IRWINDALE — As a child, Fred Barbosa passed out leaflets for his parents when they campaigned in local politics. For years, Barbosa's father was a councilman; his mother was city clerk and treasurer.
"I hated (politics). I said there are better things to do than to fight with people," said Barbosa, 39. "Now here I am raising hell."
Frederick Silva Barbosa is suing the people who run his hometown of 1,040 residents. And he is suing the Los Angeles Raiders.
With the two suits, filed last fall, Barbosa hopes to stop the city and the Raiders from building a 65,000-seat stadium in a huge rock and sand pit near the intersection of the Foothill and 605 freeways.
The litigation has not made it any easier for city officials and the Raiders in their multimillion-dollar negotiations to move the team from the Los Angeles Coliseum to the San Gabriel Valley. According to Barbosa's attorney, John W. Belsher, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ricardo A. Torres, who heard motions in the case last October, has indicated that "if the lawsuit had not been filed, the stadium would already have been half built."
Among his fellow Irwindale residents, Barbosa said, "I'm about as popular as Newcastle disease at a chicken ranch." He explained: "Whenever they find Newcastle disease . . . they kill all the chickens."
Barbosa, a foreman for a Los Angeles cement plant, is built like a cement mixer--thick and strong--but casts himself as a reluctant gadfly. "There was a lot of other people . . . upset (about the Raiders deal)," he said in a deposition filed as part of the suits. "But I guess I am the one that took the bull by the horns."
He first became involved last September, when he attended a City Council meeting where city officials outlined the Raiders proposal. There he met lawyers from a Los Angeles public interest law firm, Kane, Ballmer & Berkman, that opposes the use of redevelopment funds by cities to benefit private concerns. That night he decided to join their cause.
The law firm, which is financing the legal action, filed suit the next day, seeking an environmental impact report to determine the stadium's effects on Irwindale. Initially, the plaintiffs were Los Angeles City Councilman Ernani Bernardi and a group called Irate Irwindale Residents Advocating the Environment.
Another judge later ruled that because Bernardi did not live in Irwindale, he had no right to sue. When no other members of the Irwindale group agreed to allow their names to be made public, Barbosa agreed to become the sole plaintiff.
Bernardi, who never met or talked with Barbosa, said: "To have this one person stand up is just so commendable."
Judge Torres has ordered the city to do an environmental study that is expected to be available for public scrutiny in a few months.
The second suit charged that the way Irwindale officials proposed to use public redevelopment funds is illegal. That suit is pending.
Since last summer, city officials and the Raiders have been negotiating how to finance the construction of a stadium, team headquarters and a football hall of fame. Cost estimates for the stadium range to more than $115 million. As part of the deal, the city has provided $10 million to the Raiders, which the team can keep whether or not the stadium is ever built.
Also under consideration is a proposal for the Raiders to own the stadium after paying the city for its construction. Negotiations have centered on how long the Raiders would commit to playing in the stadium--30 years, as city officials reportedly want, or 15 years, as Raiders owner Al Davis wants.
Irwindale's leaders have made no apologies for the Raiders deal and other lucrative but unusual approaches to attracting industry. Last year, City Manager Charles R. Martin told The Times that the way the city conducts business is "novel . . . unconventional, but it works." Revenues from industrial parks, warehouses, office parks and industries such as the Miller Brewing Co. have allowed the city to offer scholarships to residents and grants of up to $10,000 to homeowners who want to make improvements. Its library and recreational facilities are the envy of communities with 30 times the population.
But Barbosa said the Raiders deal threatens the city's fiscal progress and sets a bad precedent as well. "If Irwindale can give millions of dollars to Al Davis, what's to stop any other city in Southern California from giving money away on the pretense of making money for the city?"
A jogger, biker and weightlifter, Barbosa said he has no interest in professional football. "I'm not crazy about professional sports anyway. When I see people on the street starving, when I see bag people . . . people with mental health problems, and then you read in the paper they just gave some guy a $7-million contract to throw around a pigskin . . . and half of them are on dope."
'Never Got Answers'