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Lack of Incumbent Stirs Up Interest in La Puente Election

April 03, 1988|SUE AVERY | Times Staff Writer

LA PUENTE — Things don't change much in this sleepy bedroom community of 33,000 just south of West Covina.

The same people get elected year after year. In fact, the political scene is so stable that Mayor Charles Storing, who was first elected to the City Council in 1960, says that the five councilmen now in office have 98 years of service among them. The rookie, Lou Guzman, has served 10 years.

But this year, an incumbent decided not to run in the April 12 election, and seven candidates--Storing, Joe Alderete, William Campbell, Edward Castner, Manuel Garcia, Louis Perez and Robert Stotelmeyer--are vying for the two available seats. Councilman Gerald Singer is retiring.

Storing points with pride to what he called a financially healthy and stable community.

'No Indebtedness'

"We have outstanding management in this city," he said. "There is no city property tax, no indebtedness but stability and continuity."

But some candidates say the city should use part of its $16-million reserve fund to build a senior citizens center, possibly on the site of an adult movie theater that has been a bone of contention. And nearly everyone is concerned about the proliferation of apartments in neighborhoods of single-family homes.

Storing, 60, is retired from an automotive parts manufacturing business. He has lived here for 34 years and represents the San Gabriel Valley on the board of directors of the Rapid Transit District.

A fixture in local politics since he first won in 1960, Storing has lost only one election, in 1968, when he was defeated for reelection by one vote. That vote went to Joseph Montoya. But in 1973, Montoya was elected to the state Assembly and Storing regained a seat on the council in a special election. Montoya become a state senator.

Activities for Seniors

Storing said the city hired a consultant to study the need for a seniors center about a year ago, and the consultant concluded that there were not enough senior citizens to justify the expenditure. He noted that the city, which finances its operations with sales tax revenue and interest on the reserve fund, now sponsors activities for seniors at the Community Center.

He said the city has a deferred interest-free loan program for rehabilitation of homes and subsidizes the disabled and senior citizens with bus passes that cost $1 a month.

Challenger Castner said he is proud of his town, but that the city could do more to address some of its problems, including the lack of facilities for senior citizens and the presence of the adult theater.

"They brag about the $16-million reserve fund, but we do have these problems," said Castner, 61, a retired bakery salesman who has lived here since 1954.

Castner served on the Planning Commission from 1969 to 1976 and was reappointed in 1984. He ran unsuccessfully for the council in 1976.

"The porno theater is an eyesore located in our downtown area and it keeps business out of our community. I want to put pressure on them so they will relocate," he said.

"My second concern is the overbuilding of apartments in single-family neighborhoods. The density has to be controlled."

Child Care Programs

Castner also says the city can afford to expand its animal control operations and institute city-sponsored child care programs.

Perez, 50, a sales engineer with Valley Detroit Diesel Co., says little has changed in the 26 years he has lived here. He was an unsuccessful council candidate in 1986.

"The council is not progressive," he said. "The city provides only a minimum of services to the people."

Perez also cited the need for a senior citizens center and expressed a desire to get rid of the adult theater.

Under state law, the city cannot force the theater to close. Stotelmeyer says the city should buy it, tear it down and build a senior citizens center on the site.

Stotelmeyer, 64, who has run unsuccessfully in the last four council elections, has lived here for 33 years. He is a retired deputy sheriff who now serves on the County Employees Retirement Assn. board.

'Maintain What We Have'

"The issues are not that great but I would like to work with the present council and maintain what we have," he said.

Garcia, 50, was born in La Puente and works in the transportation department of Certified Grocers of California.

He said his first priority would be to improve the quality of education. He is also concerned about the proliferation of apartments and the need for a senior citizens center.

Garcia welcomes the large field of candidates. "More people should get involved in community affairs. I have pride in the city and I want to give back to the community what it has given to me."

Alderete, 60, was also born and reared here and will soon retire from his job as supervisor of operations for the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District.

"I have seen the city grow from a farming community," he said, "and now that I am about ready to retire I can do something for the people. I want to find out about their needs and see what their problems are."

Campbell, 49, is a salesman for Standard Brands Paint Co. who has lived here for 25 years.

"We have more problems with an increasing population," he said, "but the council doesn't seem to notice. The council operates the way it did in the old days when things were different."

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