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Measures Defeated; Mayoral Runoff

A hospital bailout and a city seal are among the casualties. Morris and Penman will square off in San Bernardino.

November 10, 2005|Susannah Rosenblatt and Ashley Powers | Times Staff Writer

Just over a third of registered voters in Riverside and San Bernardino counties went to the polls Tuesday, scrapping several divisive ballot measures along with reelecting Riverside's mayor and leaving the mayoral race in San Bernardino up for grabs.

San Bernardino's mayoral race will be decided Feb. 7 between Superior Court Judge Pat Morris and City Atty. James F. Penman, the candidates who received the most votes Tuesday.

Morris, who received 43% of the vote to Penman's 26%, celebrated Tuesday night at his downtown campaign headquarters near City Hall, with the judge leading the crowd in a song called "San Bernardino."

"I knew the voters would understand the need for change," he said Wednesday.

In the coming weeks, Morris intends to again campaign to crack down on drug abuse and prostitution, and fill the city's thousands of vacant lots with homes. He'll also try to sell his governing style, which he paints as sharply contrasting with Penman's.

"I think my opponent knows nothing but the politics of personal destruction," Morris said.

Penman countered that many of the campaign's zingers were directed at him, and that the runoff should focus on who can better fix the city's problems. He plans to focus on his 18 years of City Hall experience and on what he calls Morris' "liberal" record on criminal issues.

"We thought all along that our best chance was a runoff with Judge Morris," Penman said. "It'll be a different story going head-to-head."

Third-place finisher Chas A. Kelley, who has two years left as a city councilman, said he believed that San Bernardino voters were "sick and tired of politics as usual. I hope they talk about the issues and not sling accusations and throw the mud."

In Riverside, three-term incumbent Mayor Ron Loveridge sailed back into office with 60% of the vote, soundly defeating Councilman Ameal Moore and former mayor Terry Frizzel.

In Riverside's Ward 4 council race, Councilman Frank Schiavone will square off against businessman Samuel Cardelucci in a Jan. 17 runoff.

More than 40,000 absentee and provisional ballots remain outstanding in Riverside County, said county Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore. Once those votes are tabulated, turnout should increase to about 40%, a respectable percentage for an off-year special election, Dunmore said.

About 56,000 provisional and absentee ballots have yet to be tallied in San Bernardino County, said county Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil. Those could increase turnout to just over 40%.

Several ballot measures failed across the region, as Redlands voters rejected a city seal that included a cross and a new tax in Blythe to fund the financially ailing hospital.

Blythe could face a healthcare crisis, because only 64% of voters supported a new $32-per-parcel property tax levied to help keep Palo Verde Hospital afloat. The measure fell just shy of the required two-thirds approval, casting the fate of Palo Verde -- the only acute-care facility for nearly 100 miles -- into uncertainty.

Without the tax, raising the $5 million needed to transfer the small hospital from corporate to local hands is "going to take a near miracle," said Dr. David Brooks, president of the community board that will run the 51-bed facility. The board hopes to raise money from donations or grants, or may file for bankruptcy protection.

Redlands voters soundly rejected a measure that would have adopted a city seal that included a cross, with 59% of voters opposing it. The city seal was changed last year after the American Civil Liberties Union threatened legal action.

"I'm relieved the majority of the voters rejected religious discrimination," said Gary Negin, a professor of educational psychology at Cal State San Bernardino and a member of the Redlands Values Coalition, which fought the measure.

Opponents had feared that codifying a seal with a cross could invite a legal challenge that would have divided the city and sapped its funds.

Advocates for the seal that included the cross were "blown away," said Scott Siegel, who spearheaded the signature-collecting campaign to put Measure Q on the ballot.

"We didn't see that coming at all," said Siegel, who felt that voters didn't want to risk the city getting sued and were swayed by a better-funded opposition campaign.

"I'm disappointed with the outcome, but that's democracy, isn't it," he said.

Two-thirds of Redlands voters also rejected a proposed general plan amendment to slow growth and protect the city's downtown and natural areas. Opponents such as the Chamber of Commerce had argued that such a move could block development or necessitate a tax hike.

In Norco, 75% of voters favored a change to the city charter that will require a four-fifths City Council majority to rezone agricultural and low-density areas. The City Council backed the measure, hoping to block development on horse lots in the equestrian community.

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