by Tim Tevault
Campaigns are in full effect this month as the race for a seat on the city of La Verne’s city council gets underway. Elections are set for March 6, as six candidates (including two incumbents) are vying for two open seats on the council.
However, the race for mayor is not as contested. Jon Blickenstaff, La Verne’s current mayor of 19 years, is the sole candidate for his position.
In the final weeks of campaigning, there will be more handshaking and smiles from the candidates than usual; there hasn’t been a race this contested in 10 years.
To familiarize themselves with the candidates, some citizens of La Verne attended a “Meet the Candidates” forum, held at the La Verne Community Center on Feb. 15. Here, Blickenstaff and city council incumbents Dan Harden and Tom Harvey, along with newcomers Steven Johnson, Michael Sanchez, Luke Vinci and Lloyd Zadanoff voiced their opinions on what their plans would be if elected for the next few years.
A common concern expressed by most candidates was how Foothill Freeway construction will negatively affect La Verne. Other concerns were fiscal viability, attracting more businesses and keeping the “old-town feel” for which the city has come to be known.
Vinci, 22, the youngest candidate, is primarily focusing on changing the fiscal policy, and believes taxes can be cut wherever possible. At the candidates’ forum, he claimed that the burden of fiscal responsibility should not be on the taxpayer.
Vinci also promised change in the way La Verne government works. He promised to bring a “new voice” to the city council that youth will admire. He said that today’s youth do not have a leader and wants to help solve that problem. “It’s time for my generation to carry the torch,” Vinci said.
Johnson has a long family history in La Verne government; his great-grandfather and father were mayor and his grandfather was fire chief. He believes he can be a great asset to La Verne city council not only because of his local ancestry, but because he brings “a better mix” to city council.
“I believe being available and accessible to the citizens of La Verne is probably the most important thing,” Johnson said.
Sanchez, has lived in La Verne for eight years. Instead of focusing on one issue, Sanchez touched on all of the major topics and issues facing La Verne in the coming years, from the aforementioned freeway expansion and fiscal policy, to supporting rent controlled housing for seniors and strongly advocating the police and fire departments. He is also taking the same stance as Vinci in the fact that he believes he can bring new leadership, common sense and energy to the city council.
Zadanoff, the other non-incumbent candidate, is a familiar face on the city council circuit. He ran in 1999, and plans to continue to run until he wins an election.
“I am going to run every time until I get voted [in],” said a determined Zadanoff. He claims his straightforward approach will make a difference in the coming years.
Harvey and Harden, the two incumbents, have been in the city council for 17 and nine years, respectively. Together, they have worked toward a few common goals; mobile home rent control, a below-grade foothill freeway and helped furnish different areas of downtown.
Mayor Jon Blickenstaff, who has more experience than all of the city council candidates, had much to say at the forum despite not having anyone run against him. He pointed out many of the good points in La Verne, including how La Verne is a full-service city, meaning they have their own fire, police, and paramedic department that are not connected to the LA county system. He also talked about La Verne’s fiscal stability, the city’s low 4 percent utility tax, and mentioned how “it is a privilege and an honor” to be mayor.