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Alhambra Mayor Not a Candidate but Wife Is

July 10, 1986|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

ALHAMBRA — Mayor Michael Messina has opted not to seek another term on the City Council, but his wife is one of 10 candidates, including two incumbents, who have declared their intention to run in three council district races in the Nov. 4 election.

Seats in the other two districts in the city will be up for election in 1988.

The council campaign is expected to generate debate over taxes and development, candidates say, but perhaps the most unusual aspect will be Barbara Messina's effort to succeed her husband, who is completing his second term.

Michael Messina offered to resign from the council a year ago on condition that the remaining four council members appoint his wife to complete his term.

Insufficent Time

Messina explained that his job in real estate acquisition and development for a supermarket chain required travel that would prevent him from handling all the ceremonial chores of mayor, a position that is rotated among council members.

He said at the time that his wife would be an ideal successor because she shared his views, had helped him solve problems for constituents, been active in the community and could give ample time to the task.

But the offer failed on a 2-2 council vote, with Messina abstaining, amid complaints that a resigning council member should not name his successor.

Doug Peake, who is opposing Barbara Messina in the upcoming election, already has criticized the Messinas.

"There was a feeling it was being passed like a title," said Peake, a 39-year-old educator.

Messina stayed on the council, became mayor in February and said he is finding time to handle the duties, after all. He recently quit his job with the supermarket chain and is going to work next month for a company that develops shopping centers.

Ideal Successor

But Messina said he has not changed his mind about leaving the council and still regards his wife as his ideal successor.

"She'll come in more qualified than any non-incumbent in history," he said.

Council candidates are nominated by district but are elected by a citywide vote. The 10 candidates who met the deadline for filing declarations of intent to run must file nomination papers between July 18 and 28 to qualify for the ballot.

In the 1st District, which covers the northeastern part of the city, incumbent Mary Louise Bunker, a health educator, will seek a second term. Others who have filed declarations are Ralph Gilliam, 59, a city planning commissioner, and Stephen Thomas Hearn, 33, who is on disability leave from the Los Angeles Times classified advertising department.

The Messinas live in the 2nd District, which covers the southeastern part of the city. In addition to Barbara Messina, 46, and Peake, an instructor in the El Monte Union High School District, there is a third declared candidate, James T. Richetts, 51, vice president of a company that manufactures measuring tools and gauges.

Richetts said that he is not conceding any edge to Barbara Messina because of her husband's position. Her husband's experience is irrelevant, he said. "They're going to vote on her."

Barbara Messina said that her work with her husband on city matters, handling constituent problems as field representative, works her advantage. The disadvantage, she said, is that her husband probably has made some political enemies who will vote against her.

In the 5th District, which takes in the west side of the city, incumbent Michael Blanco, 37, an attorney, has three potential challengers: Joseph David Harrison, 42, a property manager; David Smith, who is retired, and Sonia E. McIntosh, who lists herself as a political activist and homemaker.

The ballot also may include an initiative to repeal the city utility tax enacted in 1983.

Mark Lockman, chairman of a 50-member group called All We Can Afford, said petitions will be filed Friday with more than 4,500 signatures from registered voters who support repeal of the 5% tax on utility bills.

City Clerk Dorothy Outwater said that the measure will qualify for the Nov. 4 ballot if petitions are filed by Monday and carry at least 3,479 valid signatures.

Lockman said that most of those running for the City Council have signed petitions and predicted that the measure will qualify for the ballot and win easily.

"Everybody wants their taxes reduced," he said.

Persistent Stopgap

The initiative campaign began, Lockman said, because the council imposed the utility tax as a stopgap measure and had promised to remove it when other revenue rose.

But, he said, although city sales tax revenue has risen sharply, the utility tax has remained in place, and the city this year added to the tax burden by increasing assessments on property owners to pay for improvements on street lighting and sidewalks.

About $2.7 million of the city's $20-million general fund budget comes from the 5% levy on bills for telephone, electricity, gas, water and cable television. Low-income families are exempt from the tax.

Incumbents Blanco and Bunker said that they support repealing the utility tax for residents but not for businesses. Business contributes 60% of the revenue produced by the tax.

Blanco said that he favors phasing out the tax for businesses over a period of time, but not before identifying other revenue sources.

Barbara Messina said that she does not intend to take a position on the utility tax, but will abide by the decision of voters. "I'm not touching that," she said.

One of her opponents, Richetts, said that he signed the petition to get the measure on the ballot but wants to see more financial figures before he takes a position.

Peake said that he favors repealing the tax and that if the city needs more revenue, it should find a better source than a "direct tax on the people."

In the 1st District, Hearn and Gilliam said they favor repeal of the utility tax. In the 5th District, Harrison said he, too, supports repeal. Smith and McIntosh could not be reached for comment.

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