Mike Van Gorder sees himself as a true alternative candidate from the pool running for three open seats on the Glendale City Council on Tuesday.
For one, unlike his opponents, he lives south of the Ventura (134) Freeway, in the Pacific-Edison neighborhood. He and his wife rent there, living out a very working-class existence with the intent of starting a family, he said.
Second, the 31-year-old is running a grass-roots campaign, with only about $2,500 in his fund, far less than the tens of thousands some of his opponents have.
"I'm not a wealthy guy. I'm living the experience of the economy of 2017," Van Gorder said. "People's stories are getting bleaker and bleaker, and we need to have someone who's going to be an advocate for everybody, not just homeowners... I don't think being able to raise $70,000 should be a prerequisite to serve your city."
Van Gorder, an Orange County native who's lived in Glendale four years, said his admittedly progressive stances and life experience as a renter in an underrepresented neighborhood of Glendale are what would set him apart on the council. It's that kind of voice that's missing from City Hall, he said.
Van Gorder, who has a sociology degree from Chapman University, works as a wedding photographer. On the side, he's a guitarist and singer in the band Countless Thousands, which he describes as players of "enthusiastic rock music."
Van Gorder's council run is his first foray into local politics. Last year, he won a delegate seat for the California Democratic Party and supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in his presidential bid.
Among the issues he'd like to bring to the forefront for Glendale are affordable housing and a task force of tenants and landlords to create a rent stabilization ordinance. Van Gorder said he often hears about the plight of renters whose landlords hike up leases by hundreds of dollars, forcing tenants out. That's not a way to build community, he said.
Rising rents have also made those trying to save for a home of their own face an even harder time doing so, he said.
"Times are very hard, and the economy is slanted so hard against the have-nots," he said. "Income has raised about a third of what home prices have... market-rate [apartments] are starting to slip away from the working class."
Van Gorder said he would also like to see Glendale Water & Power start its own municipal Internet service, which could provide a faster alternative than private providers, such as AT&T. He said Internet access should be treated as a public utility.
He pointed to the success of the publicly-owned Internet in Chattanooga, which has given the Tennessee city a tech-friendly attractant.
"If we have this service... then business and technology firms are going to want to come over from all over Southern California to have access to this utility," Van Gorder said.
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