The community got their first glimpse of the candidates in the March 5 Cerritos Municipal Election during a 90-minute Candidates Forum sponsored by the Cerritos Regional Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday night.
Five of the seven candidates convened in the Cerritos City Council Chambers to answer pre-screened questions delivered by forum moderator Julia Emerson of Southern California Edison. The candidates present included: Carol Chen, K.Y. Ma, George Ray, Gerad Valencia, and Frank Aurelio Yokoyama.
(Candidate James Kang canceled his appearance at the forum due to his board member committment to attend the ABC School Board meeting. No mention was made of candidate Estella's absence.)
The seven candidates are vying for two open council seats in the March 5 election. Each candidate was given a 3-minute opening statement and one minute to answer pre-screened questions. They each wrapped up the evening with a 2-minute closing statement.
Here are some excerpts and highlights from those statements and the candidates answers to various questions:
- Frank Aurelio Yokoyama reflects on his life as a “homegrown” resident having lived in Cerritos since 1976. He grew up in ABC Unified School District schools, and now he and his wife are raising their own family in Cerritos. As a broker/manager of Century 21 Wise Ol Owl in Cerritos, Yokoyama points out that he has helped many families become Cerritos homeowners and residents. As a council member, he wants to help protect home values and city residents by helping strengthen the local economy.
- K.Y. Ma and his wife are longtime city residents who raised two sons who graduated from ABC high schools. As a former officer in the U.S. Army and a retired police officer, he feels his experience will be an asset in helping city operations. He says that as a city council member, he can help the city look for more revenue sources.
- George Ray and his wife Beverly moved to Cerritos in 1969. Both his daughters were products of the ABC School District and have moved on to have successful careers as an elementary school teacher and an administrative judge for the state of California. As a longtime business owner with years of experience in community involvement, Ray believes he understands the vision and plans that makes Cerritos the place it is today. He wants to help keep the city moving forward.
- Gerad Valencia grew up in a low-income home for most of his upbringing, which has helped him understand the importance of hard work and living on a budget. He eventually graduated from USC while working several part-time jobs. With experience in retail and management, he believes he understands what it takes to allow businesses to thrive during a tough economy. He is familiar with thinking outside of the box and was taught by his grandfather to use his hands for hard work instead of paying someone else to do so.
- Carol Chen is grateful for the opportunity to serve the city and its people for the past four years. She wants to continue helping cultivate a partnership with residents and businesses in the city. As a parent of two daughters who were raised in Cerritos, Chen believes that the city is an ideal place to work, live and raise a family. She is committed to leading the city to help make improvements for a brighter future. Chen says she played a role in helping the council reduce city spending by $40 million over the past four years. She says she’s ready to continue her service to the city and its residents.
What is your vision for the city of Cerritos for the next four years?
- Ma said that the city needs to streamline operations and reorganize financial requirements. He believes that the city council needs to help find new revenue sources. He also thinks that the council needs to address the problem of safety with the rise of residential burglaries in the city.
- Ray said that the city needs to maintain its financial resources and continue services that residents have enjoyed and expect. He believes in working with the public safety departments (fire and sheriff’s) to help keep the city a safe and vibrant place for people to live, work and raise their families. He also thinks the city needs to find ways to bring new businesses to the city.
- Valencia said he sees a new reality instead of a vision. With the loss of redevelopment money, he believes the city must simply cut back and elected officials need to be held responsible with finding ways to do this. He said it would be irresponsible for the council to spend what “we don’t have.”
- Chen said she envisions a robust and vibrant local economy. She believes the city must be aggressive, creative and competitive in its local economic efforts. The council needs to help find ways to continue delivering a high level of service to its residents and business community. She believes we must have local control of the economy.
- Yokoyama said he sees residents coming together to move Cerritos forward in shared positive ways. He believes the city has an aging infrastructure, which can be remedied by reinvesting in improvement of streets, sidewalks, walls, parks and trees. He said with crimes on the rise, the community needs to come together and say “no more” to crime.
What will be your single most important priority if you get elected?
- Ray: to protect the financial strength of the city by expanding the business community.
- Valencia: to help balance the budget by saving now and growing when economically possible
- Chen: to focus on preserving financial stability in the present and the future by encouraging economic development for long term revenue streams.
- Yokoyama: to focus on public safety with burglaries on the rise.
- Ma: to focus on getting the city’s finances in order then looking to improve public safety.
In anticipation of additional losses of funds to the state, what city programs and services would you cut to accommodate the losses?
- Ma said he would look at city losses and focus on streamlining city management.
- Ray said he would look at budgets and city processes across the board to determine how to make cuts.
- Valencia said he would make cuts wherever possible.
- Chen said the city has maintained a balanced budget every year, but what must be addressed is the loss of revenue because of the state demanding funds. That said she believes the city should maintain services as well as its economic base.
- Yokoyama said that before cutting programs and services, he would take a hard look at revenue streams and examine how to enhance them. He would look to diversify sales tax revenues and increase it. He is reluctant to cut programs and services that benefit residents -- especially seniors and children.
Every campaign does opposition research, checking into background of opponents -- there have been a lot of negative messages in some campaigns. As a city council candidate how do you view negative campaigning?
- Chen said the focus should be on the issues and the platform of the candidates. She believes that negative campaigning draws away from the real issues. Chen thinks that character assassinations or fabrications are unwarranted.
- Yokoyama said that residents and children deserve better than negative campaigning tactics. He looks forward to running a positive campaign on issues that affect the diversity of residents.
- Ma said he does not believe in negative campaigning and he doesn’t think the candidates should do it. He thinks its more important to talk about what matters to the city.
- Ray said that things that come out during negative campaigning are just a distraction. He believes candidates should focus on the issues that affect the community, residents and businesses.
- Valencia said that he is running a low-budget campaign and that one can expect no negative campaigning will be coming from his camp. He believes what makes this country great is freedom of press, speech, religion and the right to bear arms.
There have been operating losses at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and the Magnolia Power Plant (which the city owns a share of), how does this affect resident services or should it? How can we address these losses?
- Yokoyama said he wants to examine the CCPA, ask questions about how to market it and how to better brand the venue. He said the programming at the CCPA doesn’t excite him, so he wants to take a closer look at shows brought to the facility. He also thinks the city should look into multiple uses of the CCPA to enhance revenue.
- Ma said that the CCPA is part of the city culture and it wouldn’t be right to sell it. He believes the city needs to look closer at CCPA operations and find a way to improve it and create more revenue from it. He also thinks that the Magnolia Power Plant is a more complicated issue since the city is not the only investor involved.
- Ray said the CCPA and the Cerritos Library are the crowning jewels of city culture that bring positive notoriety to Cerritos. He would be in favor of seeing what can be done to better market and reduce costs at the CCPA. He believes that the CCPA is an incredible operation that does a lot of the community and its children.
- Valencia said the city should seek different performers to draw bigger audiences. He also believes that the city should look at adding additional services at CCPA to cultivate revenue. For both the Magnolia Power Plant and CCPA, he reminds everyone that “once you sell it, it’s gone for good.”
- Chen said that both the CCPA and Magnolia Power Plants are investments for the city and community. She believes that when looking at the CCPA’s viability, it’s important to look at the entire Cerritos Towne Center as a whole – the success of corporate facilities, the Towne Center shops and employment base. She said the CCPA is a catalyst of revenue source. She points out that the power plant provides a low cost, clean energy source.
Did You Miss the First Candidates Forum?
When is the Second Candidates Forum?
The next Candidates Forum is set for Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Cerritos City Hall, Council Chambers. It will be sponsored by La Palma-Cerritos Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). All forums are open to the public.