How do the candidates earn a living?

Lee Ann Sears: Fitness trainer works at Curves, a gym for womenBy Henry Veneracion, Staff Writer DOWNEY - "I was born in 1955, and I'll be 55 next month," she was saying, "so I figured it's time to run for public office." On the surface, this is how Lee Ann Sears says she reached her decision to vie for the District 4 council seat soon to be vacated by Mayor Anne Bayer. Beneath the surface, though, is a more serious, savvy, clear-eyed Sears. With a background that includes 20 years as an EKG technician and phlebotomist, Sears says helping her with her campaign strategy is her campaign manager, former mayor Diane Boggs, even as she acknowledges the heavy influence exerted by Riley. Boggs' main advice: don't make a promise you can't deliver. Sears' chief campaign theme is 'keep Downey clean and safe' through: 1) constant vigilance to prevent problems similar to those in neighboring cities; 2) keeping Downey's police and fire departments; 3) balancing budgets without use of reserves or tax increases; 4) supporting recreation and educational programs for all ages; and 5) maintaining city's infrastructure (streets, water mains, etc.). "Everyone knows I don't have much money," says Sears, who has worked for women-friendly Curves as a circuit trainer for the past nine years. "I work mornings during the week, so my afternoons are free. This will give me a great opportunity to serve my community as councilmember, if I'm lucky enough to win." Sears continues, "People ask me, 'Don't you find this [foray into local politics] a scary thing'? I answer, 'You betcha.' 'Do I have all the answers?' 'Absolutely not. Nobody can ever have all the answers. What I can offer is reliability, consistency, sincerity, commitment and responsibility. I am a very punctual person, I am not aligned with anybody, there are no corporate interests backing me, I have no political axe to grind, and I make up my own mind. What you see is what you get. My contribution will be to balance the council." At last count, Sears estimates her war chest add ups to a little over $3,000. She has received contributions, mostly from ordinary folk in the $10-$50 range and an occasional $100 (jumpstarting her campaign was a $500 ante from her husband, Jim, now retired from the L.A. County sheriff's department; a strong booster is St. Mark's Episcopal Church), and she realizes it may take at least $5,000 in hard cash to be able to really conduct an effective campaign. This has not discouraged her one whit. "I intend to give my opponents a run for their money," she says. "I still hope I'll have sufficient funds to win. But win or lose, I'll continue serving this community in the usual ways." "Besides," she says, "It's up to the people to decide." A resident of Downey for 35 years and not long a grandmother, Sears cites her many meaningful community involvements representing multiple years of service over a span of more than 20 years: Warren High School PTA, Downey Council PTA and PTA Helps and scholarships; Downey Rose Float Association; Soroptimist Club; Relay for Life Cancer Walk; Downey Emergency Preparedness Committee; Downey Parks & Recreation Commissioner; etc. Thus, she says, her close interfaces with members of the community representing all walks of life have led to insights and understanding of people's concerns and problems. Plus, she says, "I have been regularly attending city council deliberations all these many years, so I have a good idea of what's going on."

