With less than two months until the November 5 General Election, candidates in three local races are busy fundraising, phone banking and rallying volunteers to help spread the word that they have what it takes to make a good member of the city council in Bell Gardens or Montebello, or on the Montebello Unified School District School Board of Education.
In all three elections, challengers are pushing to take seats from incumbents, some of whom have been in office for more than a decade. All of the positions are part time. Here’s a brief look at the list of candidates.
Bell Gardens City Council
In the southeast city of Bell Gardens, where there are no council districts and council members are elected at large, three seats are up for grabs. The incumbents, Mayor Daniel Crespo, Mayor Pro Tem Priscilla Flores and Councilman Sergio Infanzon are facing challenges from three candidates; teacher and former planning commissioner Jose Mendoza; Business owner Jazmina Saavedra and Yvette Silva, a pharmacy manager.
The three candidates with the highest number of votes will be elected.
Montebello City Council
As in Bell Gardens, Montebello council members are also elected at large. The seats of two incumbents, Mayor Pro Tem William M. Molinari and Councilman Art Barajas are on the ballot, along with the seat of Councilman Frank Gomez, who decided not to seek reelection. The five challengers vying for seats are retired financial technician and long time community activist Anna Arriola; operations manager Emma Delgado; teacher and school administrator Flavio Gallarzo; Montebello city clerk and quality control supervisor Daniel Hernandez and Vivian Romero, businesswoman and chairperson of the Montebello Culture & Recreation Commission.
The Montebello candidates will face off in a forum at 7 p.m. today, hosted by the Armenian National Committee’s San Gabriel chapter at the Armenian Center located at 420 Washington Blvd. During the forum, candidates are expected to answer questions about the city’s economic state, the Montebello Hills project and the overall state of the city before they take questions from residents.
Montebello Unified School District Board of Education
This is potentially one of the most interesting races, with several challengers hoping to unseat the incumbents, including two who were appointed to their seats and are seeking election for the first time.
While four seats in all are on the ballot, voters will be asked to select from two separate ballot questions: choosing three as part of the regularly scheduled election cycle, and the fourth as part of special election to fill the two years remaining on the seat left vacant by the death of Board Member Marcella Calderon in 2012. Paul Montoya was appointed to replace Calderon, but must win election to stay in the seat.
Another appointee, Benjamin Cardenas is also attempting to win his first election to the board. He was appointed by the MUSD board in Dec. 2012 to replace Ed Chau, who was elected to the State Assembly.
Long-time MUSD board member and current president, Hector Chacon, and vice president Gerri Guzman are also seeking another four-year term. Challenging the current office holders —Chacon, Guzman, Cardenas — in the regular election are: community educator and historian Lani Cupchoy; retired electrician Frank Thomas Morales and Sonia Saucillo-Valencia, who lists her occupation as domestic engineer.
In MUSD’s Special Election, the challengers to Paul Montoya are: Edgar Cisneros, a deputy staff person to Supervisor Gloria Molina and physicist/ manager/ recruiter, C.J. Salgado.
EGP asked all the candidates on the ballot for a brief statement on why they are running for office, here are the answers, in alphabetical order, of those who responded by the deadline:
Bell Gardens City Council
Daniel Crespo – Probation Officer: “I am seeking re-election where my children were born and raised and I have been fortunate enough to be part of its growth in the past 12 1/2 years on the City Council, with over 200 homes built, as well as Ross, Marshall’s, Applebee’s, Walmart, and a sports complex at Ford park. I’m not just a talker I’m a doer and look forward to the new casino hotel and fighting obesity in Bell Gardens.”
Priscilla Flores – Educator: “If elected I will continue to focus on public safety by strengthening the safety of our community through our neighborhood watch program, education by developing and maintaining quality youth programs to promote higher education and bring employment opportunities with the expansion of our casino and new developments.”
Sergio Infanzon – Planner on staff of Los Angeles Councilman Gil Cedillo: “I am running for Bell Gardens City Council to provide the city with a sustainable, long term vision for strategic growth. My primary goal is to implement a master plan that will provide a blueprint for the city to generate wealth, create good paying jobs, reduce crime and improve the quality of life for all residents, especially our youth and children.”
Jose Mendoza – Teacher: “I wish to run for Bell Gardens Council because I want to give back to a community that inspired, guided, and helped me succeed. I wish to continue the growth and prosperity that has moved our city forward.”
