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Oak Park Panel Calls Voting Divisions Unfair

October 30, 1987|SAM ENRIQUEZ | Times Staff Writer

Voters who will elect two members of the Oak Park Municipal Advisory Council on Nov. 3 are so few that they will have to mail their ballots because there aren't enough of them to warrant a polling place.

But that has not kept controversy from arising among leaders of the eastern Ventura County community north of Agoura Hills. The council voted Tuesday to ask for a grand jury investigation into the fairness of the election.

The five-member council, which is empowered only to advise the Ventura County Board of Supervisors on land use and developments in the area, disagrees with a decision by the board last June to divide the community into two districts.

Supervisor Madge Schaefer, who represents Oak Park, said she recommended dividing the community to ensure that new residents would be represented on the board. The dividing line roughly splits the community between established neighborhoods and areas of projected growth.

Council members object because the districts have a huge difference in population.

The growth area, Zone 2, has just 104 registered voters and will elect two council members Tuesday, said council member Steven Iceland. The other three seats are held by Zone 1 residents, but in future elections one of the council seats will become an at-large position.

Iceland criticized the equity of representation when "3.5% of the voters will elect 40% of the council. The question is, should 104 or 2,900 people be voting for the two seats?"

Schaefer said she believes the division to be fair because housing projects to be completed over the next two years will increase the population of the now sparsely populated Zone 2 to about equal that of Zone 1.

The County Charter that created the Oak Park advisory council can only be amended every four years, which is why the changes were made in June, Schaefer said.

Although critics of the election say they don't believe the board did anything illegal, the Oak Park council majority has asked that the supervisors seek a grand jury investigation. "We just want a disinterested third party to take a look," Iceland said.

Schaefer said Thursday that she has not decided whether to honor the council's request. The county grand jury has sole discretion over which complaints to investigate and conducts its deliberations in secret, she said.

Running for the two seats are Andrea Byloff, 40, who works part time for an interior designer; Sharon L. Catcott, 29, co-owner of an air freight company; Thomas Pichotta, 35, a lawyer, and Pitt Gilmore, 39, a Los Angeles County fire captain.

The candidate winning the most votes will serve a four-year term and the one receiving the second-most votes will serve two years. The positions are unpaid.

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