ROSEMEAD — As the March 3 special election to fill a vacant City Council seat nears, the talk of the town revolves not so much around qualifications of candidates but whether the current council is doing the right thing in threatening to sue the Alhambra school board over its decision to build a high school here.
Eight candidates are running for the seat held for two terms by Louis Tury Jr., who resigned in October after pleading guilty to paying kickbacks for defense contracts for his machine shop. The winner will serve the remainder of Tury's term, which expires in April, 1990.
The Alhambra district, which serves Alhambra, San Gabriel and parts of Rosemead and Monterey Park, has narrowed its search for sites to three in the southern part of Rosemead. More than 100 houses and duplexes would have to be demolished to put a school on any of the three sites.
The decision to locate the school in this city of 45,000 has elicited strong opposition from Rosemead residents, who argue that most of the population growth in the school district is occurring in Monterey Park and Alhambra, and that the school should be built there.
None of the candidates has come out in favor of putting the school in Rosemead, which already has one high school, and most of them favor the council's vote to sue the district if any one of the three sites is chosen.
"I will fight any effort by any other political or civic entity to come into our city and attempt to displace our families and disrupt the lives of our citizens," said Thomas D. O'Dell, a newcomer to politics who is seeking his first elective office.
"We do not need a school here and we do not want a school here."
O'Dell, 34, is a telephone data systems technician active in the PTA and Rosemead Little League. He has lived here for 20 years.
"Our citizens say the high school should be located in Monterey Park," said Jack W. Clair, 65, a retired plumbing contractor who is also new to politics and has lived in Rosemead for 40 years.
"This will allow for those using the high school to incur related expenses and since there is land available in Monterey Park, citizens would not be forced out of their homes," Clair said.
Clair is active in Veterans of Foreign Wars, Elks Club and Toastmasters International.
Robert De Cocker, a retired school administrator who has lived in Rosemead since 1958, also opposes construction of a high school in his city.
"I agree with the action of the City Council opposing sites in our city," he said.
De Cocker, 60, is a member of the Planning Commission and former member of the Traffic Commission. He is active in the Chamber of Commerce, Rosemead Sister City Committee, Rosemead Boys' and Girls' Club and Southern California Planning Congress.
De Cocker said he favors slow growth in the city and maintaining the residential character of Rosemead.
Don Detora, 67, served on the Planning Commission from 1970 to 1982 and was an unsuccessful City Council candidate in 1984. He is a retired businessman who has lived here for 35 years and has been active in the Chamber of Commerce and Rosemead Heritage Parade.
"I am satisfied with the performance of the current City Council and want to maintain the status quo," he said. "But one area that could be improved is the need to bring more business into the community."
Against Legal Action
Although he opposes the building of the school, Frank Delia, 66, a retired small businessman who has lived in Rosemead since 1968, does not think the city should have voted to take legal action against the Alhambra school district.
"I want the city to meet with the Alhambra school board and maybe the issue can be solved that way," he said. "The only city involved that has no high school is Monterey Park, and that city needs a high school."
Two of the candidates were less vocal in their opposition to the school but also expressed uncertainty about the council's threatened suit.
"This is the single biggest issue facing Rosemead today, but not enough information has been gathered to make a decision as to what action should be taken to stop this plan," said Rudolfo Ruiz, 49, a commercial printing pressroom manager who has lived here for 12 years and who is active in the PTA.
"If allowed, it would displace many families and create financial hardship to those involved," Ruiz said.
Warren Davis, 66, a retired school administrator and teacher, said he is not fully convinced that locating the school in Rosemead is wrong.
'I Want What Is Best'
"I want what is best for students in the area, and it may be that Rosemead is or is not the best location. There is a need for a new high school, but some more survey work should be done on where the high school would do the most good," Davis said.
Davis, who has lived here for 20 years, also has been active in the Industrial Lions Club and the California Public-Safety Radio Assn. He is an advisory board member for Jobs for Progress in East Los Angeles and West Covina.
Dennis McDonald, a 44-year-old fire marshal, could not be reached for comment.
The city's 14,300 registered voters will also be asked to approve an increase from 6% to 8% on the occupancy tax on motel and hotel rooms for four years. The increase was approved by the City Council last July, but under state Proposition 62, which was passed last November, the city must now obtain voter approval for any tax increase.
If voters approve Proposition A, the additional $60,000-a-year revenue would be made available to a nonprofit corporation to construct a building for the Chamber of Commerce and a Rosemead Visitors Center. There is no organized opposition to the measure.