abused. Holliman said Arcuri and the others agreed not to speak to each other for 90 days in order to provide a "cooling off period."