NORWALK – Nine of the candidates running for Norwalk City Council fielded questions from residents during the 2017 Norwalk Candidates Forum.
The forum was presented by the Norwalk Community Coordinating Council and took place within the City Council chambers at City Hall on Feb. 9.
All 12 of the candidates vying for the three open city council seats were invited to take part in the forum, however Debbie Martinez, Candy Martinez, and Harvey Cardenas were not present.
The other nine candidates – Esperanza Free, Marcel Mercado, Jamie Armenta, Enrique Aranda, Tony Ayala, Jennifer Perez, Alberto Uribe, Ken Menchaca and Margarita Rios – all had their feet held to the community flame as they answered questions on business, technology, public safety, senior citizens, prior community service, future vision and the metro train extension.
The varying degrees of background and experience between the candidates played a significant role last Thursday evening.
While much of the evening was spent with many of the candidates rehashing much of what they’ve already said in their campaigns and platforms, the forum did bring out a more interesting angle through the body language, tone and confidence in response of each candidate with each question.
Armenta was the only one to point out her obvious nerves during the evening, however reiterated that she planned to help develop Norwalk with a direct approach if elected.
“I’m not a politician. I’m not a public speaker…,” said Armenta. “I’m a down to earth person with some education, a concerned citizen, homeowner, mother, grandmother, volunteer, once upon a time a business owner…my goals here are to develop Norwalk into a place where parents want to raise their children and seniors feel safe…I also want to bring in new business and help small businesses grow…I intend to be a hands on servant of the community.”
Seemingly the most enthusiastic sounding throughout the entire night was Jennifer Perez, who currently sits as a planning commissioner for Norwalk.
“Many of you who know me –and some who do not – have asked me ‘with all I have going on, why am I running for city council,’” said Perez. “The answer is simple: because I want to do more, and I want to give more to our community and the city of Norwalk.”
Alberto Uribe, the youngest candidate at 24 who is just beginning his potential political career, relied on his youth and fresh mindset to try and sway voters in his direction.
“I am the youngest individual up here, and I think that just speaks volumes,” said Uribe. “I’m here to represent the younger generation…I’m gonna pump up our community. I’m a leader at home, I’m a leader at work, and I’m a leader in my community…I have a different mindset, I’m pumped, I’m energetic, [and] I have passion…”
Menchaca found his passions and became probably the most explosive on the subject of public safety, likely due in part to his background in youth gang intervention.
“When I become council, I’m going to put Norwalk first. Why? Because you don’t know what it is when you got a little 16-year old kid [and] he dies in your arms, right there in front of you because of a drive-by…,” said Menchaca.
All candidates are running for two four year terms except for Menchaca, Uribe and Rios, who are running for the special two year term vacated by Marcel Rodarte last year. For those who missed the forum, there will be several rebroadcasts on Monday, Feb. 13, 20 and 27 at 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 16 and 23 at 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, February 19 and 26 at 4 p.m.
The election will be held March 7.