This is the fourth installment of our Patch City Council Candidates Forum. The five candidates for office in the April 12 municipal elections responded to questions submitted by readers and the Patch editor. A different candidate's answers will be posted each day this week. Jason Cosylion's responses and Mary Ann Lutz's and Tom Adams .
1. Please tell us about yourself and why you should be elected or reelected to represent the people of Monrovia.
I have lived in the immediate area for 56 years and specifically in Monrovia for the past 23 years, raising a family here, and for 35 years, have worked as a legal assistant for attorney Mark M. O’Brien, with his office located in the Monrovia Old Town for the past 16 years. I have committed myself to being immersed in all aspects of our Community building valuable relationships with local businesses and my fellow Monrovians. For 2 years now it has been my distinct honor and privilege to also serve the citizens of Monrovia as a Monrovia City Council Member.
- Council Liaison and Representative to the Monrovia Old Town Advisory Board, Community Services Commission (and past Commissioner 11 years, and past Chair), Foothill Workforce Investment Board, Foothill Transit Board; Southern California Association of Governments, Adopt-a-School Program (Clifton Middle School) and Alternate for both the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership and Council of Governments.
- Community Involvement – Monrovia Reads Board Member and past President (8 years ongoing service); Acting Secretary and past Chair of Monrovia Chamber Business, Education, and Community Outreach Network Committee (8 years ongoing service and also serving on Chamber Executive Board 2005-2008; President 2007); Calendar Coordinator and past President of Monrovia Community Coordinating Council (12 years ongoing service); Monrovia Guild -Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (4 years ongoing service); County Commission for Women Board Member (appointment 2010), as well as support and involvement in several other Community organizations and programs.
Our future is calling; we have many challenges ahead and I believe I am prepared to confront and address them, both on your behalf and together, shoulder to shoulder. My desire is that we continue to cherish and preserve our rich heritage and sense of community while also forging ahead to assure a prosperous future for our City. If you would like to contact me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org; call me at (626) 253-0072, or visit my website at www.beckyshevlin.com.
2. How will the Gold Line benefit the city, and what should be done to best take advantage of it when it finally arrives? -
Southern California is way behind the curve when it comes to a comprehensive public transportation system. We continue to be in love with our cars which impacts us on many levels including congested and decaying freeways, poor air quality, fuel expense and dependency, etc. etc. By bringing the Gold Line to Monrovia and beyond we will be connecting to a system that will offer an alternative, a chance to get out of our cars and the opportunity to serve Monrovians who need and desire viable and dependable transportation as well as serve those outside of our community who also need and desire a viable and convenient way to come visit, work and shop in Monrovia. The Gold Line, in conjunction with the vision of our Redevelopment Agency (should the State allow same to continue), will also spur revitalization in the southern portion of our City, providing both housing, retail and open space opportunities. What should be done to best take advantage of the Gold Line when it finally comes – USE IT!
3. If you had sole authority and responsibility to create a very lean budget for Monrovia, briefly tell us what items you would definitely keep, and what you would definitely cut. (Submitted by reader Charlotte Schamadan)
I hesitate to even state hypothetically what I would do if I had the “sole” authority and responsibility, etc. as that would never be the case and I have never looked upon my service as “if only I had the power and the control …” However, in keeping in line with the current Council protocols, first and foremost, all decisions must be fiscally sound, not only keeping our expenditures within our means and operating as efficiently as possible, but also providing for reasonable reserves to insulate us in the case of emergency and/or unforeseen situations. Immediately behind fiscal responsibility is public safety, preserving essential services and infrastructure which serve and protect the citizens of Monrovia. After that, you then build and execute those programs that provide the sense of Community, the heart and soul of Monrovia, again, always working as efficiently as possible, utilizing aggressive marketing and education, and also taking advantage of a spectrum of funding sources whether it be grants, sponsorships, or competitive fee structures.
4. What's your take on building a park on the south side or the idea of naming it after a local Latino? (Submitted by reader Ralph Walker)
I think any time you can add open space for recreation or just the shear enjoyment of experiencing the out-of-doors, it is a good thing. If just wanting it would have made it happen, I believe we would have had a park many, many years ago. I know at the time I became a Community Services Commissioner over 13 years ago, it was being discussed then and no doubt for many years before that. The obvious reality of not owning the land necessary to build a park and the realistic ability or funds to easily acquire and develop same, have been huge hurdles to overcome. However, we now currently – so long as the State does not kill our Redevelopment Agency -- have a great opportunity to plan and structure our future development in our redevelopment area in the south portion of our Community in ways that will allow us to acquire, fund and build that park. As for the name of that park; any name that is supported by our Community and is representative of or embodies the outstanding efforts of any group or individual in the betterment of City of Monrovia, is definitely OK with me.
