MONTEBELLO — The hard-fought campaigns for three City Council seats last November were the costliest in city history, fueled in part by an Orange County political group's $50,600 effort to defeat two candidates.
Seven candidates and two political action committees spent about $250,000 in a race that sparked personal attacks in mailers and sharp exchanges over whether the city should be given more power to condemn land for redevelopment. Two other candidates listed no expenditures.
Citizens for a Safer Montebello, a Costa Mesa-based organization, spent almost $30,000 on a mailing blitz attacking candidates William Molinari and Larry Salazar, who opposed a plan to expand the city's eminent domain powers, according to campaign financial statements. The committee spent another $21,000 on telephone surveys and mailers in support of hospital administrator Joseph Coria's unsuccessful campaign.
Molinari, who had served five years on the council before being defeated in 1987, captured one of the council seats in the November race. Salazar finished fourth in the race for three seats. Mayor Ed Pizzorno and Councilman Arnold Alvarez-Glasman were reelected.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday March 1, 1990 Home Edition Long Beach Part J Page 3 Column 1 Zones Desk 3 inches; 80 words Type of Material: Correction
Council race--A story about the cost of the 1989 Montebello City Council election (Times, Feb. 11) incorrectly listed Quiet Cannon Montebello Inc. as a defendant in a libel suit filed by Montebello City Councilman William Molinari. The same story referred to David Perrin as the organizer of a political action committee that opposed Molinari during the 1987 council election. Campaign disclosure statements do not list Perrin as either an organizer or member of the political action committee. The statements show only that Perrin contributed $950 to the committee.
Citizens for a Safer Montebello is headed by Brad Perrin, secretary and treasurer of a Santa Ana-based company that runs the Quiet Cannon restaurant and discotheque in Montebello. The committee's effort was funded entirely by Bear Tracks Corp., a Tustin-based construction consulting firm that lists Perrin as president.
Some city officials had hoped the issue of eminent domain had died when the city's residents voted 3 to 1 last May to keep the city from condemning land to redevelop portions of south and central Montebello, but the issue surfaced during the November council campaigns.
Though eminent domain was used to develop land in north Montebello, candidates were divided on whether the condemnation powers should be expanded.
Some argued it was viable tool to revitalize the town's business district. Others described it as a plot to level old houses and business in the largely industrial south side of Montebello. The opponents argued that longtime business owners and homeowners would be unfairly moved off their property to make way for larger private developments.
Incumbent Alvarez-Glasman, a target of eminent domain opponents, apparently emerged as the biggest spender in his successful effort to retain his seat. Alvarez-Glasman, who has yet to file his final financial statement, said in an interview last week that his campaign cost about $60,000.
At one point, he voted with the council majority in 1988 to give the city Redevelopment Agency expanded condemnation powers. But as criticism mounted during the City Council campaign, he pledged he would not vote for eminent domain again as a city councilman.
Alvarez-Glasman said he was "amazed" at the high cost of last year's campaign and attributed the expense to the "mudslinging that goes on." He said smear campaigns have become so prevalent that the only way to combat them is with a high-profile campaign.
"It's unfortunate that so much money has to go into a campaign," he said.
The cost of the election--about 47% higher than the 1987 council election in which four candidates ran for two seats--and the heavy financial involvement of Citizens for a Safer Montebello, was criticized by Molinari and Salazar last week.
"It is like we said all along," Salazar said. "Special interest groups are, for some reason, trying to control the City Council."
One mailer, sent to Montebello residents by Citizens for a Safer Montebello, was a "Special Report" which proclaimed that the Montebello Police and Firemen's Assn. was concerned about Molinari's candidacy.
The mailer said a letter from the association accused Molinari of "spreading lies designed to terrorize senior citizens and homeowners to further his personal political ambition."
The association denied any knowledge of the piece, and its lawyer demanded that Citizens for a Safer Montebello stop using the association's name, said Montebello Police Detective Ralph Newcomb, former vice president of the association.
Salazar and his "ongoing circus act,"--a reference to his council campaign--were also castigated in the mailer. Salazar said the day he became a leader in the fight against eminent domain, he became Perrin's political foe.
Perrin did not return several phone calls last week.
Molinari's adversarial relationship with Brad Perrin and his father, David, goes back to 1987 when he voted against the expansion of the Quiet Cannon and the creation of a $1.1-million parking lot to accommodate the expansion.