For the first time in history, Latinos are a majority of voters for a seat on the county’s powerful Board of Supervisors.
And the choice comes down to two Democrats: Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento, and Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Nguyen.
The winner will have a four-year term as supervisor helping decide how to spend $8 billion a year on local law enforcement, mental health, homelessness, public health and other priorities.
Voice of OC reporters reached out to both candidates and sent them a list of questions, several of which were submitted by readers in response to a public invitation for questions.
Both candidates responded.
On transparency, Sarmiento said he’d focus on better public engagement opportunities for workers, seniors, people with disabilities, and people with limited English speaking abilities – including moving public meetings to evenings like most city councils do.
Nguyen also called for moving supervisor meetings to the evenings to make it more feasible for working people to participate, and said she’d extend requirements to hold onto public records to four years.
Candidates were allowed up to 350 characters per answer, to keep the total length reasonable. It’s the exact text each candidate submitted in writing.
Below are the answers.
Click here to read the earlier candidate survey the candidates submitted before the June primary election.
What do you think of how the agency you’re running for handles public transparency?
Vicente Sarmiento: “The OC BOS has much room to improve its open government and public transparency policies. Accommodations for public engagement, especially for workers, seniors, people with disabilities, and limited English speakers, are very limited. The procurement policy must also be reconsidered in order to prevent sole source contracts.”
Kim Nguyen: “I would try to move meetings to be held in the evening, so they are more accessible to people who work during the day. Public records requests should be handled in a timely manner, and I will look into revising a formal records retention policy that exceeds 4 years.”
Do you have any specific critiques or areas that you feel need improvement?
Sarmiento: “The OC BOS, as we do in Santa Ana, can meet in the evenings to maximize public input, and allow for the public to participate virtually or via phone. The OC BOS can also adopt a “sunshine” policy that requires supervisors’ calendars be public record, and circulate budgets, major projects and expenditures to the public prior to board consideration. “
Nguyen: “I will work with staff to structure consistent opportunities to engage with residents, City staff and local elected officials. I will push for increased access to board meetings and look for ways to provide information in a simple and timely manner.”
What, if anything, will you do to make your agency and its elected leaders more transparent and open to constituents? Do you support publicly posting meeting agendas earlier? If so, how early? And what if any steps would you take to increase public input in budget decisions?
Sarmiento:”Yes. In Santa Ana we publicly post our meeting agendas 7 days prior to our council meetings. This has improved notice to the public, and increased public participation. Pursuant to Santa Ana’s Sunshine Ordinance, we circulate our proposed budget to the public prior to council consideration. I would recommend the OC BOS consider a similar policy.”
Nguyen: “I am open to the idea of posting the agenda earlier, as much as a week, as long as supplemental items can be added up to the state required 72 hours before posting. Regarding the budget, I will look into an online survey for constituents and potentially host budget study sessions so they can provide input.”
What is your perspective on climate change? And what, if any, action plans do you have to address climate change and protect residents?
Sarmiento: “Sound science supports that climate change is real. I would ask that all decisions made at the OC BOS be subject to environmental scrutiny. I would advocate for policies that protect our region and the health of our residents while not unduly burdening our economy. Pursue industries with clean energy practices that also create sustainable jobs.”
Nguyen: “I believe it is our responsibility to create an action plan to address climate change. Working with my colleagues, subject matter experts and constituents to create attainable and sustainable goals to reduce our impact. “
What local actions, if any, do you support to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
Sarmiento: “As Mayor, Santa Ana adopted a climate resiliency resolution that provides realistic goals to reduce our carbon footprint and harmful impacts to our environment. Support transit oriented development that incentivizes housing near public transit corridors, transition public vehicles to clean fuel, and create pedestrian friendly developments.”
Nguyen: “I would look into ways we can reduce our emissions without impacting low-income communities. One of my concerns around regarding moving toward full electric is the capacity of the grids. We need to work with the state and local agencies to invest in infrastructure to support a move towards utilizing other sources of energy so that it is feasible.”
Do you believe the last presidential election was stolen?
Sarmiento: “Absolutely not.”
Do you believe you are participating in a free and fair election process? Subject to the established rules for recounts, will you accept the results of their election, win or lose, as certified?
Sarmiento: “Yes and yes.”
Nguyen: “Yes I do believe I am and yes I would accept the results of the election, win or lose.”
Do you support doing business with regimes who have questionable human rights records, such as Cuba, Iran and Russia?
