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Homeowners Flex Muscle in Reshaping Glendale Council

Politics: Three victors in Tuesday's election reflect a shift in power away from business. But they insist that theirs is a balanced approach.

April 05, 2001|JEAN GUCCIONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

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

But more significantly, the three--newly elected members Frank Quintero and Bob Yousefian and reelected incumbent Dave Weaver--represent a new breed of city leaders who owe much of their success to 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 who it said would return Glendale to the business-friendly city it once was. But all three of its candidates lost Tuesday.

The three victorious candidates campaigned on a platform that included hillside preservation and blocking the controversial Oakmont V housing development in the Verdugo Mountains. But they insist that they are not simply pawns of the homeowner groups and say they also owe 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 council in 1992, he said, he approached the Glendale Chamber of Commerce to talk about his campaign platform and was told that the group had already selected "the winners." And the chamber usually did.

Then, four years ago, Glendale voters, representing a changing city that included growing numbers of Armenian Americans, Latinos and Asians, 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 they 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.

'Quality of Life' Issues Emphasized

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."

Former Mayor Raggio countered that the three candidates endorsed by Glendale Tomorrow were better 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 for 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 that 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 each 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 that 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.

Despite its strong homeowner base, the current City Council has been instrumental in major business developments, said Weaver and others. Those range from the Marketplace and the proposed Town Center projects downtown to a deal with Walt Disney Co. for a business development off San Fernando Road.

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

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 in without what he believes was adequate infrastructure to accommodate them.

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