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Drive Begins for Council Districts

January 04, 1990|SANTIAGO O'DONNELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An initiative drive aimed at bringing district elections to the city of Glendale got off to a slow start Tuesday night, but organizers said they were not daunted by the small turnout at the meeting to kick off the drive.

About 15 people showed up at the YWCA on Lexington Street to volunteer to circulate petitions in an attempt to change the present at-large system to one in which members are elected from separate districts.

The meeting room, decorated with balloons and Glendale city maps, was half-full when former City Council candidate Robin Westmiller stepped up to the podium to encourage audience members to fight for election reform.

"This is a monumental task," she said. "We need your help."

Most of the meeting was spent in explaining how to gather signatures. The group, which calls itself the Coalition for Electoral Reform, needs about 15,000 signatures from registered Glendale voters to place the initiative on the November, 1990, ballot.

Coalition members argue that district elections will lead to better representation and more electoral competition, thus making elected officials more accountable to their constituents. The city's rapid growth in the last decade, they say, has rendered the current at-large system obsolete.

The five members of the Glendale City Council--three of whom live within blocks of each other in the Chevy Chase Canyon--oppose the proposed changes, arguing that council districts would prove to be divisive and encourage pork-barrel politics.

Westmiller's husband, Bill, an activist who led a statewide petition drive in 1986 to qualify as a Libertarian Party candidate for the presidential ballot, said Wednesday's low turnout was to be expected.

"A lot of people are skeptical," he said. "They are used to seeing the powers that be run the city and they think they don't have an option. But we have a good base here. These volunteers will bring in more volunteers and soon the people will start believing."

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