This has been a tough political year for the city of Inglewood.

In January, three-term Mayor Roosevelt Dorn, who had been in office since 1997, resigned amid charges by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office of conflict of interest and misappropriation of public funds.

Two months later City Administrator Tim Wanamaker abruptly resigned, after only two years on the job. Then a month later, Jeff Muir, Inglewood’s chief financial officer (CFO) gave his resignation.

Muir initially began working at Inglewood in 1997, left in 2004 but returned in December 2009 to help the city straighten up its financial house.

As a result of the chaos, the City Council had not received an audit for two years, and when they were finally presented, found that the municipality was in such a bad financial position that service cuts and lay-offs could definitely be in the offing.

But the challenges did not stop there. In the special election held in June to fill Dorn’s unexpired term, nine candidates ran for the office, which with the polarization that is not atypical in Inglewood, forced a run off. Then the second place voter-getter James Butts was disqualified, because his change of address application was not stamped by the Los Angeles County Clerk’s office prior to the city’s residency deadline requirement.

So now, two candidates are left to vie for a seat which they will occupy for about two months, and during the entire time the winner will be campaigning once again–this time to earn a full four-year term as mayor.

The election, which initially was slated for mid-August, was pushed back to the end of the month to give the third-place vote-getter time to campaign, but that person, City Councilwoman Judy Dunlap, announced July 27 that she would not campaign.

“It is important to note here, that in the early part of this year, when I informed Inglewood residents of our impending financial crisis and the need to take immediate corrective action, I was called a liar and was accused of ‘politicking.’

“The focus was not on the message but on the messenger. I was accused of inflaming residents for the sole purpose of bringing attention to my mayoral campaign.

“However, the situation is actually worse than predicted. Earlier this month (July 2010), the city’s $22 million of Undesignated Reserves and Emergency Fund money was completely depleted. Yes, that’s right. A zero balance … and we have yet to cut the now $15 million dollars needed to balance the structural deficit.

“I cannot allow my views to be distorted and maligned by my political opposition because of elections that I tried to prevent. When I say political opposition, I am not just talking about other candidates. I am talking about rag journals that print gossip, lies and misinformation that serve the political agenda of our former mayor. He and his supporters want to turn back the clock… and revert to a time when racial diversity was unacceptable and minority candidates were destroyed by any means necessary.

“I will not be handicapped in my ability to make tough choices due to preconceived notions that my decisions may be compromised, because I am seeking people’s votes.

“Ladies and gentlemen, serious times like these require you to hear what you need to know and not just what you want to know.”

Dunlap’s opponent, Councilman Daniel Tabor is campaigning, and knows the biggest challenge to winning the seat will not be council colleague or even the issues that are currently confronting the city. Instead, voter apathy or disinterest may very well be the enemy.

“It’s going to be a big problem. This is the first time there’s been an election in August in the city of Inglewood. A weekend that typically is the first weekend of a family holiday or the last weekend of a family holiday because the next weekend, Labor Day is the weekend before school starts.”

Another challenge anyone running in an Inglewood election faces is bringing together all the factions that make up city politics.

And then, there are the issues. As Dunlap pointed out, Inglewood is facing one of the worst financial crises in its recent history; one that might force the council to cut services and lay-off employees.

This is sure to exacerbate a problem that, over the last few years, has seen the city’s once-robust downtown lose both big and small businesses.

There is also the light-rail proposed to come through the city along Florence Avenue on its way to LAX. During a recent council meeting, Dunlap noted this project could potentially negatively impact the city’s retail sector.

Tabor counters that may not be true depending on how the project is designed and points to the positive impact of additional jobs and retail revenue it would bring.

However, he does acknowledge that those benefits are at least a year away.

Despite all the challenges candidates face, Tabor believes there are some distinctive advantages to winning the upcoming Aug. 31 election.

“The benefit is you are the mayor, and for those two months before the November election . . . you have the ability as mayor of implementing your program and putting your ideas into actions . . . the reality is that you run as the incumbent.”

The candidate does acknowledge that two months is not enough time to have made massive improvements or changes but believes it is enough time to demonstrate the ability to pull people together around critical issues, begin the dialogue necessary to come up with plans and strategies to address those issues and to begin to focus public support around opportunities that are not in their field of vision.”