In our humble city of 111,000 residents, we rely on a five-member City Council to govern our community. They approve contracts, appoint commissioners, make policy decisions, and oversee a municipal budget that totaled $159.9 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
But perhaps more importantly, the City Council guides the city towards a path of progress or regression. The revitalization of Downtown Downey, the development of the Promenade shopping center, and the initiative to create new housing (usually in the form of three-story townhomes) are examples of the City Council setting the tone for what it wants Downey to become.
This is why your vote for Downey City Council is so important; Downey's future is at stake.
The good news is that just about anyone can run for City Council, provided you're over 18, are a legal resident, and meet the basic residency requirements.
The bad news is that just about anyone can run for City Council, even those with self-serving agendas or who are otherwise deaf to the needs and desires of constituents.
City Council seats aren't meant to be filled by professional politicians. In Downey at least, election to City Council has traditionally served as the ultimate form of community service, fulfilled by residents who care for their community and are generous with their expertise towards the development of our city.
Three City Council seats are up for grabs on Nov. 8: District 3 (northwest Downey), District 1 (southeast Downey) and District 5 (the entire city of Downey).
It's critical that Downey voters study the nine candidates running for City Council. Study their backgrounds, investigate their sources of funding, consider their abilities, and ask yourself whose intentions are most pure.
This is exactly what I did, and after careful thought and consideration, these are my picks for Downey City Council.
DISTRICT 3: District 3’s current councilman is Roger Brossmer, who has served Downey admirably for eight years and is now termed out of office. A skilled negotiator, Brossmer leaves behind a legacy of common sense politics that served his constituents very well.
Seeking to replace him are four candidates: Friné Medrano, Art Montoya, Louis Morales and Rick Rodriguez.
If I lived in District 3, my vote would go to Rick Rodriguez.
At age 55 and semi-retired, we can be assured Rodriguez isn’t using the City Council as a stepping stone to higher political office (the same cannot be said about his opponents). He has served as president of the Downey Chamber of Commerce and Gangs Out of Downey, and even a cursory glance through the Downey Patriot’s archives show Rodriguez has been heavily involved in community service for at least the past decade.
He's not afraid to speak candidly on local controversial issues, such as Measure S (he supports it) and additional section 8 housing in Downey (he's against it). At the political debate hosted by the Downey Patriot two weeks ago, Rodriguez gave clear and specific answers, so even if you disagree with him on policy issues, there's no misunderstanding his positions.
His biggest threat in this race is Friné Medrano, whose campaign is being heavily funded by Sacramento politicians, including state senators Kevin De Leon (her boss), Ricardo Lara and Tony Mendoza.
Medrano’s alliance with outside career politicians is a liability, not an asset, and should be concerning to any Downey resident that values local control of their city.
Also concerning is Medrano's resume, which is startling in its lack of community involvement. In a city as volunteer-centric as Downey, Medrano has shown exactly zero desire to give back to her community.
One more thing: Medrano's claim that she is "the only candidate for Downey City Council in District 3 that graduated from our local schools" is either a blatant lie or gross oversight. Either way it's incorrect: Art Montoya attended Rio Hondo Elementary, Griffiths Middle and Warren High School.
Speaking of Montoya, he brought youth, passion and fresh ideas to his campaign, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a person of greater character. (Full disclosure: Montoya was a photography intern at the Downey Patriot while in high school, and I was his supervisor.)
But with youth comes inexperience, and Montoya could benefit from a few more years of work and volunteerism to really familiarize himself with Downey's issues. He would even be a solid addition to Downey's Planning Commission.
The final candidate is Louis Morales, who is highly experienced in the inner workings of city government, having served as a Downey planning commissioner the last eight years.
But it's concerning that Morales accepted campaign contributions from Club DB Lounge, Mariscos Choix and La Barca, three businesses that each have had business before the Planning Commission.
In summary, when Rick Rodriguez speaks on local issues, he knows what he’s talking about. His experience, passion and problem-solving abilities make him a natural fit for City Council.
DISTRICT 1: If the Downey Patriot was a gossip magazine, oh the stories it could tell about District 1 councilman Luis Marquez. Instead, let us celebrate the existence of term limits and turn our attention to a successor.
Three candidates are seeking to replace Marquez: Blanca Pacheco, Hector Lujan and Alma Marquez. (She is the wife of Luis Marquez.)
If I had a vote in District 1, I’d cast my ballot for Blanca Pacheco.
You can’t go wrong with either Pacheco or Lujan; both are honest, ethical residents that can be trusted to represent the best interest of Downey residents.
But Pacheco gets the nod for having a stronger Downey resume. Her position as a Downey Chamber of Commerce board member gives her unique insight into the needs of Downey businesses and she also serves on the less glamorous but equally important Downey Public Works Commission, dealing with local infrastructure issues.
An attorney by trade, Pacheco has proven to be a smart and effective leader.
Alma Marquez is also smart and personable, but because she's such a relatively obscure candidate, it's unknown if she fully grasps the issues facing Downey today, let alone if she possesses a plan to address those issues.
Her campaign finances are suspect as well, as she collected thousands of dollars from local car dealerships, including $3,000 from Penske Toyota and its managers. She even accepted money from the Taxpayers for Rod Wright Legal Defense Fund, money that was used to defend the former state senator who resigned in 2014 after an eight-count felony indictment.
But Alma's biggest liability above all else is her husband, who embarrassed Downey with his transgressions that now have him facing a paternity lawsuit.
In summary, Hector Lujan is an outstanding resident and a tremendous advocate for youth, but at this time Blanca Pacheco is the best choice to represent District 1 on the City Council.
DISTRICT 5: When Alex Saab was elected to the City Council four years ago, he set an all-time record for votes collected by a Downey candidate.
It's safe to say Downey voters put their trust in Saab, and he delivered.
Saab has been a tireless public servant, representing Downey with class, smarts and a propensity for common sense. He’s shown a willingness to listen to different viewpoints while not compromising on his core values.
In short, Downey couldn’t ask for a better representative on the City Council.
His opponent, Art Gonzalez, is a real estate agent and relatively new to the city, having moved to Downey five years ago. He is a neighborhood watch captain, an admirable indication that he cares about his community.
But that’s all we know of Gonzalez. He has done zero campaigning, has published no campaign literature, and has no goals or aspirations for Downey that we're aware of. Why he’s running for City Council is a mystery.
In the city-wide District 5 I do get a vote and it's going to Alex Saab. This one is a no-brainer.