A member of the majority bloc on the city's tumultuous council will seek Monday to switch regular municipal elections from November to April, a move condemned by critics as an attempt to eliminate the minority opposition.
The ordinance, proposed by City Councilman Richard B. Edgar and drafted by the city attorney's office, would move up the next city election by seven months, from the now-scheduled November, 1990, date to April.
If the move is successful, Tustin will join only three other cities in Orange County--Irvine, Dana Point and Seal Beach--in conducting elections on dates other than primary or general election days.
The election measure is set for introduction at Monday's City Council meeting, although Edgar's opponents on the divided council charged that the measure had been surreptitiously put on the agenda at the last minute to avoid public discussion within the city of 47,000.
Judging from statements by the council members Friday, it seems likely to pass.
Edgar acknowledged Friday that the switch in the election date to April--as it had been before 1988--would likely mean both a significantly lower voter turnout and a higher financial cost to the taxpayers. In Mission Viejo, for example, officials said the running of an April election would cost the city 67 cents more per voter than a November date.
Edgar declined to explain his reasoning for the move, saying only that "there's nothing political about this--what I've suggested is best."
The councilman said he felt "uncomfortable giving a lot of discussion to this now. I know there are people on the council who will want to fight this, and I don't want to give away my reasons yet. I'll save those for Monday night."
One of his chief opponents did not hesitate to speculate on the motive.
"This is totally politically motivated," said Councilman John Kelly. "They're trying to put a stranglehold on the council."
Kelly, along with another relative newcomer on the council, Earl J. Prescott, have run up repeatedly against the majority voting bloc of Edgar, Mayor Ursula E. Kennedy and Councilman Ronald B. Hoesterey in an escalating war of words that has sharply divided the council.
Citing his own election to the council after several unsuccessful tries, Kelly suggested that the majority voting members believe they can effectively oust their opponents by moving the election to a date that traditionally turns out far fewer voters.