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Incumbents Shun Race in Beverly Hills

February 07, 1988|JULIO MORAN | Times Staff Writer

Beverly Hills Councilman Benjamin H. Stansbury Jr. has decided not to seek reelection, leaving no incumbents running in the April 12 election.

Councilwomen Charlotte Spadaro and Donna Ellman had previously announced that they would not run again, as had four-term City Treasurer Ramon I. Gerson.

With no incumbents in the race, several politicians and observers said that they now expect a scramble of candidates filing before the deadline at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

A city spokesman said this is believed to be the first time in city history that with three council seats on the ballot, all three incumbents have declined to run.

He said it is also the first time in recent history that Beverly Hills will have a City Council made up entirely of freshmen. (The two men who hold the seats not up for election this year--Robert K. Tanenbaum and Maxwell H. Salter--are both in the middle of their first four-year terms.)

Beverly Hills has seen a trend toward newcomers on the City Council in recent years. In the last two city elections, four new members have been elected to the five-member body. In 1984, of the three incumbents, only Stansbury chose to run for reelection. Spadaro and Ellman were elected along with Stansbury.

In 1986, only one incumbent, Annabelle Heiferman, chose to run for reelection and she was defeated. Tanenbaum and Salter were elected that year.

Although there were rumors that Stansbury might not run again, it was still a surprise to many.

"I think it's a great loss to the city," Ellman said.

'Paid a Price'

Stansbury could not be reached for comment. However, in a written statement delivered to the city clerk last week, Stansbury said it had never been his intention to seek a third term.

The statement also said his family had "paid a price" during his eight years in public office and that they "urged me to move on."

Some political observers said Stansbury, who serves as mayor, would have faced a tough reelection campaign. He has been waging a verbal battle against Tanenbaum, a feisty former New York City prosecutor and skilled orator.

In Beverly Hills, the mayor's position is rotated each year among the five council members. Tanenbaum is scheduled to take the post next.

The freshman City Council will come at a time when the city is deciding what to do with Greystone Mansion, is embarking on a public/private partnership to deal with city assets and is looking for new sources of revenues as new expenditures continue to grow.

Little Concern

But there seems to be little concern.

"I, for one, am pleased with the idea," said Salter. "I would like to see continual turnover and changes in all forms of government. Too many elected officials are embedded and locked into their jobs."

Salter said the makeup of the council is not that important. "We have an excellent staff and an excellent city manager," he said "If you took five kids from the high school, the city would still function fine."

Vicki Reynolds, a City Council candidate and former president of the Beverly Hills Unified School District Board of Education, said candidates with experience in other areas of public service should be able to adapt quickly to the council.

"Many of the issues are the same as when I was on the school board," Reynolds said.

Pleased With Clean Slate

At least one community group is pleased that the three incumbents have decided not to seek reelection.

In its January newsletter, Concern for Tenants Rights of Beverly Hills reported that it was not happy with any of them.

"Evidenced by their past performances in respect to Concern for Tenants Rights, nothing has been done to maintain or enhance the quality of life for residential tenants of Beverly Hills," the group said in the newsletter.

"We must change what we can," the newsletter continued. "Whatever gains we have achieved as residential tenants in our community, we've got a chance now to improve the quality of life for all residential tenants."

Herm Shultz, the group's president, said in an interview that the organization will endorse candidates after a candidates forum on Feb. 27. Shultz said the group probably would have not endorsed Stansbury.

So far, 11 potential candidates have taken out nominating papers to run for City Council but by Thursday night, only three had filed. They were Reynolds; Bernard (Bernie) Hecht, a retired business executive who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 1972 and 1974; and Steven Mark Foonberg, an 18-year-old USC student and a camera operator for the city's government channel.

Among those who have taken out papers but had not yet filed were Gloria Seiff, president of the League of Women Voters; former Mayor Edward I. Brown, who served on the City Council from 1982 to 1986; and Allan L. Alexander, an attorney and member of the Planning Commission.

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