OC Candidates Vie For City Council Seats
By Dianne Anderson
Parts of Orange County have turned from red to purple, and many more are becoming a deeper shade of blue.
Dr. DeVera Heard, longtime educator and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc Orange County, said the politics this election is too big for any single organization to handle.
For that reason, several groups have band together to remind voters how to take action.
While all groups are nonpartisan, they are emphasizing the need for early voting participation.
“Don’t just say I’m registered and then don’t vote. You need to go vote,” Dr. Heard said.
Together with Carol Latham and Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center, they have partnered with NCNW, the Deltas, 100 Black Women and several other nonprofits are bringing virtual presentations to the community. Among their speakers, one judge talked about misdemeanors and felony crimes, including the Breonna Taylor case. They have also covered the importance of the Census and reviewed several propositions.
Dr. Heard said it’s one way they are reaching out to help voters understand the candidates and issues before they cast their votes.
“Most people vote by what is the most familiar or by the advertising they’ve seen. They don’t know the candidates from Adam, but they’ve seen the name so that’s who they vote for. We’re telling people to vote because their values match your values,” she said.
Incumbent Letitia Clark – for Tustin City Council
Through the current crisis, Letitia Clark said the city needs to start planning to transition to recovery as COVID most likely will be around after January 1. The focus should be on adjusting budgets, allocating resources, and properly communicating with the public about how to rebound from the crisis.
Having lived through and lost all of her belongings with Hurricane Katrina, the entire experience taught her the importance of watching how the New Orleans council and the mayor took quick action.
“It doesn’t put the city or the community in a good position if we are not preparing ourselves,” she said.
The city needs to tap more help from FEMA and CARES Act emergency funds, or whatever are available state and federal resources, she added.
There is a $4.7 million loss in revenue, which is much less than expected, but a far cry from where the city needs to be.
So far, the city has allocated $1.5 million to small businesses, a half-million to rental assistance, and a quarter million granted to nonprofits. However, she said basic needs in housing, food, healthcare, and the digital divide are negatively impacting the community.
At this point, with the exception of herself and one other candidate on the ballot, she said no other contenders have experience in the public sector.
“We’re dealing with grand issues that take in-depth understanding to access different pots of money and distribute this equitably to the community. We don’t need a lot of new people on the job,” she said.
She wants to expand the city’s housing portfolio to help residents transition from temporary shelters with permanent supportive, affordable housing for all, no matter their income status.
.Equity, and social justice in policies and practices within city hall, including working with the police chief, are her other priorities. She said the police department does a decent job, but the focus should continue to be on equity for everyone in the city.
Clark grew up in Tustin, attended school in the area, and she said the city is only one of two cities in Orange County where council members do not receive a stipend.
It’s all about heart and commitment. She said she understands the role of elected officials in serving the people.
“I like to say if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. If you don’t have someone at the table to address these core issues, you will be subject to the adverse reaction of a lot of choices,” she said.
Among her numerous posts and positions, she has served as Executive Director of the American Academy of Pediatrics Orange County Chapter and the government affairs director for the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors. She was a government relations manager for the American Red Cross, legislative aide to the Georgia General Assembly and New Orleans City Council, along with service on several nonprofit boards.
Richard Hurt for Aliso Viejo City Council
Nothing runs well without strong economic development.
Revitalizing Aliso Viejo’s town center is a top concern for Richard Hurt, who said it is the center point for residents to support local small businesses.
“With COVID, people are going to be staying home, what does that mean for our city? Where are we going? Our office space is going to be underutilized now that COVID happened,” he said.
Before the pandemic hit, he said the goal was to build up local businesses over the next 20 years as retail was already dealing with industry changes.
Now that more people are working from home, he notes that it could hold a huge revenue impact if small business owners decide to not carry high overhead costs of commercial spaces. Impending vacancy of those buildings could represent more lost revenue.
Hurt is an accountant by trade. He holds a bachelor’s in Accounting and an MBA in Management. He has worked for the Riverside Economic Development Agency, and the Riverside Sheriff’s Department.
From a numbers standpoint, he worries about getting a plan in place if things do not rebound to deal with the potential shortfall.
“The office space is something we have to pay attention to, how we account for it? How is it going to affect our city?” he said. “We’re still waiting on the results. As a council, we’re all going to have to get together and have some serious talks.”
He also is concerned about sales tax revenue, and the change in how the city operates must be a major consideration.
Council members and the city also must try harder to connect on social media to keep the community engaged. He feels that officials should be more open to input about what types of businesses the community wants to see developed.
“In Aliso Viejo, the incumbency is strong here, but it’s almost like if you’re not in a certain circle you’re not being heard,” he said.
Hurt started his campaign last April and tried to connect with as many people as possible to get a broader view, even listening to those from other parties. Some eventually came back to help him phonebank.
“Getting their feedback and understanding their issues makes you better off as a candidate, instead of just talking to the people who agree with you, I’ve been trying to reach out. I think that’s the difference between me and other candidates.”
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