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The Baltimore Sun

Council race taking shape

Schools booster Charlie Kamar, anti-sewers activist Robert Richter, former Planning Commission member James K. Hill and Planning Commissioner Michael Davitt have each pulled nomination papers for the three seats at stake in the March 8 City Council election, making for a potentially crowded field of candidates that includes incumbents Laura Olhasso and Mayor Donald Voss.

These council hopefuls and any others who might emerge have until Dec. 15 to file their nominations and officially begin what promises to be a colorful local election season. Veteran Councilman Greg Brown has announced that he will not run for reelection. If Brown had chosen to run, candidates would have to file nomination papers by Dec. 10.

Voss, first elected in 2006, and Olhasso, on the council since 2003, say their records as city leaders position them to face any number of challenges that lie ahead for La Cañada Flintridge.

"The challenges include, first and foremost, the potential extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway, which will require a lot of attention from council members. Our [city's] financial condition is very strong, but we do still have to be concerned about state services and the state budget to the extent it affects residents in La Cañada Flintridge," Voss said.

Richter, an outspoken critic of the way city officials have handled the sewer installation process, ran an unsuccessful bid for council two years ago. Hill says he wants to make City Hall more responsive to residents' concerns. Both candidates argue that the five-member council needs fresh perspectives.

Davitt, who Brown has endorsed to succeed him, has said he would focus on enhancing the city's fiscal security and continuing "responsible growth" policies.

Kamar was traveling and could not be reached for comment. He owns the La Cañada Union 76 Station at Foothill Boulevard and Alta Canyada Road, which has frequently contributed a share of its profits to the La Cañada Educational Foundation.

At this point in political preseason, that leaves Richter and Hill taking the shots.

"I don't come forward with an agenda of 'Elect me and I'll do exactly X, Y and Z,'" said Hill, 60, who was on the Planning Commission from 2006 until earlier this year. "I just feel the time has come for some new blood in there and people who really want to help the community and aren't in there for their own agendas or feeding their own egos. We the people haven't had proper representation for years, and that needs to change."

A resident of La Cañada Flintridge since 1973 who volunteered more than two decades as a reserve deputy for the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station, Hill said the council should take residents' concerns, such as tree removal disputes and building permits, more seriously.

Richter is a retired JPL, Xerox and General Electric scientist who has lived near Descanso Gardens since 1979.

"We don't have anybody on City Council who has a solid background in science and engineering. The reasons presented to us to vote for the sewers were all lies and misrepresentations," alleged Richter, who is also critical of the council's general handling of specific concerns brought by residents.

"The council needs to be more receptive of the opinions and needs of homeowners," Richter said.

But Olhasso isn't buying charges of council members being deaf to homeowner concerns.

"I believe we have been absolutely responsive to the community," said Olhasso, who counted responding to concerns about peafowl, parking, trees and development approval among issues the city has handled well. She also stands by the council's handling of the vote-by-neighborhood process that was used to determine sewer installations.

"For the residents who don't want sewers, my goal is to protect from overzealous state and county regulations," Olhasso said. "I think that's being nothing but responsive to what the residents want, or don't want, in that case."

Davitt said he would offer a broad and inclusive vision that pairs openness to new ideas with expanding past council achievements.

"We are a first-class city and we need to build upon that," Davitt said. "Anybody who's not an incumbent is going to want to portray themselves as fresh blood, and that's why people get into a race — they want to bring own personality and issues forward. What we have to be careful of is when individuals' own agendas aren't in sync with best interests of the city, and that's what's important."

Voss specifically cites making government more responsive to the public in a list of accomplishments over the past four years.

"My objectives upon taking office were to support education, practice fiscal responsibility, enhance public safety, protect and enhance our quality of life, support our business community, and foster an open and responsive city government. I have worked successfully to advance these objectives," Voss wrote in his campaign kickoff announcement.

"You don't always make everybody happy," said Olhasso, "but the goal is to make fair and objective decisions."

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