Alex Saab: Saab earns money from law office, real estate By Eric Pierce, city editor DOWNEY - By most indications, city council candidate Alex Saab has done well for himself. The 35-year-old married father of one owns and operates a law practice in Downey, based in a second-story office at Paramount Boulevard and Fourth Street. Before passing the state bar in 2004, he was a substitute teacher in the Downey Unified School District. According to public documents filed with the city clerk, Saab is also a licensed realtor. Last year, Saab earned sales commission totaling more than $10,000 - but less than $100,000 - from real estate deals with Bank of America and Wells Fargo. His primary income, however, comes from his law office, Saab said in an interview last week. "I practice general law in different areas, from working with banks, persons, real estate, immigration issues crossed over with business, things like that," he said. A lifelong resident of Downey, Saab grew up in the 4th District, the district he would represent if successful in the Nov. 2 election when voters select a replacement for termed-out mayor Anne Bayer. After graduating from St. John Bosco High School and UC Irvine, Saab applied and was accepted at Loyola Law School. During his time as a student, Saab worked as a law clerk with the U.S. Attorney's Office, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. He was also issued a license to practice real estate on April 15, 2003, state records show. Saab is affiliated with Quantum Realtors, based in Los Angeles. Both Saab and Quantum Realtors have clean records with the California Department of Real Estate. Saab graduated from Loyola with a juris doctorate degree and was admitted to the state bar on Dec. 1, 2004. He began his practice soon after, initially working with his brother, also a lawyer, out of an office at 8301 E. Florence Ave. (the same office complex where this newspaper is located), before they both moved to separate suites at 10810 Paramount Blvd. As of Sept. 22, Saab has no public record of discipline and no administrative actions have been taken against him, according to records with the California Bar. "A portion of what I do is dedicated to pro bono work," said Saab, who is of Lebanese/Cuban decent. "Before I graduated from law school it's something that I pledged to do in my personal work statement." Updated campaign finance statements are not due to be turned in to the city clerk until early October, but Saab said "the vast, vast majority" of contributions to his campaign have come from Downey residents and businesses. "I've been fortunate to get a lot of support from business owners and longtime residents who can relate to my message and my goals for the city," said Saab, who is running on a platform emphasizing jobs and support for small business. "I have not made an effort to seek any outside contributions. People in the city are what matter, and those are the people I will fight for." Saab married his wife, Giovanna, a former pharmaceutical sales representative and now a stay-at-home mom, almost six years ago. After renting a home for a short while (in the 4th District), they purchased a northeast Downey house located off Downey-Sanford Bridge Road. They have a son, Dominic, who is 1 1/2.

Fernando Vasquez: Manager with non-profit housing developer By Christian Brown, staff writer DOWNEY - With the City Council campaign in full swing, District 4 candidates, hoping to persuade potential voters before November's election, are walking precincts, planting lawn signs and reinforcing their commitment to maintain Downey's integrity. As a development manager for non-profit, housing developer National Core, Fernando Vasquez, who is vying for Mayor Anne Bayer's District 4 seat, is reassuring residents that his occupation will by no means affect his decision-making, if elected to the Council. Founded nearly two decades ago, National Core strives to revitalize communities by acquiring properties in blighted neighborhoods and developing high quality, affordable housing in their stead. National Core's foundation, Help Through Housing, also provides many social services for families, children and seniors. "I've been with them since I graduated college - the summer of 2006," said Vasquez over the phone. "I oversee the design, financing, the community outreach…I deal with investors and lenders. I'm pretty much a jack-of-all-trades." In a statement of economic interests, submitted last month, Vasquez listed three Downey properties tied to his employer: the former Verizon building on Second Street, the Avenue Theatre on Downey Avenue, and the Clark Manor Apartments at 13032 Columbia Way. Owned by the city of Downey, both the Verizon building and Avenue Theatre, which are slated to become affordable housing projects, could be developed by National Core, if contracted by the city. Currently, National Core operates several apartment facilities in the surrounding area, including the Clark Manor Apartments. Though no formal contract between the city and National Core has been finalized, Vasquez said in such a case, if elected, he would not oversee those projects and would abstain from votes that could possibly benefit National Core. "I do look forward to seeing the Downtown revitalized, but I have no interest in being the development manager for those projects," he said. Vasquez, who is contending with local attorney Alex Saab and community leader Lee Ann Sears for the District 4 seat, continues walking door to door speaking with residents, hoping to attract new supporters. "The campaign is going well. We're talking to families in the community," said Vasquez. "We're excited to talk to people and they're excited about the leadership we want to bring to Downey." Vasquez, who also sits on the city's Planning Commission, admits the race will be tough, but despite the pressure, he remains motivated. "You do it for the community," he said. "It's fun talking to people and hearing their stories - we want to make this city a better place. We have a lot of friends and family supporting us [financially]. It just shows the support we have for our vision here in Downey." According to finance reports filed on Aug. 2, Vasquez loaned his campaign $4,151.78 during the period covering Jan. 1 - June 30, 2010, giving him an early lead in campaign funds. The candidates must submit additional financial statements, which will reveal campaign contributions up to September, to the city clerk's office by Oct. 5. If elected, Vasquez said he will donate his entire City Council salary to youth programs in the community.

********** Published: September 23, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 23