ALHAMBRA — Four City Council candidates vying for two seats in the Nov. 8 election agree on the need to revitalize Main Street and end traffic congestion, but some of the contenders split over bilingual education and plans for a new police station.
Mayor Talmage V. Burke, first elected to the council in 1952, is running unopposed for a council seat in the 3rd District. The office of mayor is rotated every nine months among the five council members.
The other council seat up for grabs next month, in the 4th District, is held by Councilman J. Parker Williams, who cannot run for reelection because of a 1976 charter amendment limiting council members to three terms.
Because Burke was in office when the amendment was approved, the restriction does not apply to him.
Williams is running for a spot on the Alhambra school board.
Competing for Williams' City Council seat are Allen Co, J. William Orozco and Boyd G. Condie.
At a candidates forum last week, the office-seekers in the nonpartisan election hopscotched from issue to issue, but the most heated discussion focused on Proposition A.
The Proposition A ballot measure asks voters to authorize a $16.6-million bond issue to finance a new police station.
Co said he agrees the city needs a new station but believes voters need more information about the project's design.
"My feeling is, would you entrust people with a blank check if they told you nothing concrete?" Co said. He is also concerned that people who have examined plans for the new police station say it would have an oversized community room and a handball court but no shooting range.
Supporters of the measure, who said plans for the new station are flexible, said it is important to approve the project now to avoid escalating costs.
When the proposal for a new station was first studied in 1981, the estimated cost was $8 million. Police Chief Russell Siverling said last week that the current station's 16 jail spaces are not enough to handle the 450 to 500 arrests made each month. To accommodate more than 150 officers and staff members, Siverling said he has had to turn closets into offices in the 33-year-old facility.
Condie and Burke support the ballot measure. Orozco, saying he has strong feelings about the proposition but does not want to alienate any voters, decided to stay out of the fray.
"I choose not to make a declaration on it," Orozco said of the measure.
At one point, Orozco and Co jousted over bilingual education. Orozco, who was born in Mexico and whose first language is Spanish, said he is glad there was no bilingual education at his U.S. school when he was a boy because he was forced to learn English. He said he strongly supports English as an official language and believes a common language would help unify the community.
Co, who has highlighted his Chinese heritage and multilingual ability, said that there is a difference between what is ideal and what is practical.
"The illusion is that if you have that (English-only) law then we can ensure we have no problem," Co said. He said immigrants do want to learn English, as evidenced by long waiting lists for English classes in the area.
Co, who speaks English, Vietnamese and several Chinese dialects including Mandarin and Cantonese, said the key is to reach out to immigrants and help with their transition to American culture. He said he has also encouraged Chinese immigrants to get more involved in the community.
The three 4th-District candidates all want to revitalize Main Street and ease traffic congestion in the city. To prevent motorists from using Alhambra streets as thoroughfares, they said they will push harder for completion of the Long Beach Freeway.
On revitalizing Main Street, Co favors having the free market decide development. Orozco said that the city needs council members who do not own extensive investment properties in town.
"I'm an independent candidate," Orozco said. "I have no relatives on the council," he added, referring to Condie's relationship to Councilwoman Mary Louise Bunker.
Condie said he and Bunker are distant relatives with a great-grandfather in common.
"My running for office has nothing to do with her," Condie said. He said he would recommend repeal of the city's utility tax and use his financial expertise to help plan for the future of the downtown.
Condie, 50, is an accountant for Geneva Corp. in Costa Mesa. A 24-year Alhambra resident, he has been a member of the city's Long-Range Financial Planning Committee for six years and was active in community efforts to close an adult book store eight years ago.
Orozco, 67, is a Los Angeles travel agent and 15-year Alhambra resident. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1966 and is making his first bid for a City Council seat. Orozco is a board member of Volunteers of America Los Angeles, an organization to aid the elderly and the homeless. He has also served on the Board of Governors of California Community Colleges.
Co, at 36 the youngest of the three candidates, owns Allen Co Realty and Video World. A 12-year Alhambra resident, he ran for City Council in 1984 but lost to J. Parker Williams. He has served on the Board of Directors for the American Red Cross and the city's Commission on Housing and Community Development.
Burke, 70, is an Alhambra probate attorney running for his 10th City Council term. He is active in the Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce.