North Los Angeles County voters concerned about crime and development put their confidence in the status quo Tuesday, reelecting all incumbents in municipal elections in Lancaster and Santa Clarita.
In Lancaster, where crime was a major campaign theme, voters soundly rejected a measure that would have funded the hiring of 10 sheriff's deputies with a $25-per parcel property tax. In the unofficial tally, Measure A, which needed a two-thirds vote to pass, received just 47%.
David Berger, a deputy Los Angeles County district attorney who works out of the Lancaster sheriff's station, said the ballot measure would have helped combat a growing gang presence in some parts of town.
Last year, the entire Antelope Valley had a record 43 homicides, with as many as half gang-related.
"I'm just worried about morale, because obviously one could have taken the measure to be a vote for law enforcement," Berger said. "The message it may send to deputies may not be a very encouraging one."
But critics said the measure showed that the current government had misplaced its priorities. An adequate number of deputies, they said, should be funded out of the city budget, not from a special property tax.
"They shouldn't place [a special tax] on the citizens of Lancaster in order to provide them with something that should have been their No. 1 priority to start with," said Charles Hanson, one of four unsuccessful candidates for two open City Council seats.
Those seats were filled by incumbents Andy Visokey, who ran as an "anti-tax advocate," and Jim Jeffra, a retired sheriff's deputy who, in his official candidate's statement, told voters that "eliminating low-income apartments" was a key to fighting crime.
On the morning after the election, Jeffra softened his position.
"It's no crime to be poor," he said. "What I want to do is eliminate [the crime that] occurs at low-income housing."
Also victorious Tuesday was Mayor Frank Roberts, who will serve a fifth term after soundly defeating three challengers.
In Santa Clarita, two City Council members, Cameron Smyth and Bob Kellar, survived a challenge from Henry Schultz, vice chairman of the local Sierra Club.
Schultz, who lambasted the current council for being what he considered too development-friendly, won 28% of the vote, compared with 32% for Kellar and 40% for Smyth, according to an unofficial tally.
It was a strong showing for Schultz in an area that in the last few years has been roiling with high-profile development debates.
The recently approved 20,885-home Newhall Ranch development is scheduled to be built west of town, triggering worries about traffic and the loss of open space.
And in the nearby neighborhood of Stevenson Ranch, an activist earned worldwide media attention for living in a tree for more than two months, protesting its removal as part of a road-widening project.
Smyth said Schultz benefited from the fact that the field of challengers was much smaller than in recent years, offering only one choice to those voters dissatisfied with the current council.
But Smyth also said the incumbents' victory was a message that Santa Clarita residents were happy with the moderate stance the council has taken on development.
While the council is often criticized for being too cozy with developers, Smyth noted that the city had acquired more than 2,000 acres of parks and open space in the last four years, and was fighting the 5,800-home Las Lomas development on its southern border.
"I did see this as a validation of the work that I have done and the direction that I'd like to see the city go," Smyth said.