Seven of nine candidates in the crowded Garden Grove city council race pitched their campaign priorities at a forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce Monday evening.
The candidates, mostly political newcomers, got a view from the dais while answering questions about voting by council districts, attracting business and economic development, and the process for appointing city commissioners.
Here’s a run-down of the candidates at Monday’s forum:
Ruhina Khan is the only woman running for the city council, which she emphasized at the start of the debate.
A former business owner, Khan said she would focus on small business growth by establishing an interest-free loan program, although she did not give further details.
Incumbent councilmember Kris Beard was appointed in 2012 and is now working to keep his seat on the council. Beard was city clerk for the city of Signal Hill for 3 years before becoming an administrative manager at the County of Orange.
Asked if he would support voting by district for city council, Beard said that based on legal challenges in nearby cities like Anaheim, the city should “look into it and get ahead of the curve…[before] it happens in court.”
Beard said he would support new housing projects of “reasonable” density and intends to demolish or complete what he called the “steel eyesore” Garden Grove Galleria project, a 90-foot, rusted steel frame on Garden Grove Boulevard from a mixed-use development that halted during the recession.
John O’Neill, chairman of the city’s Neighborhood Improvement and Conservation Commission, is otherwise a political newcomer who has spent most of his career as an electrician and in the construction industry.
O’Neill says he would not raise any fees or taxes and hopes to attract big box stores and large retailers to the city to generate revenue. “We leave our city to do our shopping and eating…and we need to bring that back here,” O’Neill said.
Former Planning Commission chair Phat Bui was the runner-up in the 2012 election with 16 percent of the vote. Bui is also owner of a technology consulting firm, Netresult LLC., which has contracted with several government agencies, including the state of California.
Bui said his three priorities are enhancing small business, making sure Garden Grove has the “best emergency services” and public safety, and supporting a strong education system.
James Ybarra is teacher and businessman. Ybarra wants to beef up public safety, saying that a “stronger police presence that makes a criminal think twice about committing a crime” and suggested the city establish a help center for start-up businesses.
Rickk Montoya, a police dispatcher for the city of Los Angeles, said “receptive, responsive and transparent leadership” was the theme of his candidacy. Montoya said the city should attract a young, educated workforce with mixed-use apartment housing.
He is supportive of moving to district elections and says the current at-large voting system “lends itself to city disengagement and a feeling of exclusion from civic matters” for many minorities.
The self-described underdog of the race is Paul Marsden, who is running a single-issue campaign about nepotism in city hall.
At Monday night’s debate, Marsden declined to answer most questions, saying that he is “not interested in speaking about anything else because there is no issue as important as the nepotism issue…[and] to talk about anything else…is to find relief for those involved.”
During his closing statement, Marsden criticized councilman Beard for “sitting on his hands” while the relatives of top city officials have continued to work for the city. “This is it folks, don’t let him get away with it,” he said.
Two other candidates did not participate, businessman Quang Mike Tran and Joe Do Vinh, a former planning commissioner who is married to councilwoman Dina Nguyen.
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