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Council to Reflect New Face of City

Glendale: This week's winners, who mirror a changing population, owe much of their success to homeowner groups.

April 05, 2001|JEAN GUCCIONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When three members, including two newcomers, are sworn in next week, the five-member Glendale City Council will have two Latinos and two Armenian Americans--reflecting demographic changes that have swept Los Angeles County's third-largest city in recent years.

But more significantly, those elected this week--Frank Quintero, Bob Yousefian and incumbent Dave Weaver--represent a new breed of city leaders who owe much of their success to the city's homeowner groups.

"It is very clear that a handful of homeowners are running the city," said Allen E. Brandstater, a failed council candidate and conservative political consultant. "The business community does not speak with one voice as it has done in the past."

That belief is shared by former Mayor Carl Raggio and members of his Glendale Tomorrow, a political action committee that endorsed candidates it said would return Glendale to the business-friendly city they say it once had been. But all three of its candidates lost.

The victorious candidates all campaigned on a platform that included hillside preservation and blocking the controversial Oakmont V housing development in the Verdugo Mountains. But they reject critics' assertions that they are simply pawns of the homeowner groups, saying they also owed their wins to business owners and others.

"No one group in this town is going to decide who is elected," Weaver said, contrasting today's city politics with those of the past 30 years.

When Weaver first ran for a council seat in 1992, he said he approached the Glendale Chamber of Commerce to talk about his campaign platform and was told the group had already selected "the winners." And they usually did.

Then four years ago, Glendale voters, representing a changing cityscape that included growing numbers of Armenian, Latino and Asian Americans, chose grass-roots candidates over those endorsed by the city's business leaders.

"Now it's the people speaking," Weaver said of the election.

Although the winners reflect the city's changing population--about 25% of Glendale's population is of Armenian descent, and about 20% is Latino--the councilmen-elect say most of the city's business has little to do with ethnic-specific issues.

"Even though we may be Latino or Armenian, we aren't going to Balkanize" the city, said Yousefian, an Armenian American who owns a home-remodeling business.

"The way I look at it, I see a home remodeler, a consensus builder, a mayor, an attorney and an accountant," he said, of the new City Council.

Besides Yousefian, Councilman Rafi Manoukian is Armenian American, and Quintero and Gus Gomez are Latino.

"Regardless of their racial or ethnic backgrounds, the people who won, won on the issues," said Gomez, who was elected in 1999. "The message is that people are looking for candidates who are looking out for quality-of-life issues."

Raggio countered that the three candidates endorsed by Glendale Tomorrow were the best qualified for the job but that homeowner groups used scare tactics to win votes.

"The homeowners, through intimidation, threats and fear, got people to think they were going to tear up the hills," said Raggio, who served eight years on the City Council, ending in 1993. "They do not want anything more in Glendale--not another person, not another house, not another car, not another business," he said, referring to the victors.

Raggio said he believes council members who are tied to homeowner groups threaten the thriving business economy that he helped develop. "We were instrumental to bringing the business base to town," he said. "Without business, we couldn't afford to have 200 police officers."

Glendale Tomorrow contributed $5,000 apiece to the campaigns of Mary W. Boger, 55, a civic activist; Hamo Rostamian, 48, who is in commercial real estate, and Tony Tartaglia, 36, a public affairs manager for Southern California Gas Co.

Raggio, his candidates and their challengers all agree Glendale needs more balance. But they disagree on who is tilting the scales and who deserves more representation.

"I think we have a heck of a lot more balance now," said Gomez, a deputy state attorney general and former president of the Adams Hill Homeowners Assn.

"For me personally, I think small business and local business have taken a giant step forward, because I'll always be looking out for local business," Quintero said.

Despite its strong homeowner base, the current council has been instrumental in major business developments, Weaver and others said.

They range from the Marketplace and proposed Town Center projects in downtown Glendale to signing a deal with the Disney Co. for a business development off San Fernando Road.

"We represent a more reasonable approach to development," Gomez explained.

Yousefian was more specific.

"It is a vote against doing business like we did in the 1980s," he said, pointing to the 10,000 housing units that were built and the 40,000 people who moved there without, he believes, adequate infrastructure to accommodate them.

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