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City Hall News : SOUTH PASADENA : 6 Vie to Continue Freeway Fight : Politics: All six City Council candidates oppose 710 extension. Their differences lie in offering solutions to the city's money problems.

March 31, 1994|RICHARD WINTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With South Pasadena facing a budget deficit and state and federal officials poised to approve a controversial freeway extension through the heart of the city, six candidates are competing for three City Council seats in the April 12 election.

The retirement of longtime Councilmen James C. Hodge Jr. and James S. Woollacott Jr. from the five-member council has left Harry A. Knapp as the only incumbent defending his seat and has opened the door for at least two new city leaders.

The election comes as the debate over the proposed extension of the Long Beach Freeway (710), which South Pasadena officials have fought for 30 years, comes to a boil. The voting also occurs as the city grapples with a $300,000 budget deficit resulting from the state's taking $800,000 in property taxes.

The California Transportation Commission is scheduled to make a final decision by June on state funding for the 6.2-mile freeway extension from the Foothill Freeway (210) to the San Bernardino Freeway (10) through South Pasadena. The Federal Highway Administration will then make its final decision on funding the project.

The extension, which would force demolition of 315 homes in the city, is opposed by all the candidates.

"The next two years are vital in the fight to keep South Pasadena from being destroyed by the freeway, and no one has the experience in leadership on the issue like I do," said Knapp, who has helped spearhead the city's opposition to the project.

Knapp, 51, an assistant treasurer of a pharmaceutical company, said the short-term threat to the city is its budget deficit. Although he has previously voted for a 5% utility tax and a landscape and lighting assessment and is backing a June ballot measure for a library tax, Knapp says the city cannot increase more taxes. Instead, he said, it must make cuts at City Hall next year to save money.

Challenger Bruce L. Snapper, 47, a city transportation commissioner, said he has a personal stake in the freeway fight, since his home is one of those threatened.

Snapper, a community college teacher turned building contractor, opposes new taxes and favors boosting city coffers through new sales tax revenues generated by a revitalized downtown.

Dorothy M. Cohen, 68, a prominent community activist said she will bring her experience as the chief officer of the League of Women Voters, board of library trustees and downtown revitalization task force to issues such as the freeway and budget. Cohen, a free-lance journalist, also wants to revitalize shopping areas with small upscale stores while maintaining the city's character.

Wallace N. (Wally) Emory, 54, a paper company executive making his third bid for council, is a fiscal conservative who favors cutting taxes and City Hall spending while guaranteeing funding for the police and fire departments.

Emory, a longtime reserve police officer and chairman of the public safety commission, said that the council should have allowed residents to vote on the utility tax and assessment district and that revitalization of the city's business district is the way to get needed money.

Candidate Jack Donovan, 46, a president of an industrial metals firm, said his priorities for the city include attracting more businesses through a one-stop permit and information office at City Hall, as well as tightening city spending.

Donovan, a prominent local organizer of youth soccer, said he also opposes the utility tax and assessments on property without voter approval. He blames the city's budget problems on benefits paid to city employees.

The youngest council candidate is Andrew J. Schmid, 26, who said the utility tax and benefit assessment would not have been needed if more businesses were in town, generating greater sales tax.

Schmid said he entered the race to help fight the freeway's extension.

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