Update: This story has been updated with candidate Carlos Franco’s response.

Six candidates  are running for two open seats on the Buena Park City Council in the November election.

Candidates Carlos Franco, Jose Trinidad Castaneda, and Myoung Soo “Michael” Han are running for District 2. Candidates Joyce Ahn, John Siebert, Kevien Rhee are vying for a District 1 council seat. There are no incumbents running.

Four candidates responded to an election questionnaire sent by the Voice of OC.  

Here is what they had to say on some of the issues, in their words:

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

Joyce Ahn: 

  1.  Ensure community safety: Provide solutions for traffic and safety concerns.
  2.  Support small businesses: Increase automation, minimize staffing shortage to support permit processes, flexible scheduling, bring more income resources.
  3. Senior healthcare: Facilitate senior housing development, healthcare service and information access.

Jose Trinidad Castaneda: 

  1. Housing
  2. Economy
  3. Safety

As a former planning commissioner, we can do more to help homeowners, renters & businesses thrive. Having served as a Parks, Beautification, Air, and Energy commissioner, I will lead on boosting our economy. I served as an emergency response leader, and will work with our police and firefighters to ensure community safety.

Carlos Franco: 

  1. Clean and safe streets 
  2. Educational resources 
  3. Local economic growth

Kevin Rhee: 

  1. Public safety: Residents must feel safe in their homes, schools, and in their neighborhoods.
  2. Infrastructure: Maintaining streets, parks, water system and other assets in top condition.
  3. Keeping utility rates low: Impacts of joining Orange County Power Authority might raise the utility rates. I will look into this for our residents.

Myoung Soo Han: Did not respond

John Siebert: Did not respond

Question: What do you think is the biggest issue within the city?

Ahn: Socio-economic issues: Senior healthcare and housing and more affordable housing. Buena Park’s senior population is growing; 19% are 60+, and 57%, ages 20 to 60 years. We need affordable senior housing, nursing home facilities or upgrades, more multi-purpose housing projects, and enhanced information-delivery efficiency to the general public.

Castaneda: Homelessness: The economic impacts of the pandemic fueled a greater number of evictions in a short period of time. As a result, many neighborhoods and businesses are witnessing new homeless individuals and some groups. That has resulted in less community safety and a greater strain on city resources.

Franco: We seek clean and safe streets, to beautify our city, and uphold public safety. I support facilitating access to education and an emphasized focus on our local economic growth.

Rhee: Every Buena Park resident should read the Orange County Grand Jury’s criticisms of the Buena Park Power Authority. We are only one of 4 cities to join. Why? There are serious questions about accountability and future rate hikes. We need answers before we continue our membership.

Han: Did not respond

Siebert: Did not respond

Question: There were 153 reported incidents of hate crimes against Asian-Americans in 2021 within the county. Buena Park is known to have about a 33% Asian-American population that is still growing. How do you plan on addressing this issue?

Ahn: AAPI is 52% in my district. As Cultural and Fine Arts commissioner, I initiated creating BP CultureFest to bring cultural respect and peace to our city. Along with such annual cultural celebrations, I will work closely with the city and the Police Department to build trust and open communications as well as more police presence in the community.

Castaneda: We must do our best to prevent, expose, and denounce hate. I plan to report to local journalists about any hate incidents, and check in with those impacted. Buena Park should have a mobile app to be able to report these hate incidents, and ensure we can track patterns and hot spots in order to prevent them. All people are welcome in Buena Park. 

Franco: As vice-chair of the Human Relations Committee for the city of Buena Park, we take hate crimes seriously. In conjunction with the existing city council and staff, we have moved towards inclusive measures to help people understand cultural diversity and our unique idiosyncrasies.

Rhee: If elected, I will be the only Asian-American on the City Council, and the only councilmember fluent in an Asian language. I can personally help communication between Asian-Americans and law enforcement. Crimes motivated by hate, racism, discrimination–or just plain greed–should all be taken seriously and prosecuted.

Han: Did not respond

Siebert: Did not respond

Question: What is your opinion regarding the new ordinance amending various sections of the Buena Park municipal code to enact a six-month residency requirement for appointees to city commissions and committees?

Ahn: To me, the question of durational residency is more pertinent for the city council seat rather than an unpaid commissioner position – experience and capability should be the more weighing factor. If someone just moves into a district and runs as a candidate for City Council representative, that begs the question on motives and intentions.

Castaneda: The six-month residency requirement has nothing to do with a potential commission applicant’s qualifications to serve, and if anything shows favoritism to long standing friends of the council. The message this ordinance sends is: new Buena Park residents are not welcome on our commissions. That is not the message our city should be sending.

Franco: Commissioners represent residents and suggest policy changes to city council. It’s important that commissioners know the community they live in and have a vested interest in it. Residency requirements allow future commissioners to get involved in their community before making big decisions on its behalf.

Rhee: The City Council should feel free to appoint the most qualified people. It can already consider length of residency within a body of qualifications if it wants to, so I don’t believe formalized restrictions are necessary.

Han: Did not respond

Siebert: Did not respond

Question: How do you plan on maintaining the growing cultural diversity within city businesses?

Ahn: Diversity is valuable for a successful entertainment business. Embracing cultural diversity and encouraging business growth via unique and interesting venues will help our economy thrive – Buena Park CultureFest, other city events, modernizing major attractions and streets, and work on generating interests from other cities and countries.

Castaneda: I would look into hiring more bilingual economic development staff, and launch an entrepreneurial assistance program to invite folks wishing to incorporate within the city. We could accelerate new businesses and, perhaps, award small grants to help pay for the costs of filing the appropriate permits. All cultures are welcome to set up shop in Buena Park.

Franco: I’ve been humbled by my trips to South Korea as chair of the Buena Park Sister City Foundation, but the true lessons on maintaining the growing cultural diversity come from listening to, struggling with, and collaborating with my neighbors in Buena Park. I will continue to help foster a community that is both safe and accepting to all groups.

Rhee: Some are Americans by birth. Others–like me–are Americans by choice. Let me, a Korean American professional tax accountant, be your choice to be your voice for a better Buena Park. Whatever our home language or culture, we can all strive for a common civic culture: love of our city and dedication to making it better.

Han: Did not respond

Siebert: Did not respond

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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