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POLITICS : Growth, Clerk's Pay Key to Culver City Elections

March 27, 1994|CAROL CHASTANG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In what looks like a repeat of Culver City's 1992 elections, growth issues are dominating the debate this year among the four candidates seeking two City Council seats.

But there's something else: The city clerk's race, usually a non-event, is downright contentious.

City Clerk Pauline Dolce is being challenged for the first time in her 16-year tenure. Her opponent, computer consultant Tom Crunk, has taken aim at her for opposing a council decision in January to drastically cut her $75,000 salary.

Crunk says the cut, which will reduce the clerk's monthly pay from $6,327 to $732 in 1996, was long overdue. But Dolce disagrees, saying her pay is justified by her wide-ranging duties.

There are, to be sure, a variety of other issues at stake in Culver City's April 12 elections.

In votes on two binding ballot questions, for instance, residents will decide whether to limit council members to two consecutive four-year terms, and whether to transfer the city clerk's financial accounting responsibilities to the city treasurer's office. The term limits are intended to ensure fresh perspectives on the council, and the accounting move would help streamline operations, said Councilman Albert Vera, who co-sponsored the measures with Councilman Steven Gourley.

In the City Council race, Mayor Mike Balkman, a pro-growth candidate and president of an electrical contracting firm, is seeking his second four-year term on the five-member council. Balkman proudly points to his support for renewal projects under way to build a new City Hall and renovate downtown.

The other candidates are film company controller Richard Marcus, attorney Ed Wolkowitzand Jim Hilfenhaus, a political organizer. Councilwoman Jozelle Smith decided not to run for reelection.

Marcus and Hilfenhaus support the term-limit measure, while Balkman and Wolkowitz oppose it.

Hilfenhaus, 43, is a slow-growth candidate who criticizes city planners for not using enough foresight when considering projects such as the controversial Marina Place retail mall approved almost five years ago. The 18-acre lot, near Lincoln and Washington boulevards, has yet to be developed.

The planned, $169-million mall is an example of growth the city doesn't need, Hilfenhaus said, asserting that it would significantly worsen traffic in an already heavily traveled area. "I can't see building on the most impacted intersection in the Westside," he said.

But Marcus, a pro-growth candidate, argues that the city has not done enough to attract business. Marcus, 39, said existing businesses are being scared away by restrictive ordinances such as an interim sign ordinance, which limits the size of wall and free-standing signs outside businesses. A new sign ordinance will be up for consideration at next week's council meeting.

Wolkowitz, who also wants the city to become more business-friendly, staunchly opposes a proposal for the city to take over electrical service by buying out Southern California Edison.

Such a move, said Wolkowitz, 44, would send the wrong message to business. "What business in their right mind would want to come to Culver City, knowing the city will take its profits?" he asked.

However, the competition seems fiercest in the race for the clerk's post, in which Dolce, 73, seeks a fifth, four-year term.

Dolce said she is "sick and tired" of the attention being given to her salary.

Her salary, in fact, seems comparable to those of city clerks elsewhere on the Westside. Beverly Hills' city clerk makes $68,000 a year; Santa Monica's, $75,000 annually.

On the subject of the clerk's pay, Crunk is adamant. The $75,000 salary, he said, is "not appropriate" for a position he considers a community service, comparable to that of council members, who are paid $485 monthly.

The Candidates

CITY COUNCIL

Name Age Occupation (i) Mike Balkman 40 Businessman Jim Hilfenhaus 43 Political Organizer Richard Marcus 39 Businessman Ed Wolkowitz 44 Attorney

CITY CLERK

Name Age Occupation (i) Pauline Dolce 73 City Clerk Tom Crunk 37 Computer Consultant

(i) incumbent

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