11:01 PM PDT on Monday, October 25, 2010

By DARRELL R. SANTSCHI
The Press-Enterprise

The city’s handling of recent scandals, luring business and developing programs for young people are among the top issues in the race for mayor of Grand Terrace on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Four candidates are seeking the seat being vacated by Mayor Maryetta Ferre, who did not seek re-election. They are Councilman Walt Stanckiewitz, Planning Commission Chairman Doug Wilson, Chamber of Commerce President Sally McGuire and real estate associate Denise “De De” DeCenty-Steinberg.

The election comes as the city struggles to clean up its image after a series of embarrassments. Those include recent revelations that the city had not paid federal payroll taxes on council members’ monthly stipends for more than 30 years and that the city’s general fund will be paying back $4.6 million in redevelopment money used to balance past budgets.

Wilson and McGuire contend that the city should not dwell on its mistakes.

“I don’t think we should be spending so much time picking the daylights out of past performance,” said Wilson, a business consultant who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2006 and lost a race for a council seat two years ago. “I know they had the issue about the stipend and they squared that away.

“Any time you have human beings involved in a process, there are going to be some corrections along the way,” he said. “I think what is more important is to serve the citizens, to concentrate on the economic aspect of government and concentrate on jobs, concentrate on youth.”

McGuire, a first-time candidate, says “We need to move forward. I don’t believe in living in the past. … In the last couple of years, the citizens here have been what I am going to say is demoralized. It’s unfortunate for us.”

She said redevelopment money should be used “to better the city. I believe that’s what has been done.”

DeCenty-Sternberg said the entire council should be carefully overseeing the city’s spending “rather than one person. That’s why you have a body of people. That’s what they’re there for.”

Stanckiewitz, a restaurateur who would retain his seat on the council if he is not elected mayor, said turmoil generated by recent scandals “has been horrendous.

“First of all, you have to admit that things were done wrong and fix it,” he said. “My position is, you can’t build for the future when the foundation is bad. You have to dig up the foundation, put in a new foundation and then we can build a house that will stand up.”

DeCenty-Sternberg said she wants the city to make an effort to attract small businesses, but to avoid duplicating existing stores.

“The city should have things for children to go to, like bowling alleys, maybe a theater, and a YMCA and YWCA,” she said. “Our children are bored out of their gourds.”

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