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7 Mount Challenge for 3 Downey Council Seats

May 26, 1988|RICHARD HOLGUIN | Times Staff Writer

DOWNEY — As Election Day nears, Councilman James S. Santangelo is trying to convince voters that his pending conflict-of-interest trial should not derail his bid for a second term.

Councilman Robert G. Cormack is locked in debate with his opponent over spending and cutting taxes.

And Mayor Diane P. Boggs is stressing her community involvement and experience in office.

Santangelo faces four challengers in the June 7 primary for his District 5 seat: Barbara J. Hayden, Thomas Hartsfield, Joel Lubin and Douglas Creek.

Boggs has two challengers for the District 1 seat, representing southeast Downey: John Drayer and Gregg Martell.

Cormack is trying to hold his District 3 seat, representing northwest Downey, against a bid by former Councilman Ken Miller.

None of Santangelo's opponents has said the councilman should be removed from office because he has been charged with a misdemeanor, but support for such a move has been implied at recent candidates' forums and in campaign literature.

Santangelo, 53, is accused of having a conflict of interest when he voted in 1984 to expand the city's redevelopment district. He owned property in the expansion area.

Last February, a judge declared a mistrial after a Municipal Court jury deadlocked 11 to 1 for conviction. The councilman contends that he innocently followed the advice of former City Atty. Carl Newton. Newton has denied that he told Santangelo he could vote.

A retrial is tentatively scheduled for July 18. If convicted, Santangelo could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and fined $10,000. He could also be barred from holding public office for four years.

"I believe in the Constitution," Santangelo said at a recent candidates' forum. "In my opinion, I was found not guilty."

Many candidates have pledged to support new development for the city. Other campaign themes include gangs, drugs, the city's water system, and traffic and parking problems along Firestone Boulevard, Downey's commercial hub.

Santangelo, a real estate agent, says he has worked to keep Downey a smart-looking community by supporting an ordinance prohibiting lawn parking as well as controls on the placement of solar heaters and satellite dishes. If reelected, Santangelo says, he would work to attract new development and to eliminate graffiti. Santangelo was elected in 1984.

Hayden, 47, a businesswoman, Downey planning commissioner and president of the Cerritos College Board of Trustees, says the city should have five council members who can vote on all issues. Santangelo has abstained on redevelopment issues.

Bad Judgment Cited

Hayden says Santangelo was guilty of bad judgment.

She says she would continue the city's redevelopment effort and work to ensure clean drinking water. (Four Downey water wells were closed last year because of chemical contamination.) She also says she would support increased police efforts to fight gangs and drug abuse.

Hartsfield, 49, a school painter, is emphasizing his "leadership qualities, trustworthiness, accountability and initiative."

He also says all council members should be able to decide redevelopment issues.

Hartsfield said he would offer a new perspective as a freshman councilman: "I'd provide a needed balance, that of an average, everyday resident."

Though saying he supports new development, Hartsfield complains that construction in the city has been disorderly, resulting in traffic congestion and a parking shortage downtown. He proposes building multilevel parking structures there.

Lubin, 50, stresses his experience as an engineer.

He says he would like to improve Downey's water system by replacing old, undersized water mains to increase water pressure. That would allow more development and improve the city's firefighting capabilities, he says. He also proposes working with neighboring cities to clean up polluted ground water.

Lubin supports redevelopment--but without eminent domain--to modernize Downey's business district.

Creek, 64, a business consultant, says eliminating graffiti and gang activity would be a top priority. But he also called for "intelligent, planned progress and development consistent with public wishes."

"We have a parking situation downtown which is absolutely criminal the way it's been handled--building everything downtown without any parking," Creek said.

Seeking Third Term

Cormack, 68, is seeking reelection to his third term. Owner of a firm that manufactures industrial equipment, he was first elected to the council in 1980.

Cormack says he is proud that Downey's largest redevelopment projects, including the Embassy Suites hotel, have been completed during his tenure. He is a strong booster of redevelopment and the use of eminent domain, if necessary, to rebuild Downey. Those efforts were slowed in 1985 when a judge found that Santangelo had a conflict of interest and invalidated a 386-acre expansion of the city's redevelopment district.

"We need to get back on track with our redevelopment," Cormack said.

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