This is the fifth and final 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 was posted each day this week. Jason Cosylion's responses , Mary Ann Lutz's , Tom Adams' , and Becky Shevlin's .
1. Please tell us about yourself and why you should be elected or reelected to represent the people of Monrovia.
I offer Monrovians decades of diverse experience:
- 10 years active duty military plus an additional 8 years in the reserves
- 9 years as a systems analyst for multinational financial services corporations
- 12 years in small business – Real estate/Property management
Additionally, during the past 15 years I have been a community volunteer:
- Assisting faculty at Mayflower Elementary School;
- Serving as an advisory committee member to Caltrans (elected as chair by my colleagues);
- Advocating for public health and safety on Pasadena’s Rose Bowl recreation area task force; and,
- Educating public officials on realistic solutions to our sedentary lifestyle/ health care crisis.
I feel I can help diversify the experience base of the council. It has been my experience in working with the city that suggestions for change are a difficult sell. I intend to discuss issues in a direct and open manner and help make government respectful of diversity, efficient in their solutions and responsive to the constituents.
2. How will the Gold Line benefit the city and what should be done to best take advantage of it when it finally arrives?
If we plan the Gold Line well, it could be the most significant asset of our generation or it could remain to be very costly to the taxpayers. Perhaps most commonly touted, the Gold Line will bring more shoppers to generate revenue.
However, more significantly, transit allows a more efficient use of time as texting/emailing and studying can be performed during the commute. Intermingling with other riders offers social opportunities and networking. Electric trains use domestic energy sources and reduce virtually all forms of pollution, as well as enable more physical activity. Several studies indicate that transit users are healthier than their solo-vehicle commuting counterparts. Wars for energy and climbing health care costs (currently $300B) are huge inefficiencies that have local repercussions – The Monrovia Redevelopment Agency money grab is a perfect example of what happens when upper levels of government become cash-strapped. We need to commit to implementing the Gold Line correctly – most cities are failing transit as they are not making transit facilities pedestrian convenient, bicycle friendly nor are they educating residents (particularly at opportune times in life such as when entering the workforce) to the real value of transit.
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)
Public safety and revenue protection would receive highest priority; police,m fire, streets, water sewer etc. However, I would explore the possibility of using volunteers in filling positions and the possibility of privatizing some operations where it makes more economic sense. I would also educate citizens in regard to Special Assessments as a funding source for neighborhood specific projects and enhancements.
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’m not only supportive of but would consider myself an advocate of the creation of a park. I would like to meet with proponents to discuss the solutions to realizing this goal. I support naming the park after whomever the local community feels is worthy of the name. In my humble opinion, this person’s race/ ethnicity is secondary to their contribution to the community but ultimately, the local community would make the naming call.
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)
Defined benefit pensions would be replaced with defined contribution pensions. It is my understanding that all cities are likely to move to this model. Of course this would probably have to be grandfathered in with new employees. Police and Fire do warrant different packages than city staff, for instance realizing benefits at a less advanced age, as aged police and fire fighters are at increased risk of injury to themselves and their co-workers.
6. How will the proposed elimination of redevelopment agencies affect Monrovia in the short term and long term?
Short term: you’re looking at it – panic, stress, speculation, fighting, etc. Long term: We will land on our feet. Many large residential construction firms are already creating “infill” departments as urban living is gaining popularity with the younger generation, as well as new suburban developments are increasingly constrained by limited resources such as water and land. If the elimination of redevelopment agencies results in decreased revenue to the state, then I expect the state would most likely respond by crafting some sort of legislation to allow for the creation of a public redevelopment effort.
7. How are you going to fight voter apathy in Monrovia? Why is voter turnout usually so low? (Submitted by reader Ralph Walker).
Citizens need to understand the importance of civic involvement. For example, just by asking a good question you force thought which has an impact. Government is prone to corruption and that is exactly why citizens can’t be complacent - America can fail and apathy is a tool that can contribute to failure. I would help citizens to understand the importance of involvement by education with a goal towards a greater awareness of the pitfalls of lack of participation.
8. What is your governing philosophy, and who are your political mentors/
heroes? (Submitted by reader Charlotte Schamadan)
We need to focus on the fundamentals – Thriving! While many are doing well, too many are not. While I do not believe it is not the job of government to be a charity, I do believe that elected leaders should work with charities and community leaders, such as clergy, to ensure supportive policy and create a positive environment that encourages individuals to thrive.
My heroes are: Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dr. Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy.
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?
- The voters have elected representatives that are very homogenous so agreement on most matters is highly likely. If the council had members of differing backgrounds and experiences then we would see more debate.
- I believe Monrovia would be healthier with a more diverse mix of backgrounds on the council.
- I see cooperation as essential to progress.
10. What can you do to make Monrovia a better place? (Submitted by reader Debbie Elliott)
- Build a responsive, considerate government.
- Lead by example
- Educate leaders, staff and citizens to the multitude of solutions to the challenges and opportunities facing our community and use our combined intelligence/conscience to select the right choices for Monrovia.