MONTEBELLO — Newly elected City Council members took office this week, promising to forget the rancor left by an election which erupted into vicious name-calling, accusations and surreptitious sign stealing just days before voters went to the polls.
As the council vowed to overcome the animosity left by the election and the thorny issue of eminent domain which has dominated and divided the community for two years, residents who crowded the council chamber for the installation ceremony, cheered.
"It is time to bring the community together," said reelected incumbent Arnold Glasman. "We are not a community of geographic regions--we are not east, west, north and south. We are Montebello. It is time to move forward and not get bogged down in the issues now behind us."
Much of that responsibility will lie with the council members themselves, city leaders acknowledge. Bill Molinari was elected to sit with Glasman, Art Payan and Kathy Salazar, three of his roughest political and philosophical rivals.
"It's a matter of making an effort," said new Mayor Ed Pizzorno, who was the top vote-getter in the election. "Council members don't have to like each other, they just have to be able to work together. Now, it's time to sit down and be council members, not candidates."
Even then, Molinari said, it won't be easy to kiss and make up.
"We can't totally erase what happened," he said. "A lot will depend on this council and whether they listen to what people are saying about outside interests, about smear campaigns and about eminent domain. They want to get away from that and back to the basics."
Ever since the words eminent domain were first uttered by the City Council and repeated throughout the town, residents who live south of Whittier Boulevard and who believed they had the most to lose if the city had been given the power to take land, have separated themselves from their neighbors to the north.
Days before the election, two political action committees attacked candidates on both sides of the issue. Molinari was attacked in a piece of hit mail as a "power-hungry liar," other candidates were accused of drawing too much support from business interests outside the city. One flyer, bearing the words "Lies, Lies, Lies" in big, bold, red letters, warned voters against "wheeler-dealers who wanted eminent domain." "They," the flyer reads, "would have made millions at your expense."
Council members Monday night called for an end to division caused by such hard-hitting pieces and urged residents to look forward at the more pressing problems of drugs and gangs.