SANTA FE SPRINGS — The hundreds of businesses in predominantly industrial Santa Fe Springs generate about $9 million in sales taxes for the city, but they also bring problems caused by toxic wastes and hazardous chemicals. How to spend that tax money and deal with the industrial dangers are the issues being debated by three incumbents and three challengers seeking three City Council seats in the April 12 election.
Santa Fe Springs is still struggling to shed its image as a fading oil boom town by seeking the kinds of development avoided by many cities--heavy industry, sprawling office complexes and industrial parks.
Incumbent City Council members Lorenzo (Larry) Sandoval, Albert L. Sharp and Betty Wilson defend their decisions to recruit industrial development, noting that 70% to 75% of the city's sales tax revenue comes from non-retail industry.
The incumbents say the city has used abundant tax money from industry to pay for day-care services for the city's 15,000 residents, as well as the restorations of the $2-million historic Clarke Estate and $6-million Heritage Park.
In addition, the city has spent more than $2 million to clean up abandoned oil wells, and last year officials sharply increased fees for current oil well operators in an attempt to get them to foot a greater portion of the bill.
However, challengers Luis Franco, George Minnehan and Angel Gabriel Obregon are questioning the council's spending priorities, as well as the way city officials are dealing with the wastes left behind by the oil industry.
The six candidates are seeking four-year council positions that pay about $6,400 annually, including money for Redevelopment Agency and Housing Authority meetings.
'Lavish Spending' Assailed
Franco, 69, was for 10 years a member of
the city Community Development Committee that advised the City Council on how to spend federal money. Franco, now retired and studying theater and political science at Rio Hondo College, is a World War II veteran who ran unsuccessfully for the City Council eight years ago.
Franco criticized the incumbents for "lavish spending" to buy and restore the Clarke Estate, a home designed by noted architect Irving Gill on six acres near the City Hall complex on Telegraph Road. Franco said the city should instead spend on projects such as a community hospital. He has reported spending less than $1,000 on his campaign.
Minnehan, 50, a truck driver making his first bid for elective office, is a former commissioner of the Santa Fe Springs Baseball Assn. and has been active in other youth athletic organizations. He wants to expand the city's day-care program and start new programs for young people and senior citizens.
Minnehan has reported $2,210 in campaign contributions ($1,500 from himself), expenses of $1,187 and debts of $1,500.
Local Tax Breaks
Obregon, 37, is a law school graduate who works for Los Angeles City Atty. James Hahn.
Obregon has proposed a city ordinance that would give preferential treatment to Santa Fe Springs residents who want to work for the city. The ordinance also would give a tax break to businesses that hire local residents.
He also wants to increase police protection by paying the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to add more deputies at the Norwalk sheriff's station, and he wants the city to develop a plan to make sure municipal water remains free of chemical contamination.
Obregon's first run for public office was in November, an unsuccessful bid for the Rio Hondo College governing board. In his bid for a council seat, Obregon has reported spending $1,000, which he donated to his own campaign.
Toxic Waste Stressed
Incumbent Sandoval, 71, a retired teacher and administrator in Pico Rivera's El Rancho Unified School District, was appointed to the City Council in 1985 and is seeking his first full term. Before serving on the council, Sandoval, now the mayor, was on the Santa Fe Springs Planning Commission for eight years.
Sandoval said working with state and federal authorities to speed cleanup of toxic waste is the most important issue in Santa Fe Springs. He reported contributions of $8,131, $1,984 in expenses and $500 in outstanding debt.
Sharp, 55, has been a City Council member six years. He is vice president for sales for Jensen Industries of Los Angeles, and was a member of the Little Lake School District board for eight years.
Auto Mall Endorsed
Sharp said the city's toxic waste sites need to be cleaned up as soon as possible, but emphasized that the problem should be managed by state and federal authorities because the city lacks the money to do it. He also supports developing an auto mall to boost the city's sales tax base. Sharp said there is no dominant issue in the Santa Fe Springs race. He said he wants mostly to maintain quality in fire and police protection, streets and utilities.
Sharp, who was appointed to the City Council in 1982 and is seeking a second term, reported $8,118 in contributions and $2,803 in expenses.
The incumbent with the longest tenure is Wilson, who at 63, has been on the City Council since incorporation in 1957 and was the city's first mayor.
She said her priorities are establishing an auto mall to boost the city's sales tax base, building an enclosed shopping center at the mostly vacant Whittier Downs Mall site and completing restoration of the Clarke Estate. Wilson, however, opposed the restoration of 1880s buildings at Heritage Park, saying that that project was too expensive.
Wilson reported $6,668 in contributions and $3,097 in expenses.