POMONA — For a city that over the past two years has experienced fiscal problems, criticism of the city administrator by members of the City Council and more recently allegations of racism against its police officers, Tuesday's City Council race is relatively placid.
Personal attacks and major philosophical differences have been largely absent in the campaign to fill the council seat vacated in April when Donna Smith was elected mayor. The four candidates have made no stinging indictments of city management, but are instead running on a pledge to assist the city through what they see as a period of progress and cooperation.
Candidates C. L. (Clay) Bryant, Alfred D. (Al) Niess, Dale E. Siler and Terry Stemple all agree that bolstering the police force is one of the city's top priorities. The Police Department is 14 officers short of the national average for cities the size of Pomona.
The main issues dividing the candidates are a proposal to replace the city's utility tax with a payroll tax, the question of whether the city should establish a police commission and a ballot measure to triple the salaries of council members.
Bryant and Niess favor levying a 1% payroll tax on all employees working in the city as a more equitable alternative to the 11% utility tax now charged to all Pomona residents. Siler and Stemple oppose the idea, saying the tax would discourage businesses from locating in the city.
Although the council unanimously endorsed Proposition T, a measure on Tuesday's ballot that would increase council members' monthly salaries from $200 to $600 and the mayor's salary from $400 to $1,200, candidates are split on the issue.
Stemple enthusiastically supports the measure, arguing that council members are inadequately paid for the work they perform. Bryant is strongly opposed to it, saying money should not be an incentive for public service.
Siler said the city cannot afford the additional cost of $28,800 a year. Niess said he sees nothing wrong with the pay raise and considers objections to it based on fiscal concerns to be "so much pap."
The candidates are not as well defined in their positions on the creation of a police commission to investigate complaints against officers, as called for by Harold Webb, president of the Pomona Valley chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.
Bryant, who sparked an FBI investigation of the Police Department in 1984 with allegations of brutality against blacks, strongly favors a police commission. He said the Police Department's present policy of investigating complaints internally lacks credibility.
"You can't have someone investigating themselves," Bryant said. "That doesn't work."
Niess said the police commission proposal was a "just a lot of noise" by the NAACP. He added that racism is not a major problem on the police force.
"We have a lot of black officers, and none of them have ever shown any prejudice to me, and I'm white," Niess said.
Both Siler and Stemple said they support the idea of a police commission but need a more specific proposal before they can take a stand.
The relative tranquility of the race is most evident in the mild-mannered campaign of Bryant, 67, an engineer who gained a reputation for combativeness in his two terms as a councilman and four losing mayoral campaigns.
'Crux of All Problems'
Bryant said he has had no objections to city government since City Administrator Ora Lampman, whom Bryant accused of manipulating the council and withholding information from council members, announced his retirement. Lampman leaves his post Saturday.
"He was the crux of all the problems," Bryant said. "I expect that this council is going to work as a unified group."
Bryant said the issue that most concerns older Pomona residents and those on fixed incomes is the utility tax, while younger families are more concerned about the city's drug problem.
To fight the drug problem, Bryant said he favors having officers patrol "sensitive areas" on foot and would call for strict enforcement of the city's 10 p.m. curfew for people under 18.
Niess, 59, a retired real estate dealer and unsuccessful school board candidate, said the most important task facing the council is to generate revenue through development, especially the proposed World Trade Center.
Niess said such development would enable the city to hire needed police officers and raise its contingency fund to a comfortable level.
Along with supporting business growth, Niess favors imposing rent control, particularly in mobile home parks. Niess said the program would be modeled after rent control in the City of San Jose.
"I used to own property, and now I'm a renter, so I would make it fair for both sides," Niess said.