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Election 2020: Meet the candidates for Costa Mesa City Council, mayor seat

Candidates for Costa Mesa mayor
Incumbent Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley, left, is running against Councilwoman Sandy Genis and challengers Wendy Leece, Al Melone and Quentin “Q” Pullen for the elected position of mayor on Nov. 3.
(Courtesy photos)

A total of 15 candidates are running for three open seats on the Costa Mesa City Council and one at-large mayor position in the Nov. 3 election.

The five candidates for mayor include incumbent Mayor Katrina Foley, and current City Councilwoman Sandy Genis, who are running against three challengers — former Councilwoman Wendy Leece, Finance & Pension Advisory Committee member Al Melone and newcomer Quentin Pullen.

The Daily Pilot sent a questionnaire out to all candidates for City Council in its coverage area to get a sense of who they are, why they are running and what issues they believe matter most in their communities. Some responses have been edited for formatting, length or clarity.

District races appear below the Q&A responses for mayor.

Costa Mesa Mayor

KATRINA FOLEY (Incumbent mayor)

Age: 53

Professional occupation: Attorney/Businesswoman; Mayor of Costa Mesa

Education: Head Start graduate, Bachelor of Arts in English and Women Studies at UCLA; Juris Doctorate, Seattle University School of Law

Time lived in city of residence: 24 years

Previous public service: Elected to the Costa Mesa City Council in 2004, 2008 and 2014; elected to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board of trustees in 2010; Costa Mesa’s first elected mayor in 2018; Planning Commission; various civic and charitable organizations

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

Costa Mesa has faced unprecedented challenges, enduring a health crisis and an economic downturn. To overcome these, our council, staff and community united. We fed needy families, assisted seniors, froze evictions, offered rent relief and issued small business grants. We held weekly mayor’s town halls and developed ReStore Costa Mesa, managing the budget and maintaining $50 million in reserves.

This summer, Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

Costa Mesa police are trained to respect people of all races, nationalities and faiths while remaining sensitive to the needs of underserved communities. We will continue to prioritize community policing and neighborhood involvement in problem solving. We’re emphasizing equity in our housing element and encouraging engagement across neighborhoods. Partnering with schools to develop apprentice programs will offer livable wage opportunities.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 11,733 residential units. How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

State mandates require much more affordable housing, but we have local protections in place to preserve neighborhoods. I favor protecting existing traditional neighborhoods, improving active transportation systems to reduce traffic and building housing near job centers. We’re beginning to engage residents to plan for future housing, while partnering with neighboring cities to aggressively pursue homeless sheltering and have housed 151.

What else would you focus on as mayor?

I would continue to work with businesses and residents to safely reopen more businesses. I’d also continue to regulate sober living homes and address homelessness, which has become more challenging under COVID-19 and the economic downturn. I would continue to focus on economic development, creating housing opportunities, and maintaining the family friendly creative lifestyle that we love in Costa Mesa.

SANDY GENIS (Incumbent council member)

Age: 67

Professional occupation: Land planner

Education: Estancia High School, Stanford University

Time lived in city of residence: 60 years

Previous public service: Costa Mesa City Council, Orange County Housing Commission, Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District, Orange County Animal Care Community Outreach Committee, Southern California Commission on Air Quality and the Economy

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

The city’s done well communicating with the public but must involve community members in COVID-19 decision-making. We should do more to help Westside residents, perhaps using schools or parking lots for food distribution and/or testing. We need to maximize protection to reopen safely and assist in vaccine programs once they’re available. Flexibility with commercial zoning can help businesses recover.

This summer, Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

Everyone should be treated fairly — I believe our residents and police would agree. We must provide police with resources needed for true community policing, not just running from call to call. We should review municipal codes with legal staff to assure they are fair to all. However, I do not believe that single family zoning is somehow inherently racist.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 11,733 residential units. How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

We must protect existing residential neighborhoods while seeking opportunities for increased housing. Consider marginal commercial and industrial areas for conversion to housing or mixed use, e.g. the Kmart site, or small industrial sites in the Logan/College area already adjacent to residential uses. Additional housing in the South Coast Plaza area could work if the property owners were amenable.

What else would you focus on as mayor?

Homelessness and crime, including petty crime in neighborhoods and commercial areas, and city finances. It doesn’t matter what wonderful plans we have if we don’t have the financial resources to implement them.

