Crossing the political border

Is Proposition 187 author and former state Sen. Dick Mountjoy a one-issue candidate or ‘the one guy’ who can unseat Dianne Feinstein?

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 1/26/2006

A minority party candidate faces an uphill battle this November in strong opposition majority territory.

No, it’s not a Democrat trying to regain one of the 21 seats needed to overturn power in Republican-controlled Congress. It’s not a Democratic gubernatorial candidate trying to take back one of the four states needed to overturn the Republican majority.

The San Gabriel Valley’s own former Republican state senator, Richard Mountjoy of Monrovia, has announced he will run against US Sen. Diane Feinstein.

The 73-year-old Mountjoy is no stranger to politics or controversy. As former president of the California Republican Assembly, the state’s largest conservative activist group, Mountjoy was the author of Proposition 187, which was approved by 59 percent of voters in 1994 and would have denied government health care, education and welfare benefits to illegal immigrants.

The initiative was later voided by US District Court Judge Mariana Pfaelzer, who ruled that regulation of immigration is the federal government’s responsibility.

Having spent 10 years in local government and 23 years in the state Legislature, the Monrovia businessman, whose son Dennis has served two terms in the Assembly, was comfortable being back in the private sector. But encouragement from his former colleagues convinced him to give the Senate a shot.

Coming on the heels of the Minute Men protests across Southern California and President Bush’s proposal to give immigrants a temporary work visa, Mountjoy said he plans to once again focus his campaign on the issue of immigration. "I’ve been pushing that one since before it was popular," he told the Weekly.

According to Wikipedia, "It is commonly believed that a repercussion of the campaign for passage of Proposition 187 was the alienation of minority voters in California from the Republican Party."

For his part, Mountjoy does not see anything wrong with his support of these policies, which have been characterized as racist by not only those in the opposition party, but the very people who feel the weight of those actions: Latino immigrants.

"That’s an inflammatory thing. I’m just shocked. Thirty some years in the Legislature … I’ve got a record. Take a look at it," Mountjoy said in a follow-up interview. "I’m not going to respond to inflammatory, outrageous, stupid questions. I don’t do that."

The Golden State hasn’t had Republican senators since Pete Wilson and John Seymour left office in 1992, so the question remains: Is California ready to elect another Republican?

-Justin Chapman

Pasadena Weekly: You said you would drop out of the race if another Republican with deeper pockets chose to run. Do you know if anyone has expressed interest in running against the incumbent?

Richard Mountjoy: Well what I meant by that is, if there was somebody that got in and decided to spend a whole bunch of money on primaries, neither one of us could win, so … that was the reason for that comment, but I’ve already taken out the papers. I’m in the race. I don’t know if anyone’s expressed interest. I have so many grassroots supporters out there, I don’t think anybody is going to get it together and try to beat me in the primary.

What accomplishments during your terms as state Senator are you particularly proud of?

I was the one who got rid of MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether). I was by myself on that issue. After 18 months, we finally got it out of the field, this poison in the water. I was a stand-alone on that one. I’ve done workers’ comp. I was key in workers’ comp reform in the late ’80s.

If elected, what would be your policy on immigration and California’s border with Mexico?

Well, I was the author of Proposition 187, so you know where I’m at on that issue. I’m not a person that just supports an issue; I go out and work for it. Immigration reform is a must, an amnesty. So that’s my position. I’ve been pushing that one since before it was popular. Way back, ’94. Matter of fact, 187 passed and was set aside by Gov. Davis. Illegally set aside, but it was set aside.

When you left the state Legislature in 2000, did you know you wanted to run for another office later on down the line? Were there some things you still wanted to accomplish?

No, actually, I was very comfortable doing the things I like to do. But there were just hundreds of people that sent me emails saying to get in the race. After talking to a lot of my friends in the political arena, they said, "You’re the one guy who can do it." I do have support statewide, so I considered it for awhile, then decided, … Well, why not give it a shot? That’s where we’re at. And the support’s pouring in from the grassroots pretty heavily.

Do you think the governor can make a comeback?

Yeah, I think he will. I don’t think the governor’s in a whole lot of trouble as long as he doesn’t go too far to the left. He’ll be fine, and I think up to now he’s done a pretty decent job. He’s gonna be in the middle. Like I said, you have to sit back and see what he’s going to do in the future, what he does with this year’s budget, how that all comes out. There was a heavy campaign against his propositions and it was just insurmountable. He took on too many dragons at one time. We’ll just have to see how the whole thing plays out.

Sen. Feinstein has been labeled "undefeatable." What do you think it will take to unseat her?

Well, that’s the reason most people believe that I can do it because it’s going to take heavy grassroots support, it’s going to take a lot of Democrat support, and I think I can do that. In my own district I ran like 20 percent ahead on registration almost every time I ran. The Reagan Democrats will come out and support me.

What would be your main priorities if elected?

Immigration reform, of course. Helping the president get his nominations to the Supreme Court through, I think that’s critical. I don’t think we need political activists on the Supreme Court or any other level of court. Support for the president’s program against terrorism. I totally support giving powers to the president to surveil (sic) people. Well, actually it’s through Congress that they do that, but I think the PATRIOT Act needs to be reenacted. I think Mrs. Feinstein and the other Democrats are on the wrong side. I mean, they’re on the side of saying, "Hey, whatever’s bad for America is good for us." That’s the wrong side to be on. I don’t think the American people are that way and I don’t think the Democrats are that way – rank and file Democrats are not there. Rank and file Democrats are very patriotic. They love this country and support the military. Diane Feinstein and her cohorts don’t. It’s as simple as that. And those would be very strong issues with me.

