LAKEWOOD — The three incumbents running in the April 12 City Council race agree that the city needs to step up its redevelopment efforts to attract new businesses and keep its revenue-producing auto dealerships from moving to other cities.
Councilmen Marc Titel, Robert Wagner and Wayne Piercy, who will face two challengers, say that unless the city offers its five dealerships incentives--such as low-interest improvement loans--the city could lose them to auto malls in Cerritos, Downey or other surrounding cities.
But the two challengers are focusing on different issues.
Norman McComb, 45, said the city needs to shift its attention away from commercial development and toward improving residential areas.
"This is a nice residential community that is being over-commercialized," said McComb, a maintenance worker at General Motors in Montebello. There are "too many malls, too many fast-food places. The commercial areas are getting much more attention than the residential areas."
Candidate Jack Guarino, 53, a construction subcontractor, said that city officials need to concentrate on "becoming more responsive to the people" and criticized City Council members for "being out of touch with the community."
Three years ago, an auto dealership moved to the nearby Cerritos Auto Square and now another is moving to Cerritos. City officials said they are worried that other dealerships will follow. Auto sales make up 12% of the city's sales tax revenue.
"We are losing our auto dealerships to redevelopment agencies in neighboring cities like Cerritos and there is potential for more losses to Signal Hill or Long Beach," said Wagner, 49, an aerospace engineer. "We are looking at what alternatives we have . . . perhaps expanding our redevelopment areas."
Wagner, who is seeking his third council term, said he is centering his campaign platform on his past accomplishments as councilman.
He cited the city's victory last year over General Telephone, when the company tried to institute a boundary change that would have cost some Lakewood residents a toll charge or ZUM (Zone Usage Measurement) charge to call within the city. After months of discussion between GTE officials and the City Council, GTE agreed to amend the plan.
Wagner said he was also instrumental in the development of the Lakewood Marketplace--a 26-acre retail center on South Street and Woodruff Avenue that opened in December. The development is the second largest commercial center next to the Lakewood Center Mall.
Piercy, 56, who was elected a year ago to fill the unexpired term of Councilman Paul Zeltner, who was elected to the Assembly, said he is also focusing his campaign on past achievements. Piercy also served on the council between 1972 and 1976.
"I have been a member of a winning team," said the principal of Poly High School in Long Beach. "The ZUM issue, the Marketplace, these are all successes that are due to cooperation among the council members. That speaks for itself."
Among the projects that Piercy said he would like to work on if reelected is the development of a picnic area near the equestrian trails that run along the San Gabriel River.
"This is our last recreational area," said the former parks and recreation commissioner, referring to the Lakewood Equestrian Center. "I have a vision of a green belt running along the channel. I would like to see trees, grass, playground and maybe some barbecue facilities."
Titel, 38, who is seeking his second term, said city officials must address the lack of affordable housing for senior citizens.
There is one 80-unit senior housing complex and there are preliminary plans to build a 200-unit apartment complex, city officials said. But Titel said more housing is needed.
"A large part of the population of Lakewood is aging and many of them want to stay here but may not want to live in a single-family home," said Titel, a financial planning manager for the Automobile Club of Southern California.
McComb said he considers himself "a spokesman for the residents with lots of grass-roots support" that he hopes will attract voters who are "tired of the career politician in City Hall."
Although McComb stressed the need to upgrade residential areas, he said he had no specific improvement plans.
Guarino, who ran unsuccessfully for the council in 1984, said the city needs to improve its Community Conservation program, which inspects homes and businesses for building and safety code violations. He has accused its staff members of "giving falsified information to council members." Guarino has been battling City Hall for about 15 years over building and safety code issues.
There are no candidates' forums planned and campaigning has been quiet with only a few candidates putting up signs and mailing out flyers.
Titel leads the way in campaign contributions with $1,604, according to financial disclosure forms filed with the city clerk. He has spent $548.
Wagner has raised $788 in contributions and has spent $758.
Piercy has carried over $12,946 from his 1987 campaign, records show. He has spent just $300 and raised no money for his current campaign.
Guarino and McComb have not raised or spent any money so far, records show. McComb said he has spread word about his campaign by cruising the streets in his pickup truck and urging residents to vote for him through a public-address system.
Council members are elected to four-year terms and receive a $600 monthly stipend.
Residents will also be voting on a ballot measure that ratifies the existing 8% bed tax at motels and hotels. In July, 1986, the council voted to increase the tax from 6.5%. According to state law, the tax must be ratified by voters.