WENDY LEECE

Age: 72

Professional occupation: Educator, College Hospital Costa Mesa

Education: University of Arizona, Bachelor of Arts in Education; Major: Journalism and English

Time lived in city of residence: 48 years

Previous public service: City of Costa Mesa Cable Television Committee (appointed) 1992-94; Elected and re-elected to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board of trustees (1994-2002); City of Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission 2003-2006 (appointed), Chairman 2006; Elected and reelected to the Costa Mesa City Council, 2006-2014 (termed out); City of Costa Mesa Finance and Pension Advisory Committee, (appointed) 2017-present, Vice Chair

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

I oppose the council’s $100 fine for not those not wearing a mask. As an American, I hold dear my personal liberty to wear or not wear a mask. As mayor, I will continue to work with nonprofits and the faith-based community to help to those individuals or businesses in need who may not qualify for government assistance.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 11,733 residential units. How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

I hope the city’s recent appeal of the 11,733 units is successful. If not, residents will have an opportunity in community meetings to help the City Council decide where the units will be located and how quality of life will be impacted. As mayor, I will attend these meetings and listen to the residents.

This summer, Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

I was very concerned rioting would come here. I thank our policemen and policewomen, who courageously resisted protesters at South Coast Plaza early on in the COVID pandemic. Their professionalism deterred other protesters. As mayor, I would hold frequent town halls to engage residents in important discussions around social justice, policing and inequity in Costa Mesa.

What else would you focus on as mayor?

We are blessed with the good life. I love our people and diverse, eclectic, City of the Arts. We’re weathering COVID together. I commend Costa Mesans caring for neighbors in need. Our times are in God’s hands. You can trust me as mayor to lead with wisdom and dignity, and to keep our city safe, clean, and welcoming to everyone.

AL MELONE

Age: 74

Professional occupation: Retired CPA

Education: MBA in Finance, Michigan State University

Time lived in city of residence: 16 years

Previous public service: Member of Finance & Pension Advisory Committee

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

I would defer to the governor’s mandate, nothing more, nothing less. Social distancing and wearing masks make sense. A $100 fine for not wearing a mask in public does not.

This summer, Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

Constituents want everyone to be treated with dignity and respect, including respect for property rights. Defunding our police is not a solution. Neither is de-fanging them to where they can’t do their job and their personal safety is threatened. Weeding out dysfunctional individuals from law enforcement is important. Longer term solutions will be up to national and state policymakers.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 11,733 residential units. How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

Costa Mesa needs to join other coastal cities to challenge such unreasonable state mandates. Our city is “built out,” we have no vacant land. A substantial increase in our population would detract from our present quality of life. Meanwhile, other cities have huge tracts of undeveloped land that could serve the housing needs of Southern California for decades to come.

What else would you focus on as mayor?

Costa Mesa needs to hire a consultant to evaluate how to best meet residents’ needs. Many Orange County cities provide excellent public safety and public works projects yet can balance budgets without a South Coast Plaza cash cow. Why can’t we? We need experts (not politicos or bureaucrats) to identify savings and possible reorganizational changes for the benefit of our citizens.

QUENTIN ‘Q’ PULLEN

Age: Did not answer

Professional occupation: Strength and conditioning coach, movement therapist, Owner Body by Q Fitness

Education: Bachelor’s degree, DeVry University

Previous public service: United States Marine Corps, 1988-1993; US Navy Reserve (1998-2001)

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

A well-intentioned but, at times, disjointed and too punitive approach has exacerbated the effects of the pandemic on our community. We need to listen and communicate better. Our city has a friendly climate and access to outdoor spaces. Working together, we can formulate a plan that keeps our community healthy and safe while allowing for economic growth.

This summer, Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

As a veteran and a minority, I am a firm believer in freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. This tenet is at the foundation of our democracy. But that comes with a deep responsibility. We can raise our voices in protest, but we have to hold those who break the law and resort to violence accountable.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 11,733 residential units. How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

Costa Mesa’s 15.56 square miles is not a lot to build on, so we must be strategic with housing placement and collectively decide the best locations and designs for the city. Neighboring cities have adopted high-rise buildings, which could be an option for us. Costa Mesa home ownership is low, and I intend to change that by facilitating affordable housing.

What else would you focus on as mayor?

