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Builders' Cash Goes to Kill Cerritos Initiative

October 19, 1986|STEVEN R. CHURM | Times Staff Writer

CERRITOS — Opponents of a Nov. 4 ballot measure that would prevent council members from serving more than two consecutive terms have received $3,000 contributions from two of the most active developers in the city.

The contributions were made to the Committee Against Proposition H, which is headed by Mayor Don Knabe and three other council members who oppose the two-term limit.

The only council member in favor of the proposed City Charter amendment is Ann B. Joynt.

Total of $10,400 Raised

As of Sept. 30, the committee had raised $10,400, including $3,000 each from Jovet Inc., a Beverly Hills firm, and Krausz Enterprises, a Northern California company, according to the latest campaign contribution statements filed with the city clerk's office.

The committee also received $1,000 from College Hospital-Psychiatric Center in Cerritos, and $3,400 in loans from Knabe and council members Diana S. Needham, Barry A. Rabbitt and Daniel K. Wong.

Jovet and Krausz built or own all of the restaurants and commercial buildings in Best Plaza and Cerritos Triangle across from Los Cerritos Center on 183rd Street between Gridley Road and the San Gabriel River Freeway.

The Krausz company also is completing a nine-story office tower on Studebaker Road, and two months ago the council amended the city's General Plan to allow Jovet to erect a six-story office complex on the northeast corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Artesia Boulevard.

Accepting political contributions from the two companies is not illegal.

But Cris Fuentes, a sponsor of Proposition H, said that the contributions are examples of the "political dealing and cronyism" which sparked the two-term movement in the city.

If the proposition is approved by voters, council members would not be allowed to serve more than two consecutive four-year terms. But they would be eligible to run again after two years.

"It is morally wrong for a council member to take money from someone who is directly affected by their vote," said Fuentes, who is also an organizer of Active Citizens Together.

"Those contributions," he said, "are exactly the type of thing we are attempting to stop by limiting how long one person can remain in power in this city."

Knabe and the other three council members said the contributions represent no conflict of interest, and are necessary to help defeat the two-term limit.

"Campaign contributions are a fact of life, the worst part of political life," Knabe said. "But we need all the help we can get to spread the word. This is a bad law that threatens the stability of this city."

Constitutes an Endorsement

Councilman Rabbitt contends that the contributions from Jovet and Krausz amount to an endorsement of the council's leadership and management of the city. He said the developers would not build and invest in Cerritos "if the city's present system wasn't working well."

Wong agreed: "They want to protect their investments by ensuring there is not a wholesale change on the council. . . . That's politics."

Joseph Dabby, owner of Jovet, said the two-term limit threatens the "positive business climate" in the city. He said the stability and experience level of council members is attractive to outside developers like himself.

Continuity Is Desirable

"As a builder, it is very important to me that the same council that approves my project is still around four or five years later when it's finished," Dabby said. "I can't afford a lot of new council members tinkering with a project midway through construction."

If the measure passes, Knabe and Wong--both in the middle of their second terms--could not run for reelection in April, 1988. Needham, who was elected to a third term in April, and Rabbitt, who was elected to a record fifth term in the same election, also would be forced to the political sidelines when their current terms end in April, 1990.

Opponents of Proposition H say that the limits on terms would lead to four new council members in two years, a situation that they say would produce instability at City Hall.

Campaign Cost Estimated

To defeat the measure, Knabe estimated that it will cost at least $25,000, with much of that expense going for several mailers and a political consultant to run the campaign. As of Sept. 30, the committee against the proposition had spent $7,000, including $3,000 to a Long Beach research company and $4,000 to a Norwalk-based political adviser, Ralph Pacheco.

The research firm, Knabe said, polled a number of Cerritos residents about the council's performance and the direction of the city, and the results are to be used in the mailers.

Among the four council members fighting the measure, Wong made the biggest loan to the effort, $2,000. Needham and Knabe made $500 loans, and Rabbitt a $400 loan.

In the same period, the Committee for Proposition H had received only one contribution, $200 from the Hubert Humphrey Democratic Club. Fuentes said the money was used to print petitions and collect signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

Not an Endorsement

Fran Evans, president of the Democratic club, said the club agreed to make the contribution to get the issue on the ballot and "allow the voters to democratically decide whether this proposition is good or bad for the City of Cerritos." She said the contribution was not an endorsement of the measure.

This is not the first time that Jovet, Krausz and College Hospital have made political contributions in Cerritos.

In the April council elections, Jovet made $1,000 contributions to Rabbitt and Needham, while Krausz gave Rabbitt $500 and Needham $475. College Hospital contributed $150 to Rabbitt and $1,200 to Needham, who was the top vote-getter among 15 candidates.

Joynt, who was elected to her first council term in April, also received money from all three sources, including $500 each from Jovet and Krausz and $100 from College Hospital.

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