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SIX CANDIDATES VYING FOR TWO SEATS ON CITY COUNCIL.

Byline: Rachel Uranga Staff Writer

AGOURA HILLS - Protecting open space, supporting education and curbing growth and gridlock are at the center of Agoura Hills' heated election battle, which will be settled at the polls Tuesday.

In that City Council race, a half dozen candidates are seeking two seats on the five-member panel.

Incumbent Dan Kuperberg, a public defender, is being challenged by Stephen Rishoff, a 54-year-old private attorney and brother of exiting councilwoman Louise Rishoff; John Edelston, a 53-year-old health care consultant; Alex Soteras, the 42-year-old president of the Agoura, Oak Park, Las Virgenes Chamber of Commerce; Seymour Patnode, a 45-year-old accountant; and George ``Chris'' Thomas, a 26-year-old business consultant.

The Agoura Hills council controls an annual budget of $18.7 million, provides services for 21,000 residents of the affluent pastoral community and oversees a staff of 32.

Traffic is a key community concern, and over the next four years the council is expected to sign off on construction of a $23 million expansion of the Kanan Road exit off the Ventura Freeway. The expansion would ease the traffic blockages by an estimated 40 percent to 50 percent.

All the challengers said they would be more aggressive in completing the long-awaited interchange expansion and all but Rishoff criticized the current council as out of touch with the community.

Both Edelston and Soteras, who has bankrolled most of his campaign, said one of their first priorities if elected would be to create an education commission that would help coordinate resources between the city and the Las Virgenes Unified School District, including sharing facilities.

Both also said they would seek to make the council more inclusive.

``Too many of the citizens have been kept out of the decision-making process. I'd like to keep them in the loop and have more town meetings,'' Soteras said.

Edelston, who has been endorsed by LVUSD board member Gordon Whitehead and president of the district's teachers union, said he would also push for a 15-bed community hospital that he says could be funded by Medicare without additional taxes to the community.

Unlike Soteras, Edelston and Patnode said they would establish a commission with neighborhood representatives to help guide council decisions.

Patnode said she would bring trust back to a community and will stand firm against any big-box store development.

Rishoff said he is committed to seeing through the Agoura Hills Village, an upscale mixed retail, office and housing development on the south side of the Ventura Freeway that would create a city center.

Mostly though, Rishoff said, he would maintain the status quo.

``I don't think we need to change the way the city does business. If anything, more people need to get involved in the city,'' Rishoff said. To help promote civic involvement, he would ensure key documents and information were accessible through the city's Web site and at City Hall.

Incumbent Kuperberg, who calls himself an environmentalist and says he has been instrumental in blocking big-box stores like Home Depot, said he has a tax-transfer plan that would help raise revenues to expand open space. Moreover, he points to more than eight years on the council and longtime relationships with school district officials as an advantage over his competitors.

``I have a proven record. Some of my opponents don't have those positives,'' Kuperberg said. Thomas, a self-employed consultant, said he would donate the $300 monthly stipend council members earn to the city and push for tax incentives, grants and sales tax to increase open space.

To pay for the remaining $5 million needed for the completion of the Kanan interchange, he would lobby state and federal agencies harder and push for revenue-generating development.

Thomas also said he would bolster participation in City Council meetings by airing the meetings live on local access television and allowing e-mail in their public comments.

``Right now, there is a disconnect between the council and the community,'' he said.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters with questions about their polling places can call (818) 597-7300.

Rachel Uranga, (805) 583-7602

rachel.uranga(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 1, 2003
Words:682
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