Improving communication, increasing resident participation in the well-being of our city and ensuring our voices are better reflected in policies are among my main goals. I’m asking each Costa Mesan to volunteer one hour a month to improve our city. I’d like to connect with city staff to plan COVID-sensitive public events and hold weekly workouts in city parks.

City Council District 1

Candidates for Costa Mesa's Council District 1
Candidates for Costa Mesa’s Council District 1 include, from left, Don Harper, Jason Komala and incumbent Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens.
(Courtesy photos)

Costa Mesa’s First Council District includes Mesa Verde, Upper and Lower Birds, State Streets, Wimbledon Village and the South Coast Collection area as well as the Fairview Developmental Center.

Incumbent candidate, Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens, is running for reelection and faces two challengers, former city commissioner Don Harper and newcomer Jason Komala.

DON HARPER

Age: 61

Professional occupation: CEO and business owner

Education: Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration/Accounting

Time lived in city of residence: 22 Years

Previous public service: Member, Costa Mesa Finance Committee; Commissioner, Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation; President, School Advisory Board; Volunteer, Boys and Girls Club; Coach, NJB Youth Basketball; Coach, AYSO Soccer

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

We know we cannot stop the virus and we need our economy to keep moving or we create bigger problems than the pandemic. We must protect those who are vulnerable while allowing for more personal freedom where it relates to opening businesses, schools, parks and beaches. Government can provide recommended guidelines, but Costa Mesans should decide how they are implemented.

This summer, Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

Peaceful protests are an important component of free speech but looting and violence should not be tolerated. Our community wants a safe place to live and raise their families. We must support our police and fire departments, which means support from our council and adequate funding. That will be my focus in representing Costa Mesa.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 11,733 residential units. How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

We need to make sure our quality of life is protected. Costa Mesa is a mature city and high-density housing could profoundly impact communities. It can also impact fire, police, water and sewer services that affect our budget. Costa Mesa is facing significant budget challenges and this needs to be addressed before we can plan to add 11,733 residential units.

What else would you focus on as a council member?

One reason I decided to run is because friends and neighbors didn’t feel they were being represented. Council members must understand and represent the needs and values of the community, versus a personal agenda or special interest. City government must also be accountable for providing good services and managing finances so we can provide a safe, clean and well-maintained city.

JASON KOMALA

Age: Did not answer

Professional occupation: Organizational change consultant

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Management, MBA Organizational Leadership at Cal State Fullerton

Time lived in city of residence: 15 Years

Previous public service: Costa Mesa Cultural Arts Committee since 2015

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

CARES act funds and grants must be mobilized to assist as many small businesses and residents as possible. Although state regulations and mandates were changing and unclear, we should have applied our resources to support and protect our community first, rather than just enforcing fines and mandates. A balanced approach would have made business owners and residents feel more supported.

This summer, the Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

There are diverse perspectives about the issues. The realization there is a problem and that dialogue is the first step is universal. As a minority, I understand there are disparities. I also understand someone who isn’t aware is not automatically hateful. We must work together, as the struggle is between people who want to work together and people who don’t.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 11,733 residential units. How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

This number is a top-down approach to addressing population growth. I understand the need for housing, but projections are inflated and do not consider the maturity and current density of Costa Mesa. We need to challenge the state to have a uniquely data-driven approach and must uphold measure Y, which empowers the community to decide the future of large projects.

What else would you focus on as a council member?

My No. 1 priority is building trust between our community and leaders. Until we can build trust, we cannot build the communication necessary to collaborate with each other. As leaders, we must be accessible and listen to our community members and serve their interests, because if our leaders aren’t serving the community interests, then whose interests are they serving?

JOHN STEPHENS (Incumbent council member)

Age: 57

Professional occupation: Business trial lawyer, law firm owner

Education: Bachelor’s degree Business Administration from Cal Poly Pomona, Law Degree from UC Davis

Time lived in city of residence: 31 years

Previous public service: City Council since 2016 (Mayor Pro Tem since 2018), coached youth sports for 18 years, Little League and softball board member, Costa Mesa High School Foundation Board, member of Costa Mesa Pension Oversight Committee, Pastoral and Finance Councils for St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

The City COVID-19 response has been excellent. We distributed food to families and seniors, passed an eviction moratorium and provided rental assistance. We provided $1.7 million in business grants, allowed outdoor uses and helped businesses secure PPP loans. Because we cut costs, in Fiscal Year 2019-20, the city operated at a surplus.

