ALHAMBRA — Doug Peake, a political unknown until he entered the race for City Council on a pledge to stop condominium construction, has made himself and his no-growth crusade the dominant issue in the Nov. 4 election.
Rival candidate Barbara Messina said Peake's proposed initiative, which would ban construction of condominiums and apartments in all residential areas, is "strictly a publicity ploy" but one that has succeeded in shaping the council campaign.
"He's pulling a con job, making the people believe that he is the savior of the community," Messina said.
Actually, she said, Peake, a teacher who has lived in Alhambra five years, is a relative newcomer, has no record of civic activity and is appealing to those who resent the city's influx of Asians.
"It's a racial issue," Messina said. "People circulating the initiative are biased against Asians."
Asians have built and occupied many of the new condos and apartments and their percentage of the the city's population has jumped from 12% to 25% since 1980, but Peake said there is no racial motive behind the initiative campaign.
"I don't see it as racist," Peake said. "Overpopulation has nothing to do with ethnicity."
Changing the Issue
Councilman Michael Blanco, who is backing Peake while running for reelection himself in another council district, said Messina is wrong to suggest racism.
"She's just bringing it up to change the issue," he said.
The initiative that Peake sponsored is not on the Nov. 4 ballot and will not reach voters until the city clerk verifies that 5,798 registered voters have signed petitions. Peake and his group, Residents Opposing Condos, filed petitions with the clerk on Tuesday.
The proposal would rezone all residential areas of the city for single-family homes exclusively, relegating any new condos or apartment buildings to commercial or industrial areas.
Peake said some multiple-family housing might be built in commercial areas but he doubts that it would be economically feasible to build on industrial land.
Messina and Peake are competing for the 2nd District City Council seat along with James T. Richetts, a sales executive, who says his own views toward residential development are more moderate than those of his opponents.
Middle of the Road
Richetts said that Messina wants "growth at any expense," while Peake is relying on "fear tactics" to promote a no-growth policy that would "bring the city to a standstill."
His own position, Richetts said, is to demand quality development through tougher enforcement of present zoning laws and by raising building standards where necessary. He called Peake's proposed initiative "atrocious."
Alhambra voters will elect three council members on Tuesday. The second district seat is currently held by Messina's husband, Michael, who decided against seeking reelection.
Council members Mary Louise Bunker in the 1st District and Blanco in the 5th District are campaigning for their second four-year terms.
Bunker is opposed by Ralph Gilliam, a member of the Planning Commission, and Stephen T. Hearn, a member of the Civil Service Commission. Blanco has three opponents: Sonia E. McIntosh, an administrative assistant in education; Joe Harrison, a businessman, and David S. Smith, who is retired.
Although candidates are nominated by district, they are elected citywide.
The city ballot includes four Charter amendments and a proposition to repeal the city utility tax.
One Charter amendment would allow urgency ordinances to take effect immediately, eliminating a five-day waiting period. Another would permit Alhambra to pool resources with other cities to obtain liability insurance. The other amendments would repeal antiquated language in the Charter and shorten Civil Service Commission terms from four years to one.
City Proposition A would repeal a 5% tax on bills for telephone, electricity, gas, water and cable television service enacted in 1983.
City Manager Kevin Murphy said the repeal would deprive the city of $2.7 million a year, or 15% of its general-fund revenue.
In a report to the City Council last August, Murphy said that if the tax is repealed, he will recommend that the city close City Hall at 1 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, close a branch library and reduce hours at the main library, shut down a fire station and eliminate nine positions in the Police Department, disbanding the narcotics enforcement team and ending the school crossing guard program.
Murphy's recommendations were based on an 8.8% cut in police and fire budgets and 17.2% cut in other departments. In all, 55 of the city's 356 employees could lose their jobs.
Dismisses Dire Predictions
Mark Lockman, president of All We Can Afford, the group that circulated petitions to put the utility-tax repeal on the ballot, compared Murphy's warning to statements made by officials in many cities in 1978 when Proposition 13 cut tax revenue. Many of the predictions that vital services would be lost never materialized, he said.