Snell, 41, and the single parent of an 8-year-old daughter, has lived in the community for 21 years--the last 14 in Portuguese Bend. She lists herself on the ballot as being in "police administration." She declined to discuss who she works for or what she does, citing security reasons. She said she is "not working during the campaign."
Spurred by Development
She said the Marineland fracas, and what she considers excessive development in the city--including the once-controversial Golden Cove condominium project--prompted her to run for office. She does advocate affordable housing for senior citizens.
"The most frightening is the council's idea that they are going to put in a minimum of 450 new homes in the ancient slide area," she said, referring to what could happen if a building moratorium on 1,100 acres surrounding the active landslides were lifted. City officials said last year that if the moratorium were lifted, no construction ever would be permitted in what is now the active slide areas.
Snell argues that the city is taking too great a liability risk in tackling the landslide and contends that property owners could wind up paying the bill for the work in Abalone Cove through property liens if expected tax increments were insufficient to finance it.
McTaggart, 57 and head of water- and air-pollution control programs for Hughes Aircraft Co., said the high point of his term came when Gov. Deukmejian signed legislation granting the $2 million for the slide program.
"I lobbied in Sacramento for three weeks," said the 25-year resident of the community, who said his involvement in civic affairs predates incorporation 14 years ago.
Hinchliffe, 48, said he is proudest of his role in hiring McDuffie who, he said, "is a good delegator, a good communicator with the staff, and has a sense of service."
A community resident for 20 years, Hinchliffe is vice president of a real estate management and development company in Brentwood.
Hughes, 47 and currently mayor, cites the landslide project and what he calls an improved financial situation. Crediting himself and McTaggart for lobbying work in Sacramento that "got the money," he said the city devised a plan to combat the slide "that has done the job." At the same time, he acknowledged that some in the area are unhappy with what the city has done.
On the financial issue, he said that while utility taxes are always politically risky, "it was the right thing to do."
Hughes has lived in Rancho Palos Verdes since 1965 and, like McTaggart, has been involved in the city "from the start."
On the key issues, it is as if the incumbents are speaking a different language than the challengers.
Some of the incumbents contend that Carlan is simply uninformed about city affairs. They say Snell's views on the landslide may stem from the fact that she lives there and, as Hughes put it, "she does not want things to change where she lives" even if "others fall into the sea." Hughes and Hinchliffe said that people who own land that is not sliding have a legitimate right to build a house on their property.
For her part, Snell, whose home is on stable land, said she owns four acres and "would become a millionaire" if they were developed. "What I am talking about is our excellent opportunity to protect the wilderness. With the ancient slide, we have a great opportunity to protect this area for everyone's use."
On the contention that the city does not know enough about the 31-year-old Portuguese Bend slide to fight it without great risk, McTaggart said: "This slide is the most studied slide in the world. It's a bunch of bull that we don't know about it."
No Liability Issue
Said Hughes: "The law is clear. There is no greater liability in trying to stop the slide than in not trying."
All of the incumbents spoke out strongly on behalf of the street and drain repair programs, Hinchliffe saying there is "ample evidence" that the road work is legitimate. The incumbents also defend the utility users tax as a needed revenue source, but one that could be repealed if enough money comes from the Marineland development and the increased property tax down the line.
The incumbents also rebut Snell's and Carlan's alarm over the possibility of residents having to foot the bill for the Abalone Cove work. Hinchliffe said normal real estate turnover in the area will generate enough tax increments to pay off the $10 million in Abalone Cove slide abatement bonds, along with an additional $5 million in bonds that could be spent on the Portuguese Bend slide under terms of the settlement.
Carlan and Snell are critical of the city's relationship with Charles Abbott & Associates, the firm that is contracted to provide engineering and public works services and oversees the slide abatement program. Both contend that the Abbott company has the potential to generate work--and fees--for itself although both say they have no evidence of any improprieties. Snell said that the public works director should work directly for the city.
Incumbents, as well as some city staff members, disagree. Hughes said contracting actually is less expensive because the city pays only for specific tasks.
City Manager McDuffie, who said Abbott has 20 to 25 employees who at various times perform city business under a $1.1-million contract, said that the city gets "better service at lower cost" than it would if it had its own public works employees. He said the work is monitored by his office and auditors go over all job contracts. "He (Abbott) doesn't have a free hand," he said.