BALDWIN PARK — After being recalled in March and reelected in July, Mayor Leo W. King and Councilman Jack D. White now face yet another petition drive attempting to run them out of City Hall.
C. Les Perance, owner of Baldwin Properties Ltd., has announced that he will collect signatures for three separate initiatives that would limit council members to one term in office, prohibit council members who had been recalled from ever again running for office and split the city into four council districts.
In an election last March dominated by public rancor over a controversial utility tax and the city's redevelopment programs, 52% of Baldwin Park voters chose to recall White--then mayor--and 51% voted to oust King from his council seat.
In July, King ran for mayor and won with 47% of the votes cast, while White received 48% of the vote for the council vacancy created by King's recall. Because each is serving out the other's term, they must run again next April to retain their seats.
The exact language of the proposed initiatives has not been determined, Perance said, but he promised, "It will be written so that these people who have been recalled will not be eligible for office."
In notices published in local newspapers last week, Perance stated that the purpose of the three initiatives was to prevent "misfeasance"--a act done in a lawful manner that unlawfully infringes on the rights of others--by public officials.
King and White said Perance's campaign is an act of political vengeance by a frustrated developer whose plans to build an apartment complex were thwarted by a city moratorium on high-density development.
On the same day that Perance's notices of intent were published, the City Council extended until July 31 a moratorium on construction of apartments and condominiums to give the city time to revise its General Plan.
The moratorium, originally enacted as an urgency ordinance on Aug. 5, has stalled 36 projects, including a proposal by Perance's firm to build an 85-unit apartment complex on Pacific Avenue.
White said the moratorium and Perance's initiative campaign were "absolutely, directly linked."
Speculating on Perance's motives, King said, "When you've got 80-plus units waiting to be developed, you've got to do something."
However, Perance said there was no significant connection between the development and the petition campaign.
"That's incidental," Perance said of the moratorium. "The property we have we can develop at any time. The property's still going to be there. . . . The only reason I even became part of (the initiative campaign) was that I was contacted."
Perance said he had tried to vent his dissatisfaction with the city's leadership in 1982, when he ran unsuccessfully for the City Council. The initiative campaign, he said, grew out of a meeting he had recently with 125 disgruntled residents, many of whom felt cheated when King and White were reelected less than three months after being recalled.
"The people who originally signed the recall petitions, they got really upset," Perance said. "You take the time to circulate the petitions and go down and vote and then these guys switch jobs and get back in office."
During the recall campaign in March, Perance's firm donated $100 to an anti-recall group, the Baldwin Park Residents Committee, according to city campaign contribution records. King said that Perance also offered him a campaign contribution last summer.
"He wanted to give me money to help me get elected and I wouldn't take it," King said. "I do things for the good of the people, not for any special-interest developer."
Perance said his attempt to restructure city government was not an act of retribution against King and White for their part in approving the moratorium in July, but instead reflected a groundswell of discontent in the city.
"I don't think anybody's got any kind of a grudge against them," he said. "I think some people in the community are just waking up to what's going on."
However, King said he believes the public shares his view toward the initiative campaign.
"I don't think the people will think much of it," he said. "I think the people have spoken. They wanted a moratorium on this high-density development. Mr. Perance is a developer who has 80-plus units he was not able to build."
Under campaign regulations, Perance may not begin circulating petitions until Oct. 7. To qualify the initiatives for the municipal election next April 12, Perance must submit the valid signatures of 10% of the city's registered voters no later than the first week of December, said City Clerk Linda Gair.
Baldwin Park has 15,363 registered voters, but the 10% requirement applies to the number of voters registered in the city at the time the petitions are submitted, Gair said. If Perance misses that deadline, he could force a special election later in the year by submitting the signatures of 15% of the city's electorate, she said.