City council candidates focus on safety, transportation, representation

Vincent M. Franco
Staff Writer

Campaigning has begun in the city of La Verne for the June 7 city council elections, the first since a new state redistricting law established five geographical districts for council representation.  

Up for grabs are Districts 1, 3, and 4 with seven candidates campaigning for them. 

The new state law, designed to create more comprehensive representation of city constituencies by requiring that council members be elected to represent cities by geographical districts, has changed the playing field for these elections, and will likely change the focus of council activity going forward. 

The city of La Verne also established a new system for which council members from the city’s five geographic districts will elect a mayor among themselves, instead of holding a mayoral election as was the previous policy. 

La Verne’s new districts 1, 2, and 5 are south of the 210 freeway, containing Ramona Middle School and Bonita High School, ending at Frank G. Bonelli Park. Districts 3 and 4 are north of the 210 freeway, including Baseline Road and reaching into the La Verne Foothills. 

Running for District 1 are senior project manager for the city of La Verne Muir Davis; and Steve Johnson, an insurance broker and former city council member for the city. 

Davis, who is also a senior advisor for business and process improvement at Southern California Edison, wants to set La Verne onto a path of active transportation. 

“I’m helping, and I want to continue to help our community with other means of environmentally friendlier sustainable efforts to help people be able to be out and about on multiple modes of transportation,” Davis said. 

Methods like bike riding, skateboarding, walking, and running are some of those efforts that Davis referred to. As a self-proclaimed math magician, Davis believes he can save this city money with sustainability while conserving the city’s uniqueness. 

Johnson, a class of 1983 University of La Verne alumnus, wants to issue a local ballot measure for the November election to try and take La Verne back to four districts with one elected mayor, instead of five districts with rotating mayors.

“I believe that having an elected mayor is important, and that we should be able to choose as a resident who that person is,” Johnson said. 

Candidates Meshal “Kash” Kashifalghita and Joseph Gabaldon are running for District 3. 

Kashifalghita, a law enforcement officer and major in the Army Reserves, wants to prioritize public safety but also bring back together the community of La Verne. He emphasized the importance of communication and the good it can bring to the city. 

“Really, the biggest issue here in our city is that there’s people that just don’t want to have any sort of conversation with others, especially their neighbors. It’s like we’re divided,” said Kashifalghita.

Gabaldon is another candidate who is not happy about the state law enacting council member districts. He said he sees himself as one of the people and not just a politician, which he said will give him the upper hand in this election. 

Running for District 4, the farthest north of the five districts, are Tim Hepburn, Richard Gill, and Estella V. Maldonado.

Hepburn, La Verne’s current mayor, is concerned with public safety and public works. 

“Even though it’s going to be five districts, I will support every single resident in this city as I’ve done in the last many years,” Hepburn said.

Gill, one of the least experienced in city politics of the candidates, is a videographer, who has spent plenty of time in city hall taping city council meetings. Though this is his only experience with city government, he believes it has taught him the basic skills needed to be an elected official. 

Estella V. Maldonado, a security engineer and cyber risk management and disaster recovery program manager at Delta Dental of California, is another candidate with no city government experience, but she has over 30 years of experience in managing big tech projects for major companies. That same experience is what she believes will help her bring something different to the table, compared to her opponents. 

Since being added to the roster of candidates, Maldonado has gone to neighbors, businesses, and schools to figure out their needs, in order to figure out the needs of the city at large. 

The La Verne city council election will take place June 7. 

Vincent M. Franco can be reached at vincent.franco@laverne.edu.

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Vincent Matthew Franco is a senior journalism major with a concentration in print and online journalism. He has been involved in journalism and print media in high school, community college and is now at the arts editor of the Campus Times.

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