Sarmiento: “I do not support our county doing business with any countries that have clear human rights violations. As a young college student senator, I fought for UC Berkeley’s divestiture from South Africa’s then apartheid regime. “
Nguyen: “As the daughter of a Refugee who fled Vietnam, I most certainly would not.”
Do you agree with the standing ovation given to the Cuban government by the California State Senate earlier this year? During such official recognitions, do you believe it’s important to hear from opposing views when there are human rights concerns about those regimes?
Sarmiento: “I believe it is important to always listen to all perspectives irrespective of the ceremony or setting. More importantly, our county, state and country must lead by example and ensure that all of its people are treated fairly and equitably in order to demand the same from others.”
Nguyen: “I do not agree, and I personally would not have given a standing ovation to an oppressive communist regime. I do believe we need to hear from opposing viewpoints, especially when it is from regime’s who have a history of human rights abuses, to understand their viewpoints.”
Should visits by international delegations to government offices in the U.S. – such as the county or state or Congress – be tied to human rights and be fully disclosed before the visits?
Sarmiento: “Yes. As mentioned previously, open government and public transparency policies such as “sunshine” ordinances would require that ALL visits, and meetings, be publicly disclosed.”
Nguyen: “I believe it is up to each elected official or governmental body to decide how they want to handle it or disclose the visit. Personally, if elected, I would make it a policy not to meet with any international delegation that is tied to human rights abuses, such as Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, etc.”
What is your position on the proposed Related Bristol development that would have as many as 3,950 apartments, 350,0000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and a 250-room hotel? Do you want to see any changes? What mitigations, if any, will you insist upon to address additional traffic onto already-busy MacArthur Blvd. and Bristol St.? And how many of the units, if any, do you want to be affordable?
Sarmiento: “Pursuant to Santa Ana’s sunshine ordinance, the proposed project is being presently shared with the public. My opinion will be guided by the residents and stakeholders nearest the development. Per our robust affordable housing ordinance, 15% of the units must be affordable, or the developer must pay an in lieu fee for offsite affordable units.”
Nguyen: “As supervisor, I do not have a say over this project, that falls under the Santa Ana City Council. I would hope, and I am sure, they will do their due diligence to listen to community concerns as well as research the proposal carefully and consider traffic issues and housing affordability to make the decision they feel is best.”
Do you support creating more walkable, bikeable, and transit-oriented neighborhoods that provide alternatives to car usage? If so, how and where would you plan for more in your district? How will you retrofit existing neighborhoods to be more bike and pedestrian friendly?
Sarmiento: “Absolutely. I support pedestrian friendly, multi-model, and transit oriented neighborhoods. Incentivize developments near transit corridors and compete for state/federal grants for dedicated bike lanes and pedestrian trails. Traffic calming measures such as medians, bulb outs, and roundabouts also reduce danger to pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Nguyen: “Yes. I would work with each City to identify opportunities to create more walkable, bikeable and transit-oriented neighborhoods. I would try to secure funding to develop infrastructure in their transit friendly developments that are near transit areas. Prime opportunities are the area around the OC Streetcar or the OC Vibe development in Anaheim.”
Do you support a systematic implementation of protected bike lanes throughout your district? If so, how would you go about doing that and measuring progress?
Sarmiento: “Yes. In Santa Ana, we have already started the introduction of protected bike lanes. The implementation must be gradual. We understand that many residents in D2 bike to work and school. We must study the data to compare the consequence of these protected lanes to traffic, parking, and fatalities avoided to pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Nguyen: “Yes, I support. As an OCTA board member, I would request a full accounting of total miles of protected bike lanes that have been done, by city, as well as any projects planned. I will work with the cities to see where they would like to see new protected bike lanes and work with them to utilize new bike trail opportunities in their cities.”
How would you deal with noise pollution under the flight path of John Wayne Airport, which affects residents in your district? What do you plan to do for the people and children of communities in your district regarding this issue?
Sarmiento: “The impacts from the flight path to and from Santa Ana Airport must be borne equitably, and not solely by families in D2. I will be a strong advocate to ensure that further mitigation efforts are researched and exhausted.”
Nguyen: “First, I support the current operating hours of John Wayne Airport. The district is affected largely by planes landing at JWA. When elected, I will meet with JWA officials to discuss measures to reduce noise pollution under the flight path and try to find workable solutions to mitigate the noise.”
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.