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Pomona Races Off on Heated Note

January 11, 1987|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

POMONA — An acrimonious battle for mayor between three sharply contrasting candidates and a rematch of a City Council race that helped spark a minority voting-rights lawsuit against the city highlight upcoming municipal elections.

Another race for a council seat, being vacated by Councilman Vernon M. Weigand, has attracted four candidates, rounding out a March 3 election that many civic leaders describe as a crossroads for this fiscally troubled city.

In the mayor's race, Councilwoman Donna Smith and former Councilman Clarence L. (Clay) Bryant are challenging incumbent G. Stanton Selby, setting the scene for a confrontation between three clashing visions of Pomona's future.

Selby, who at 66 is seeking a third two-year term as mayor, said that he decided to run primarily to keep Bryant out of the part-time office.

"I think he would be a strong negative factor in the progress of the city," Selby said of Bryant, whom he defeated in 1985 by 545 votes. "I want to keep him out of that seat. I owe that to the city."

Instead, voters should "keep the momentum moving in the right direction," Selby said, citing the city's aggressive redevelopment efforts and his support for a $96-million World Trade Center proposed for downtown Pomona.

"I think Pomona is on the positive side," said Selby, founder and director of the Pomona Concert Band. "The basis of my support is from those people who are really interested in seeing continued progress within the city."

Bryant, 66, who has served two four-year terms on the council and twice has been an unsuccessful candidate for mayor, is a longtime critic of Selby and what he calls the mismanagement characterizing the current city administration.

"These people have destroyed the pride people once had in this city," said Bryant, a retired engineer and consultant on government contracts. "If they get elected again, it's going to be too late."

A vehement opponent of the planned World Trade Center, Bryant last month tried unsuccessfully to get police to arrest Selby and three councilmen at City Hall for holding an allegedly secret meeting with financiers of the project.

City officials denied any wrongdoing, but Bryant contended that the meeting violated the Brown Act, which prohibits legislative business from being conducted in private.

"The people are just fed up with what's really going on," Bryant said. "The word out in the community is 'Throw 'em all out.' "

'Monkey Wrench'

Smith, 32, who surprised her opponents by entering the race just hours before the filing deadline on Dec. 26, acknowledged that her candidacy "kind of throws a monkey wrench" into the contest.

"The vision I have for the city is not being met fast enough," said Smith, who, while not as critical of city government as Bryant, is a frequent dissenter in many council decisions.

During a council meeting last summer, she spoke out bitterly over an apparent misunderstanding that led her to believe a second vote would be taken on a 57% hike in the local utility tax.

Smith, who had supported the increase on the first vote but had hoped to reconsider her position by the second vote, said that the exchange left her with "no confidence" in City Administrator Ora E. Lampman.

A cautious supporter of the World Trade Center, Smith has made impassioned pleas at recent council meetings to combat drug-related crime that has plagued the city.

'I Share the Dream'

"I think I feel the pain most of the people feel, and I share their dream," said Smith, who runs an automotive electrical shop with her husband.

Besides the trade center, several other hotly debated issues divide the three candidates.

After a petition calling for an independent audit of city finances was disqualified last month because it did not contain sufficient valid signatures, Selby said the initiative was frivolous because "nothing is hidden from anybody."

Bryant said the results of the audit would have shown that "somebody should go to jail."

And Smith said that, even though the petition was invalidated, "the people (who signed it) have a concern and it better be addressed."

Utility Tax Hike

Looking back at the 57% utility tax hike, Selby said that "at the time, we had to have it." Bryant said it was just another example of how the council has "done nothing but rip off everybody in the city." Smith said that she had her initial vote of support retracted from the record because "it wasn't handled properly."

Finally, a public safety assessment district to finance an increase in police department manpower is "critical," Selby said.

Bryant said it was unnecessary because money from the redevelopment agency, which "is not paying its way in this town," should be used to help fund police. Smith said that "this should be presented to the voters."

In another closely watched race, black community leader Willie E. White is challenging Councilman Mark A. T. Nymeyer, a rematch of their 1983 contest in which Nymeyer defeated White by 71 votes.

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