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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

Pomona Is at War With Itself, Mayor Says

March 25, 1993|Mike Ward

Lack of Esteem--Is an absence of self-confidence one of Pomona's problems?

Mayor Donna Smith suggested as much in her annual State of the City address last week in which she observed that "Pomona may be the nation's most egregious example of a city at war with itself; a city that doesn't realize it deserves better, so it does not focus on being the best."

Smith, who declined to run for reelection after six years in office, read a 34-page critique of the city during a luncheon sponsored by the Pomona Jaycees. Although most of the address was upbeat, focusing on the city's accomplishments and future prospects, Smith digressed to give her assessment of the emotional state of the city and the likely impact of the April 20 mayoral runoff election between Councilman Tomas Ursua and Planning Commissioner Eddie Cortez.

It is not a pretty picture.

Winds of Change--Smith said the winner of the runoff, and the new faces elected to the City Council on March 2, will lead the city into more political turmoil and notoriety.

"The litany of evils that beset Pomona will be familiar stuff for the 11 o'clock news," she said. "Examples will roll across the screen like evil floats in a parade from hell.

"The poor image we residents have of ourselves and our city will be a favorite topic of pundits of all political stripes."

Of course, the outgoing mayor could be wrong and the city may be entering a golden era after electing two Latinos--Cristina Carrizosa and Marco Robles--to the council. Coupled with the election of either Ursua or Cortez, the council will have its first Latino majority in the city's 105-year history.

But, Smith said:

"The chances that a new council will be great and usher in the new Millennium are right up there with the odds that I would ever be hired as Pomona's next city administrator. Let's face it, folks, it ain't gonna happen."

On the Outside--Smith said neither mayoral candidate has asked for her endorsement in the runoff and she is not volunteering one. She said many voters regard the contest as a choice between "the lesser of two evils."

Smith is often at odds with Ursua on city issues.

And the mayor had a bitter clash two years ago with Cortez when he accused her of condoning racism by failing to denounce a cartoon that he thought denigrated immigrants from Mexico. The cartoon was printed in a Republican club mailer inviting members to Smith's 1991 State of the City address.

Smith told reporters at the time that the cartoon was in bad taste, but she did not mention it during her '91 speech, even though pickets were marching outside accusing her of racism.

The mayor said she and Cortez have been polite to each other since then, but he has never apologized for trying to embarrass her.

"He acts like nothing ever happened," she said.

Cortez was among those in the audience who cordially applauded Smith during her speech this year.

But absent from the gathering of business people, city officials and community leaders was Ursua, who has ridiculed Smith's attention to ceremonial duties. The candidate said he does not want to be a "smile in a suit" that glad-hands voters, but a leader who shapes policy and builds consensus on the council.

While he will certainly be willing to give a State of the City address if he becomes mayor, Ursua said, "my whole concept is that a mayor needs to function as a team builder, not as a public relations person."

Short Subjects--State Sen. Frank Hill (R-Whittier) will sponsor a town hall meeting from 7 to 8 p.m. today at the Glendora Public Library, 140 S. Glendora Ave., to report on events in Sacramento and to hear suggestions from constituents . . . The National League of Cities has appointed Pomona Councilwoman Nell Soto to its Transportation and Communications Policy Committee.

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