AUSD: It’s on!

by Andre Coleman, Pasadena Weekly, Jan 19, 2006

Los Angeles County Office of Education officials confirmed being in receipt of a letter from three prominent Altadenans requesting that LACOE draft a petition for the formation of an Altadena Unified School District.

In the letter, community members Maurice Morse, Shirlee Smith and Bruce Wasson asked county education officials to prepare a petition in order to hold public hearings on the issue. If petitioners can collect signatures from 25 percent of the town’s registered voters, the office would hold public hearings on the matter and complete a feasibility study before the state Board of Education made a final decision.

The feasibility study would not be a management audit, as suggested in another published report. Rather, it would focus on the fiscal condition of the school district as it relates to the unification of a new district.

"We the undersigned, each a property owner, taxpayer, registered voter, and resident of Altadena, an unincorporated community in Los Angeles County, hereby request your assistance in drafting a petition for the unification of the Altadena Unified School District from the Pasadena Unified School District," the letter states.

"We believe that the unification of the Altadena Unified School District, which would create a district with more than 4,000 students, will provide Altadena students with the highest quality public school education in safe and secure facilities; reduce the distance Altadena students must travel in order to attend a public school; increase the sense of community identity within Altadena; improve the efficiency and fiscal responsibility of school district management; and increase the voice of Altadenans in the governance of their public schools."

The letter, which was received by county officials Friday, also calls for an equitable distribution of property and facilities.

Although the Altadena Town Council has explored the idea of forming a separate school district before, this is the first time a resident there has petitioned the LACOE to draft such a petition.

"I would think that it would benefit our children," said Morse, one of the three citizens who signed the letter. Over the past few years, Morse had been supportive of the PUSD and Superintendent Percy Clark, whose hiring in 2001 Morse supported.

However, she said, "In the last five years we have had leadership that does not seem to care about Altadena. Percy Clark is not a match for our complicated district. We just have the wrong leader."

Schools are one of the few remaining institutions shared by the two communities. Altadena has its own post office, fire department and is patrolled by the Altadena bureau of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Of course, many of the agencies do work together.

Sheriff’s deputies will be more involved with the schools since the PUSD disbanded its school police due to a continuing financial crisis, largely attributed to declining enrollment.

On Dec. 20, Pasadena school board members decided to close Noyes, Edison, Allendale and Linda Vista elementary schools after losing more than 1,000 students this year. That enrollment decline cost the district $4 million in state funds.

But school closures probably will not stop there. PUSD spokeswoman Janet Pope-Givens told the Weekly in December that there was a greater than 50 percent chance that next year the district would be forced to close even more schools.

The Altadena Town Council voted on Dec. 20 to look into the possibility of removing its seven schools from the PUSD.

Students of Linda Vista, which is located in West Pasadena, currently attend classes in Altadena because repairs to that campus were stopped due to budget constraints.

While governed by the LA County Board of Supervisors, Altadena has an elected, 16-member Town Council that acts as an advisory body on issues such as education.

On Saturday, about 200 people met with Antonovich and members of the PUSD Executive Leadership Team, which included Assistant Superintendents George McKenna and Kathy Duba and Board of Education President Ed Honowitz. Clark did not attend, claiming a prior scheduling commitment.

That was probably just as well because Clark’s team did not receive a warm welcome, Morse recalled.

"It was horrible," said Morse. "People were standing everywhere; they couldn’t get a seat. They were booing Kathy Duba, telling her to sit down. They are angry and I don’t blame them. This district has gotten horrible."

Others complained of Brown Act violations and at one point yelled: "Stop this man; he’s pillaging and plundering our district," pointing to Honowitz.

Supporters of plans to form a new school district have also started their own Web site,

Antonovich called for respect from participants, but later called the Altadena Unified School District an achievable goal and said he would support a school district in Altadena if it is what the community wants.

"We saw interest from the public in separating from PUSD beyond what we expected," said Justin Chapman, the Town Council member who initiated proposals to secede from the PUSD. "It was quite possibly the highest attended Altadena community meeting ever."

Altadena talks, Antonovich listens

by Pasadena Weekly | Jan 5, 2006

Upset about the closure of two elementary schools in their neighborhoods, Altadena residents will have a chance to make their voices heard on Jan. 14, when LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich hosts a community meeting at the Altadena Community Center.

As Pasadena Unified School District Board members voted Dec. 20 to close Altadena elementary schools Noyes and Edison along with two others, Altadena Town Council members voted 13-0 to create a committee that will look at seceding from the PUSD.

School board members closed the schools to fill a growing budget gap of more than $4 million.

The idea that Altadena should consider forming its own school system was advanced by newly elected Town Councilman Justin Chapman, 20 and a freelance writer for the Weekly.

"The supervisor is looking at all the information that the community is providing," said Tony Bell, a spokesman for Antonovich.

"I understand that there is a community meeting coming up and [PUSD Superintendent] Dr. [Percy] Clark will be there to discuss enrollment, management and budget issues, and we look forward to an informative meeting with community input. It is our hope that whichever decision is made, it will be for the benefit of the students of Altadena. The supervisor is aware that this has been discussed before, and it is an issue that needs to be looked at," said Bell.

The community meeting is from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at the Altadena Community Center, 730 E. Altadena Drive.

In a recent email to Chapman, Antonovich’s Education and Field Deputy Rita Hadjimanoukian outlined the process that Altadena should follow to obtain its own school district.

At the request of a community member, she wrote, the LA County Office of Education would prepare a petition that would need to be signed by 25 percent of registered voters there. A successful drive would force the office to hold public hearings on the matter and complete a feasibility study before the state Board of Education made a final decision.

"We want to take a look at the situation and decide on what’s best for Altadena’s kids. I think if there is no secession, we should have some type of guaranteed representation. We had little to no voice in the school closure decision," Chapman said.