Jazmina Saavedra –Business Owner: “I am running for City Council in Bell Gardens because the city needs new people without political interest but with community interest like myself. I am a regular citizen and want to clear all the irregularities and bad administration that happens in this city.”
Yvette Silva – Pharmacy Manager: Did not submit a statement by EGP’s deadline.
Montebello City Council
Anna Arriola -Retired Financial Technician: “I don’t like the way things are run at city hall, there’s too much secrecy. I’m trying to win back the Taylor Ranch property and fund the employee pension fund.”
*Art Barajas – Business owner: “I was elected during one of the more difficult economic times within recent history, I’m proud to say we’ve made great progress along the way and I will continue to focus on economic development which will attract the restaurants, shops and shoppers we need. I plan to make sure that the decisions we make benefit our youth, our seniors and make this a great place to raise a family.”
Emma Delgado – Operations Manager: “I want to make a difference in our City and bring a cohesiveness to the board.”
Flavio Gallarzo – Teacher/ School Administrator: “The City of Montebello needs new ideas and a new vision for the future and I believe that I can bring that if I am elected to the Montebello City Council. We need a change in leadership to get the city of Montebello moving forward because under the current leadership that won’t happen.”
Daniel Hernandez – Quality Control Supervisor: “I am running for Montebello City Council because I want to set a sustainable foundation of growth and prosperity for the residents of Montebello and my future children.”
*William M. “Bill” Molinari – Business Owner: “To put an end to the False Negativity charging wrong-doing by Montebello City Officials. Those charges have repeatedly been proven totally false. To help Montebello take advantage of a tremendous opportunity to grow the city’s economic base given the large number of new businesses that are currently inquiring about opening stores in Montebello.”
Vivian Romero – Businesswoman: “My focus is economic development and infrastructure, we must sustain city services specifically local police and fire, as well as make improvements to streets and tree maintenance. We need to attract new businesses to our city. I’m running for City Council to serve our community.”
Montebello Unified School District Regular Election
*Benjamin Cardenas – —-: “As a father of three, product of public education and a graduate of UCLA, I know first-hand that a top quality education is the greatest equalizer for children of all backgrounds. I pledge to continue working together with students, parents, teachers and all stakeholders to create unlimited opportunities for quality teaching and prepare our students for a global, 21st century world.”
*Hector A. Chacon: “As a parent and father who has a daughter that attends our schools, and Board Member who has dedicated my life to serving our students for 20 years, I plan on utilizing my experience which has allowed our students to graduate and go on to college in record numbers, along with being productive and very successful members of our community.”
Lani Cupchoy – Community Educator/ Historian: “I am running to fulfill my lifelong commitment to our community and district that has earned me the support of teachers. My unique experience as an educator, daughter of educators, and former M.U.S.D. student, will guide me in reallocating funds from the District level to the classroom to support programs and services that directly benefit students and the people who serve them daily.”
*Gerri Guzman: “I am running so that I can continue to use my experience, education, and resources to ensure that our District remains fiscally sounds and accountable. As I’ve done over the past 11 years, I will persist in raising test scores, keeping our schools safe, increasing graduation rates, engaging parents, providing a healthy learning environment and quality educational opportunities to all students.”
Frank Thomas Morales – Retired Electrician: “The students and employees deserve someone who doesn’t owe anything to anyone but to always do what’s best for the district and them.”
Sonia Saucillo-Valencia – Domestic Engineer: “I’m tired of our kids just graduating without any basis of the core subjects. I rather they learn at a slower pace so they really are prepared for college. I’ve had children and grandchildren at the district and I want to make sure our kids are not stripped of their learning just to reach 100% graduation rate.”
Montebello Unified School District Special
Edgar Cisneros – County Supervisor’s Deputy: “I am a parent and product of MUSD running to prioritize student achievement in order to prepare students for college and their professional careers. I’ve earned the strong support of parents and classroom teachers and together we’re going to make sure that taxpayer funds are spent wisely, with a focus in the classroom where it matters most for students.”
*Paul Montoya – Computer Systems Administrator: “As a current Board member, and as a parent, I want to ensure that every student has the personal and academic tools required to achieve success; these tools include values and ethics reflective of our community. Success is not measured in money, but by the positive impact our students have on society.”
C.J. Salgado – Physicist/ Manager/ Recruiter: “For me, it’s a chance to give back to the community in a meaningful way by putting my strengths to work for the kids through the Board. I’ll pursue a vigorous commitment to academic excellence, good stewardship, and sensible connection to the modern world.”