Mercifully, polls closed Tuesday and voters nationwide finally had the chance to cast their ballots.Locally, former housing development manager Fernando Vasquez was chosen to replace Anne Bayer on the City Council representing District 4 (northeast Downey). Judging from comments on our website, letters to this newspaper and phone calls, it wasn't the selection some Downey residents or elected officials had hoped for, although it was the will of the people. Vasquez had announced his candidacy for council two years ago for the citywide District 5 seat, but dropped out of the running due to "an unforeseen increase in work duties," paving the way for Luis Marquez to win handily over three other (non-Hispanic) candidates. One of Marquez's first acts as a council member was to appoint Vasquez to the Planning Commission. It wasn't long after that Vasquez set his sights on District 4. There's no way to prove that Marquez and Vasquez had a deal in place that would help both get elected to city council, but the timing of it all is curious, to say the least. It was a dirty election, from all sides. As a resident of District 4, my mailbox received its fair share of misleading mailers. And that's not to mention the flier I was handed at the farmers market, which leveled cheap shots and unverified accusations at Vasquez. (Time may tell if the accusations hold any truth, but for now, they remain unverifiable.) No one in the local election came away with clean hands. And that was too bad, considering they were campaigning to represent a city that is supposed to hold character in such high regard. Vasquez now takes over for Bayer, a politician who has been vigilant in her platform to rein excess spending but has nonetheless done a woeful job in representing her constituency. Vasquez has a golden opportunity to finally give a voice to District 4, which has been underrepresented for far too long. (Indeed, it was Councilman Mario Guerra, not Bayer, who voiced concerns about potential construction delays on Lakewood Boulevard in District 4). Vasquez needs to reassure residents he's not using the City Council simply as a stepping stone to higher office. He needs to make believers out of skeptics, and that will only happen through open and honest representation. With Downey on the cusp of a potential economic and cultural renaissance - and it starts Tuesday with the opening of Porto's Bakery - it's crucial for Downey's elected leaders not to lose sight of its collective vision.
********** Published: November 4, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 29