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2 Council Members to Be Elected : Westlake Voters Weigh Tax, Salary Proposals

November 01, 1987|PATRICIA KLEIN | Times Staff Writer

Westlake Village voters Tuesday will consider proposals that would give the city permission to spend more than $600,000 in excess tax revenue and require voter approval before City Council salaries and expenses can be raised.

Also, three candidates--including an incumbent councilwoman who is serving as the city's mayor pro tem--are running for two council seats in a race without hotly debated issues. The two top vote-getters in the at-large election will win the positions.

What would have been the city's most controversial ballot measure--a proposal to abolish a rent-control law that applied only to residents of a 162-unit mobile home park--was dropped from the ballot after an agreement was reached with the park's owners.

The agreement, which settled a $1-million lawsuit filed against the city by the owners, sets forth a plan to allow tenants to purchase the land beneath their mobile homes.

Berniece E. Bennett, 55, is running for re-election. Also seeking office are Anthony Plaia, 53, executive vice president of Hocker, Peskay & Plaia Insurance Services in Canoga Park, and Kenneth Rufener, 67, a retired Hughes Aircraft Co. cost-analysis manager.

Councilman Retiring

Mayor John H. McDonough, 57, a councilman since the city was founded six years ago, is retiring to devote himself to his plumbing business.

The tax-override measure, Proposition X, would allow the city to use a $682,172 surplus that officials expect will be collected in fiscal years 1985-86 through 1988-89.

If voters turn down Proposition X, the money must be returned to taxpayers, which, city officials say, would cause financial difficulties. The city wants to spend the money for capital improvements and city services.

The city must hold the override election or grant a rebate because it exceeded the tax ceiling set by the Gann spending limitation, a statewide tax-reform measure. Approved by voters in 1979, the law imposes a limit on state and local taxes, and requires that excess money be returned to taxpayers within two years.

A city may keep the money, however, if voters approve increased spending limits or alternate uses for the money.

Voter OK Required

Proposition Z, the salary-limitation measure, would require that any raises for City Council members be approved by voters at a regularly scheduled election.

Westlake Village City Atty. Michael Jenkins, in an analysis of the measure, said it was unclear whether the ordinance would roll back salaries and expenses to 1983-84 levels or simply bar future increases. Council members now receive $300 a month, the maximum permitted under state law. In 1983-84, members received $150 a month.

Al J. Phillipp, a retired oil-company executive spearheading the campaign for Proposition Z, said he did not intend that the measure roll back expenses.

He said he has been trying for several years to get the measure on the ballot. The petitions qualifying it for initiative were gathered in 1982 and 1983, and 1983-84 was the soonest the measure could be made effective.

The dates in the initiative could not be changed unless Phillipp launched another signature-gathering campaign, he added.

Phillipp said he was pressing the measure because "nobody in industry ever decides how much money they're going to make, and I don't think there should be anything different for the government."

"We are not concerned with the amount of salaries paid to Council Members but with whom ( sic ) determines this figure. . . . Although, we believe that the personal expense accounts of the present Westlake Village City Council Members have not been abused, this is not to say that future members will always be as prudent as the present," the official ballot argument states.

Opponents of Proposition Z say the expenditures are needed to finance city lobbying efforts regionally and in Sacramento on issues of local concern.

Salary Cap Opposed

All three council candidates said they oppose the cap on council salaries and expenses and favor the tax-override measure.

Plaia and Rufener served on the volunteer citizens' committee that advised the City Council to put Proposition X on the ballot. Plaia, who came close to winning a City Council seat in 1985, said that, if elected, he would urge the council to appoint citizens' committees and commissions to solve local problems. Plaia said he also would urge that each of the city's 14 homeowners' associations send a representative to all council meetings.

Plaia also advocates a monthly newsletter prepared by city staff to inform citizens about local issues, and proposes that the city set up a ride-sharing program during the impending Ventura Freeway construction. Plaia cites toxic waste and transportation as pressing city problems.

Rufener, a former campaign manager for Councilwoman Bonnie Klove, touts as credentials his work for local civic and charitable organizations and as a youth baseball and basketball coach.

Rufener said he was a leader in a successful fight in 1985 to prevent industrialist Daniel K. Ludwig from putting a large commercial development where the Westlake Village Golf Course stands. Ludwig owns the land.

If elected, Rufener said, he would seek a new library, better recreational facilities for teen-agers, families and senior citizens, and would work with the Chamber of Commerce to bring in "good new businesses."

Bennett, a six-year member of the council and mayor in 1982-83, touts her accessibility to citizens and her behind-the-scenes role in saving the golf course, including a one-day trip to New York to meet with Ludwig and plead the city's case.

If re-elected, Bennett says, she would seek to increase law enforcement, improve city services without increasing taxes and "maintain the Westlake Village life style."

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