While the L.A. mayor's primary contest is all over the headlines and TV ads, area voters next Tuesday will decide several other key races and issues.

In Los Angeles, the hottest race is for the open Westside city council seat being vacated by termed-out Cindy Miscikowski. The two top contenders, former cable television public affairs host Bill Rosendahl and former Westside area planning commissioner Flora Gil Krisiloff, have raised close to the maximum $250,000 allowed under city spending limits to be eligible for matching funds.

They've also split key endorsements: Rosendahl has gotten the support of key environmental and labor groups while Krisiloff has been endorsed by Miscikowski and the Los Angeles Times.

There is a third candidate: attorney and city transportation commissioner Angela Reddock. She had raised about $47,000 through Jan. 31, which could garner her enough votes to force Rosendahl and Krisiloff into a runoff.

In Beverly Hills, a contentious development issue heads up the ballot.

Opponents of the $200 million Montage Hotel Beverly Hills and Public Gardens project, which the Beverly Hills City Council approved last summer, have forced a referendum. The project, which is a partnership between developer Athens Group and Laguna Beach-based Montage Hotels & Resorts LLC, includes a 214-room hotel, 25 hotel condominiums, 33,000 square feet of gardens and a 1,172-space subterranean parking garage.

Supporters, including Mayor Mark Eggerman, say the project will bring more than $50 million a year in new revenue for the city and revitalize a long-neglected portion of the "Golden Triangle."

Opponents, a group of residents and merchants under the banner of the Campaign to Save Beverly Hills, say the project would add traffic to already gridlocked streets and cost taxpayers $30 million in public subsidies.

In South Gate, the city has placed a 5 percent utility tax on the ballot in a bid to raise $2.6 million a year in revenue and help erase a $6 million budget deficit. The deficit is one of the lingering impacts of the political and financial turmoil that shook the city several years ago. Last November, prosecutors charged former city Treasurer Albert Robles with public corruption, saying his actions cost the city $12 million over four years.

Proponents say that the tax on all electric, telephone, water and natural gas services is essential to help the city climb out of its financial hole and fund public safety and other services at current levels. Opponents say the money from the utility tax will go to fund employee salaries, not essential services such as police and firefighting.

Time Crunch

With more than 70 initiatives waiting in the wings for a likely special statewide election this fall, the biggest factor that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other initiative proponents face may be time.

In order for the initiatives to qualify for the Nov. 8 ballot, signatures must be submitted to the Secretary of State's office by late May or early June. As of last week, only 11 initiatives had entered circulation; another 70 were awaiting "title and summary" declaration by the state Attorney General's Office and are weeks away from being allowed to start collecting up to 1 million signatures each.

"There's only going to be about six to eight weeks for these initiatives to gather signatures," said Tony Quinn, a political consultant who co-edits the California Target Book, which tracks state races. "That's a lot of initiatives to hit people with in a short time. Some will undoubtedly be winnowed out."

Redistricting, which the governor has made a priority, is on two of the 11 initiatives now circulating for signatures (and he's not endorsed either of those). The other topics he's mentioned, including merit pay for teachers and reform of the state pension system, are either awaiting "title and summary" by the attorney general or have yet to be submitted for consideration.

Of course, it might not reach that far. Schwarzenegger could seek to repeat his strategy of last year when he had a workers' compensation reform initiative ready to submit for signature verification, only to have the Legislature agree on a compromise proposal.

On redistricting, Quinn said Schwarzenegger's advisers may be realizing that there is neither the political will nor the time to have redistricting reform take effect for the 2006 elections.

Congressional Republicans, including Schwarzenegger's campaign co-chair Rep. David Dreier, R-Glendora, have pressed Schwarzenegger to back away from any redistricting overhaul, saying that the state could lose powerful congressional committee chairmanships from a rejiggering of districts. They are urging the governor to postpone redistricting reform until after the 2010 Census or drop it altogether.

Quinn added that even if voters approved redistricting reform in November, there would not be enough time to redraw district boundaries in time for the June 2006 state primary. "That leaves only the 2008 and 2010 elections before another redistricting has to be done, which raises the question: Is it worth a big fight to get it implemented immediately?"

Meanwhile, Democratic proposals pending with the Attorney General's Office include measures to hike the minimum wage, re-regulate the state's electric utilities and close corporate tax loopholes.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached by phone at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227, or by e-mail at hfine@labusinessjournal.com .

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