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LOCAL ELECTIONS DOWNEY CITY COUNCIL : Newcomer Takes on Longtime Planner


DOWNEY — City Council candidate Bob Brazelton likes to cite his experience as a longtime planning commissioner when he talks of his qualifications for office.

"I'm more knowledgeable of the city and its needs," Brazelton said in an interview.

Candidate Steve Pentoney, Brazelton's opponent in Tuesday's election, has never held a city post. But Pentoney says Brazelton is one of the good old boys at City Hall, and the voters of Downey's 4th District want a change.

"The fact that I haven't been involved in some activities simply means I'm not affiliated . . . and I'm better able to listen," Pentoney said.

The race was set into motion when two-term Councilman Randall R. Barb decided to retire, citing family and business reasons. Barb ran unopposed in 1986.

District 4, which runs north of Firestone Boulevard and east of Downey Avenue, includes some of Downey's most affluent residential neighborhoods.

Councilman Roy L. Paul is unopposed in District 2, which encompasses the southwest part of the city. Council terms run for four years.

There appear to be no heated issues in the District 4 campaign. Both candidates, for example, express similar views on one of the biggest issues to divide the city in recent years--the use of eminent domain in redevelopment. Both say the city should use its powers to condemn property only as a last resort.

Prominent residents and political observers throughout the city have taken sides, but several agreed that both men are qualified. Both are lawyers with considerable business experience, and both are longtime Downey residents who raised families there.

Brazelton, 60, has higher name recognition because of his stint on the Planning Commission--from October 1982 to last January--and his involvement with the local YMCA and Camp Fire, among other organizations.

Pentoney, 51, has been involved in local school and youth activities, such as Girl Scouts.

Brazelton has been able to raise about twice as much campaign money as Pentoney. As of May 19, Brazelton had raised $15,014 and spent $7,166, whereas Pentoney had raised $6,450 and spent $5,301, according to campaign disclosure statements.

Planning Commissioner Joyce Lawrence favors Brazelton. "I think (Pentoney) would be a good candidate, but I think Bob (Brazelton) has proven that he is a leader," Lawrence said.

Joel Lubin, a local Democratic Party leader and political observer, favors Pentoney in the nonpartisan race. "They're two high-integrity candidates," Lubin said. "But I like the fresh-face idea." Both candidates are Republicans.

Brazelton, who said he believes the council in general has done a good job, is backed by Barb and many other city leaders.

Pentoney said the council has not always been open with local residents about key decisions, such as the recent sale of the Embassy Suites Hotel to a Japanese firm. He has branded Brazelton an extension of Barb, who some critics say has favored well-connected constituents. Barb was criticized last year, for example, for strongly pushing the appointment of a friend, D. Clayton Mayes, as police chief. The Downey Police Officers Assn. has endorsed Pentoney.

But Brazelton, who was Barb's campaign treasurer, said he will be an independent thinker if elected. "I've always been my own person," he said.

Pentoney also has pointed out that Brazelton has had to abstain from Planning Commission decisions because his law firm has represented residents before the city, and because he owns a 5% interest in a building in a city redevelopment zone.

Pentoney said residents should elect a councilman who will be able to vote all the time. He said he has no business interests in the city, and that the only property he owns in Downey is his home.

Brazelton acknowledged that he abstained from several Planning Commission decisions. But he said there should be no need to abstain as a councilman. He said he persuaded the partners in his law firm not to take clients dealing with the city, and he is in the process of selling his interest in the local building.

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