In the final days of a placid election campaign in Hawthorne, the issue of how to pay for the city's second paramedic unit has prompted acrimonious debate.
The focus of the controversy is Proposition H, a special property tax measure on the Nov. 3 ballot. If approved by a two-thirds majority of voters, the tax would raise more than $300,000 annually to provide another paramedic unit in the Fire Department. The tax would cost single-family households $16 a year for seven years.
Three City Council seats--the mayor's and two council members'--also will be decided in Tuesday's election. Mayor Betty J. Ainsworth is running against neighborhood activist Kathleen Corsiglia for mayor, and council members Steven Andersen and Ginny McGinnis Lambert are being challenged by job counselor Eleanore I. Carlson and write-in candidate Mike Martin.
The campaign was rather tame until Monday's City Council meeting, when the other four council members accused Lambert of undermining voter support for the ballot issue. She was criticized for saying in an interview published in The Times that even if the tax is defeated by voters "I can guarantee that we will get a second paramedic unit."
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday November 1, 1987 Home Edition South Bay Part 9 Page 2 Column 4 Zones Desk 2 inches; 64 words Type of Material: Correction
Hawthorne mayoral candidate Kathleen Corsiglia has not disputed the need for the city's second paramedic unit, which is the subject of a special property tax measure, Proposition H, on Tuesday's ballot. She does challenge the need for the tax, and has pressed for a county study to determine whether the rescue unit could be financed from existing Fire Department funds or by contract with the county. A story in Thursday's South Bay section said otherwise.
Ainsworth said Lambert's comments were "irresponsible."
"How do you propose to pay for (the paramedic unit) without additional taxes?" Ainsworth asked Lambert.
Lambert replied that the $300,000 needed annually for the paramedic unit is "peanuts" compared to the city's total annual budget of $30 million and could easily be financed without an additional tax. For example, she suggested the city could cut back on tree-trimming or replacement of city vehicles.
Her views were angrily challenged by the other four members of the council, who have endorsed Proposition H. (Challengers Carlson and Martin also support the ballot measure.) Lambert has not taken a stand on the proposition.
Councilman Charles Bookhammer said that Lambert, in claiming that the city could afford a paramedic unit without imposing the new tax, "made a promise to the people that I don't think (she) can uphold."
He and the other council members said they had made a painstaking analysis of the city's budget and found that a property tax is the most feasible way of funding a paramedic unit.
Bookhammer and Councilman David M. York have snubbed Lambert in her reelection campaign and instead have endorsed Andersen and Martin. The Hawthorne Firemen's Assn. has endorsed Ainsworth, Martin and Carlson.
The debate over the proposition arose because Lambert put an item on the paramedic unit on the council agenda Monday. The other council members questioned the propriety of the item because the city's voters have not yet had their say.
Lambert's agenda item appeared to call for immediate council action, although later, under fire from other council members, she said she merely intended to put the paramedic program on the council agenda for action in two weeks, after the election.
The item did not mention future action but called for "discussion and instructions to staff to request bids for the second paramedic van and (to) commence with employment procedures for the additional firefighters/paramedic necessary to implement its operation."
Bookhammer accused Lambert of "grandstanding" by putting the item on the agenda Monday in an apparent effort to take credit for initiating action on the paramedic unit.
Lambert responded that she was just trying "to get the ball rolling" and to minimize procedural delays in getting another paramedic unit into action.
Proposition H supporters note that Hawthorne's present paramedic unit is the busiest in the South Bay, responding to 3,857 emergency calls last year.
Mayoral candidate Corsiglia, who wrote the ballot argument against Proposition H, on Monday asked the council to conduct a survey to determine whether there is a need for a second rescue unit.
Proposition H supporters have said in their campaign literature that "we don't need a costly outside service to tell us we need a second paramedic unit--the numbers speak for themselves."
In another preelection matter, a mobile home tenant appeared before the council to protest $120-a-month rent increases in a Hawthorne mobile home park once owned by Councilman Andersen.
Richard Carlson, a resident of the Caravan Trailer Lodge, said that Andersen no longer owns the park, but Andersen's former business partner, Jim Sloey, has increased monthly rents to as much as $300 from the previous rent of $180.
Andersen replied that for Carlson to lodge his complaint eight days before the election was "an obvious ploy" to discredit him in his bid for reelection. He said that he sold his interest in the trailer park last year after discovering it was located in a city redevelopment area. He said at the time he had made "an honest mistake" in acquiring the property. State law prohibits council members from owning property in city redevelopment areas.
On Monday, Andersen said he has no control over what the current owner of the trailer park does, but he pledged to "do whatever I can to rectify the situation."
The council directed Carlson to appeal the matter to the city's rent mediation program.