Five candidates, including one incumbent, are running for two open seats on the Aliso Viejo City Council in the November election. 

The candidates include Tiffany Ackley, Payal Avellan, Max Duncan, Arthur Osorio, and Tara Ricksen. Ackley is running for reelection.  

All five candidates responded to a questionnaire sent out by the Voice of OC. Several of them expressed concern for the city budget, community safety, and Town Center revitalization. Some of the candidates spoke about increasing community engagement through increased accessibility to council meetings and members.   

Aliso Viejo voters will also decide Measure I at the ballot box. The initiative proposes potential council member term limits.  

Here’s what the candidates had to say in response to the questionnaire. They’re the exact text each candidate submitted in writing:

Question: What would your top three priorities be if you are elected?

Tiffany Ackley: Addressing our budget, infrastructure, and keeping our community safe. 

Arthur Osorio: 1. Responsible budgeting – One of my greatest professional strengths is reviewing budgets and effectively allocating funding. 2. Listening – A recurring theme I’ve heard from my community has been the need to be heard. 3. True non-partisan representation – Our city council needs to stay civil and keep the politics local.

Payal Avellan: Do all we can to be prepared for wildfires and ensure our public safety teams have the resources and support to perform their duties. I am proud to be endorsed by the OC Professional Firefighters. Prioritize businesses while we work to reduce inflation and keep our city’s budget balanced. Maintain the quality of our environment.  

Max Duncan: 1. Resume city council meetings, which are still operating via Zoom under COVID-19 emergency guidance. I am not aware of another city in the state that is still having remote meetings. 2. Immediately prioritize Town Center rehabilitation. 3. Expand bike lanes in the city, study options for pedestrian safety.

Tara Ricksen: My number one priority is public safety because of the increase in property crimes. Also, I intend to work with my fellow council members and the city manager to see what we can do to accelerate the revitalization of Town Center. I am a fiscal conservative, so maintaining our financial reserve without raising fees or taxes is important to me.

Question: What do you think is the biggest issue in Aliso Viejo?

Ackley: E-bikes- we have a lot of dangerous riders in our city who interface with traffic but fail to follow basic traffic laws. We are working with the Sheriff’s Department to educate and ticket reckless e-bike riders. Having sat on the dias for the past 4 years, I think one of our biggest issues is our budget. We are facing a 10% deficit next year. 

Osorio: I genuinely believe that Aliso Viejo is a wonderful place, and my top priority is to improve it by bringing more engagement from the community so that we can stay on top of the needs of our residents.

Avellan: When I spoke to the city manager and asked what keeps him up at night, the city budget was voiced as a serious concern. While the budget is currently balanced, there is a projected shortfall. Thoughtful consideration must be made as to how to keep a balanced budget while maintaining the vital services so many in our community depend on.

Duncan: Town Center blight. This is a complex challenge for Aliso Viejo that needs to be at the top item of every agenda.

Ricksen: A challenge facing Aliso Viejo is its Town Center becoming increasingly blighted. Focus needs to be spent on the future need for upgrades, improvements, and development within our Aliso Viejo Town Center project. I want to promote responsible development and encourage business growth. 

Question: What are your thoughts on the potential limit to consecutive years of service on city council? (Ballot measure)

Ackley: I proposed this measure and support it fully. 

Osorio: I support the term limits in Measure “I”. I believe that the term limits should increase engagement in our community by allowing more chances for diverse representation. Though perhaps not as dramatic as it may seem, with the limit only being on consecutive terms, we will likely still often see many council members taking on terms again.

Avellan: Incumbents have many advantages over challengers, and incumbency is a strong deciding factor in who wins elections, for better or worse. Term limits open leadership positions to new people with new ideas, which helps diversify the seats of government. We have term limits for higher office, and local officials should be held to the same standard.

Duncan: I believe every elected office should have the same term limits. 

Ricksen: Term limits are important to allow diversity of thought and for more citizens to become engaged in governance. However, it is difficult finding qualified people able to run for office. Highly valued leadership of a council member leaving, would be a disservice to the city. On the other hand, 8 years is long enough to achieve his or her objectives.

Question: How do you plan to make the city council decisions more accessible to the public? Do you think the city should continue to allow citizens to participate in council meetings virtually?

Ackley: I think allowing for virtual attendance, allowing comments and questions to be submitted via e-mail and voicemail are great and have encouraged people to participate in our meetings. I would support continued access for the public. 

Osorio: I plan to make myself incredibly available to dialogue with anyone in the community that wants to talk. I would challenge all of the council to take the same stance. Virtual meetings should continue and be recorded. This should be an essential requirement of our City Council moving forward.

Avellan: Virtual council meetings help to make council meetings accessible for certain populations, but also pose a barrier for other populations. I think hybrid meeting options might allow the most citizens to participate in council meetings. As a communications specialist, I also feel meetings and agenda items of interest can be publicized more widely.

Duncan: City council meetings are important for engagement by our residents. Aliso Viejo has canceled quite a few meetings this year (and in past years), and are currently holding meetings remotely under the guise of COVID-19 emergency directives as it relates to the Brown Act. Public meetings are essential for our residents.

Ricksen: City council meetings need to be held at City Hall where residents can voice their concerns in person. In addition, for those unable to attend physically, a virtual option should also be available. I will vote to allow in-person meetings and explore all options to allow for robust civic engagement.

Question: How do you plan to continue  protecting the safety of the public and of electric bike, scooter, and board riders under the new regulations for motorized recreational transportation?

Ackley: I would work with the Sheriff’s Department to focus on education and, if necessary, ticketing, of the riders who do not follow the laws.

Osorio: I believe that current ordinances in place regarding small motorized vehicles are adequate and the issue exists around enforcement, and infrastructure. Both of which should be explored within the community and council.

Avellan: As I’ve been speaking to neighbors, e-bikes are among the top concerns of residents, and I concur. I am glad the City Council took the step to introduce safety regulations and would like to see how that impacts the issue. Furthermore, I feel we should continue to invest in youth programming to increase the safety of young people who ride e-bikes. 

Duncan: Through public education, outreach, and enforcement. 

Ricksen: I will coordinate with law enforcement to provide city-led bicycle and all-wheels skills and safety training for the youth and community. I will advocate to make Aliso Viejo more bike-friendly by improving existing and adding new bike lanes.

Residents can find out more information on in-person voting sites here, and can learn more about mail-in voting in Orange County here.

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