5. What is your position on a tiered system of retirement benefits for city employees? How do you propose bringing the benefits in line with what the city can afford while maintaining competitive standards among "like" cities? Do you believe that Police/Fire should have a different retirement benefit than other City employees? (Submitted by reader Nancy Matthews)
Whether it is tiered or otherwise, I believe the current system is not, and for the most part not formulated to be, in balance with fluctuating economic realities. In short, given our current economic situation, whether it is at a local, state or federal level, the current systems are neither reasonable nor sustainable. I believe serious study must be conducted as to sustainable alternatives and how they will be funded. Given not only increased life spans but our increased ability and need to remain physically and socially active substantially past the age of 50, there would appear to be something inherently wrong with a system and culture that promotes guaranteed retirement benefits at the age of 50 or 55 -- especially when compared with the benefits being offered or available through the private sector. The issues are complex and varied but should not be directed towards individuals but rather towards a comprehensive solution that meets the needs of our Community as a whole as well as respect the valued employees that have served our City well and faithfully.
6. How will the proposed elimination of redevelopment agencies affect Monrovia in the short term and long term?
At present, redevelopment dollars fund salaries equivalent to 7 fulltime employees which we have spread out over 12 individuals relating to economic and community development services. Specific programs staffed to promote economic development visions will be immediately impacted. One very specific community development program that would be immediately impacted is the Monrovia Area Partnership and the leadership support and education it promotes and provides. This Program has and is continuing to foster and build Community pride, trust, and leadership within areas of our Community that have long been in need of our attention and revitalization. The leadership education provided through this Program is being expanded to all areas of our City with a six session leadership program to be offered this coming fall. The Program recently was nominated for two very prestigious awards through Neighborhoods USA (NUSA) in the categories of Social Revitalization and Best Neighborhood Program. Long term, our ability to fight blight, cultivate public/private development and revitalization, our ability to acquire and build a park in the southern portion of our City, and to provide affordable housing will be greatly impacted over the years to come if Redevelopment Agencies are eliminated.
7. How are you going to fight voter apathy in Monrovia? Why is voter turnout usually so low? (Submitted by reader Ralph Walker)
Voting is not just a right, it is also a responsibility. If we are to provide a government for and by the people, we must be committed to being engaged. For myself, I will continue to lead by example, to be involved and engaged our Community and to encourage others to do so as well. How can any of us rightfully complain and criticize if we are not willing to be engaged in our communities and in our local, State and National Governments. Our lives, mine included, have so many times become filled with self-made responsibilities and obligations. We have become tired and cynical but we must not lose faith that our individual works and voices do count; that we must be, and continue to be, engaged and get out and Vote.
8. What is your governing philosophy, and who are your political mentors/heroes? (Submitted by reader Charlotte Schamadan).
This is a non-partisan election however I will tell you that I believe in, and stand by, the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Ten Commandments. I believe that education is a vital key to our success and survival; I believe in personal responsibility and limited government. I enjoy studying history and have great respect for many of our leaders, both past and present, but I have no real political mentors or political heroes.
9. The City Council has long been characterized by a spirit of cooperation. What about Monrovia has made the council so tightly knit, and should such a political atmosphere continue?
I think it has been respect for one another and for our governmental process. For the most part, I think as a Community we have respectfully agreed to disagree. Respectful and honest debate and discussion of issues leads to team building and trust. We all bring something different to the table and regardless of the ultimate cooperation; Council Members most definitely have individual opinions. I believe having a unified goal or vision creates a basis for healthy progress and success. We might not all agree on how we reach that goal or vision but if we can continue to dedicate ourselves to being as informed as possible on the issues and be willing to listen just as much if not more than we speak, we can be proud of being a part of a team that gets the job done.
10. What can you do to make Monrovia a better place? (Submitted by reader Debbie Elliott)
I believe I can contribute by continuing to be involved and engaged in our Community and by educating and encouraging others to do so as well. I was a volunteer and possessed a volunteer spirit long before coming to the City Council and I will continue to volunteer in the spirit of making Monrovia a better place for as long as I possibly can and regardless of my tenure on the City Council.