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Five-Way Battle in Riverside Election

Council candidates have raised $100,000 as they compete for Joy Defenbaugh's Ward 3 seat. If no one tops 50%, a runoff will follow.

October 22, 2003|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

Five candidates are vying to succeed Riverside City Councilwoman Joy Defenbaugh, who is retiring after representing Ward 3 for more than a decade.

The candidates battling to take her place have raised more than $100,000 in the race to represent one of the city's central districts, which stretches from the Wood Streets neighborhood to the Riverside Municipal Airport.

It's the second-costliest race of the four council elections on the Nov. 4 ballot. And because there are so many candidates, the likelihood of one person getting more than 50% of the vote is slim, which would mean a Jan. 13 runoff.

Defenbaugh has endorsed Mike Goldware, a contracts lawyer who is the lead fund-raiser in the race. As of Sept. 20, he had raised $59,459.

"I've been doing a lot of things for the city for an awful lot of years, and of all the things I've done, I've never stepped up to the plate in the arena" of the council, he said. "It's a great opportunity, but there's concern about which way the City Council is headed, depending on who gets elected."

Goldware, 59, said the chief issue is traffic, which the council could deal with in part by creating traffic circles, alternating one-way streets, widening certain thoroughfares and dealing with train crossings. Economic revitalization, particularly at the Magnolia Center, must be done with an eye to upscale retailers, he added.

Goldware would be forced to relinquish his seat on Riverside Unified School District board if elected.

His chief rival is Art Gage, 59, who has served on several city boards and commissions, including the Human Relations Commission and Planning Commission. He had raised $43,938 as of Sept. 20.

"I've been involved for a long time, and I've watched the City Council move along, looking out the rearview mirror," said Gage, who runs an executive recruiting and consulting business. "I want to start looking out the windshield.... We've lost our direction."

Gage said council members need to take a more authoritative role in shaping the city's future instead of relying on staff. Chief among his concerns is the city's aging infrastructure and economic development, which he says "has been nonexistent in Riverside."

Robert B. Slawsby, 35, a Fox Sports broadcaster, said he decided to run because he wasn't satisfied with the top candidates in the race.

"I said, 'You know what? These people don't represent me, my socioeconomic background or my neighbors,' " he said. "I'm a young guy with a 1-year-old son and another one on the way. I wanted to help make the council younger ... [to] make sure citizens have a voice, and end the cronyism that goes on downtown."

Slawsby, who had raised $8,600 as of Sept. 20, said he hopes the enthusiasm for Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger spills over to his campaign. Like Schwarzenegger, he is calling for an independent audit of the city books.

Slawsby criticized the council members for granting themselves raises and spending tax money on a fountain outside City Hall and a spillway for a 55,000-year flood. He said that money would have been better spent on ensuring that police and fire protection keeps pace with the city's growth and aging infrastructure.

Gary R. Huspek, 60, is also calling for accountability. He proposes forming a committee to make sure the council and mayor stick to their promises and who could recall them if they don't.

"So many promises are made, and so many promises are broken every four years, it goes on and on and on," said Huspek, a maker of patio furniture and accessories.

Huspek said his top goal is to bring more business into the city by reducing workers' compensation costs. Huspek said that if the city were to underwrite workers' compensation, more businesses would locate there, boosting tax revenue.

Candidate and businessman Ron Diaz, 54, said he is concerned about cliques on the City Council and would serve with the best interest of the ward as his priority. Diaz ran for the seat four years ago and came in second to Defenbaugh.

"I would represent the voters of this ward without any kind of outside influences as far as special interest politics, which seem to be rampant in City Hall in Riverside right now," he said.

The Riverside native said his top concerns include traffic, attempts to equalize water rates and the lack of limits on council members' pay raises.

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