To incumbent Rancho Palos Verdes City Council members Doug Hinchliffe, Melvin W. Hughes and John C. McTaggart, such things as a multimillion-dollar budget to improve streets and storm drains and the massive effort to stop or slow the Portuguese Bend landslide add up to success.
"The city is healthy and getting healthier," said Hinchliffe, adding that if the roads are not fixed, they will "simply deteriorate" and calling the slide a "cancer growing on Rancho Palos Verdes" that is being successfully slowed. "Had we done nothing, it would be far worse," he said.
But to challengers Alan J. Carlan and Kathleen A. Snell, these same things stand for extravagance and risk.
Carlan contends that there is no need for many of the street and drain repair projects and wants an end to the 5% utility users tax that helps pay for them.
Development Not Wanted
"We formed the city because we did not want development . . . did not want to raise taxes," said Carlan. "They're doing everything the opposite of why the city was formed."
Snell argues that the landslide is much wider than the city realizes and the work under way could trigger other slides for which the city would be liable.
The slide project "is experimental and the risk is too great," she said.
The three incumbents, all former Planning Commission members, were first elected to the council in 1983 and are seeking second terms. The challengers have never sought office before and concede they are underdogs.
"You need $10,000 to get an incumbent out of office," said Snell, who plans to spend less than $500. Both she and Carlan believe they have a message that will appeal to the city's 27,000 voters and it could get them elected.
No Political Base
Carlan argues that his disadvantages, which include minimal community involvement and no political base, "can be easily overcome by the facts."
Council members, elected at large for four years, are unsalaried but have the option of receiving $150 a month for council-related expenses or itemizing expenses, which could be more. The five current council members accept the $150.
The election is not shaping up as a big-money contest. Carlan and the incumbents say they will spend no more than $4,000. Mailings to voters will account for the largest chunk. Coffees, telephoning and precinct walking are the other major campaign tactics.
"There's not a lot furor," said McTaggart.
While they are running independent campaigns, the incumbents are supporting each other, and they cite many of the same points as examples of city growth and improvement during their four years in office:
The $2-million state-financed project to halt or stop the Portuguese Bend landslide, together with recent settlement of an Abalone Cove landslide lawsuit which, among other things, will result in as much as $10 million being spent to build a drainage system and perhaps buttress the slide at the shoreline. It would be financed through redevelopment bonds which would be repaid through property tax increments that increase as land is bought and sold and values goes up.
Citywide storm drain and road improvements over the next five years that will include major thoroughfares as well as residential streets.
Hiring in August, 1986, of Dennis McDuffie as city manager, which incumbents say has resulted in better service to the public and improved employee morale and efficiency.
Recent legislation--culminating years of effort by low- and no-property tax cities to get more money--which, starting in three years, will give the city a larger share of the county property tax.
The prospects that Marineland, whose abrupt closure led to emotional and bitter confrontations between lovers of the aquatic park and its new owners, will become a world-class executive conference center that could give the city, which currently has an operating budget of $9.1 million, another million dollars a year in revenue.
The two challengers are not impressed with the course the council has set.
Carlan, 57, and manager of a space program at TRW, is hitting at financial and maintenance issues, calling for repeal of the 5% utility tax, which is estimated to bring in $1.6 million this year. He claims that this year's $7.4-million capital improvement budget is excessive, saying many of the repair projects--including one on Hawthorne Boulevard near his home--are unnecessary. If such work is done, he says, it should be paid for by the city's new property tax money, not by utility users.
Carlan, a community resident for 21 years, also contends that the landslide program is unwise because it may not work and could make the city liable if other slides are triggered.
"I'm worried about the future," said Carlan. "It's hunky-dory now" in the Portuguese Bend area.