This summer, Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

Our community is very engaged in these issues. This summer, our police kept everyone safe, protected our businesses and allowed peaceful expression. We are addressing housing inequity in our housing element. The Costa Mesa Police Department has excellent use-of-force protocols (e.g., de-escalation and body cams) and uses a community policing model. Our chief is an effective leader in this area.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 11,733 residential units. How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

We are appealing the RHNA allocation. We will be meeting with and surveying residents throughout the city to build a consensus on appropriate development. That community feedback will drive our decisions. We are working with the state on developing units on Fairview Developmental Center in a beautiful village setting.

What else would you focus on as a council member?

My focus will continue to be on addressing homelessness, improving public safety and enhancing our traditional neighborhoods. We will be opening a permanent shelter near the airport in early 2021. We will increase public safety staffing (police officers and 911 operators). We will also work to build protected bike and walking lanes on Adams Avenue.

City Council District 2

Candidates for Costa Mesa's Council District 2
Candidates for Costa Mesa’s Council District 2 include, from left, Ben Chapman, Loren Gameros and Gary Parkin.
(Courtesy photos)

Costa Mesa’s Second Council District encompasses Halecrest, Mesa North, South Coast Metro and the Sobeca District, while District 6 covers most of the city’s Eastside, except for small portion just east of the 55 Freeway, served by District 3.

The three candidates running for the District 2 council seat include Ben Chapman, Loren Gameros and city commissioner Gary Parkin.

BEN CHAPMAN

Candidate did not respond to requests for information.

LOREN GAMEROS

Age: 49

Professional occupation: Inspection Coordinator for the Operating Engineers Training Trust Local 12 (OETT)

Education: My experience with the OETT includes 16 years as an accredited teacher through the Rio Hondo College and Santiago Canyon College career and technical education programs.

Time lived in city of residence: 40 years

Previous public service: Vice Chair of the Apprentice Coordinators Assn. of Southern California

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

My top priority is the economic and public health recovery of our community. At a time when small businesses and families have been economically devastated, I will support the council’s current focus on marshalling a strong economic comeback. We should continue to provide relief for local businesses and residents, while investing in the local economy to ensure growth continues.

This summer, Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

Constituents are concerned, from folks worried about protests getting out of hand to people of color feeling afraid for their safety. To keep our communities safe, trust must exist between all residents and public safety personnel. The current council has worked to improve this trust, and it will be a priority of mine to further seek a community-oriented approach.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 11,733 residential units. How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

While the city has appealed this allocation, the reality of California’s housing crisis cannot be ignored. State agencies have demonstrated they will be more aggressive in requiring cities to plan for housing or face penalties. My goal will be to bring together all parties when a project is proposed to ensure tangible community benefits from accommodating a higher state requirement.

What else would you focus on as a council member?

A well-published study led by United Way and UC Irvine found leaving folks homeless on the streets is more expensive to municipal governments than providing permanent supportive housing. Costa Mesa already employs a housing-first approach to ending homelessness, and we must continue to promote and expand this model. I will be an advocate for this compassionate and fiscally responsible approach.

GARY PARKIN

Age: 71

Professional occupation: Aerospace and Automotive Engineer

Education: Cal Poly Pomona Engineering

Time lived in city of residence: 23 years

Previous public service: U.S. Army Veteran; Costa Mesa Senior Commission (three years); Costa Mesa Pension Oversight Committee (three years); Costa Mesa Historical Preservation Committee (served 8 years, four as chair)

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

I think the city has done a good job responding to COVID-19 with food banks and testing at the Orange County Fairgrounds. If elected I would help more small businesses by encouraging city hall to shop more in Costa Mesa, buying more of its everyday products from local businesses such as printing, office supplies and using local restaurants for functions.

This summer, the Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

Training is a big issue that needs to be addressed at multiple levels. We could begin with an updated training and review of city guidelines, policies and procedures, starting at the top with the city manager, mayor, City Council and police and fire departments and involving all supporting departments. There needs to be open communication between department heads and employees.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 11,733 residential units. How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

If Costa Mesa is required to zone for this increase in residential units, I would encourage single family starter homes to be built like the ones on the city’s Westside — affordable and cost effective for young families. If the city acquired the land at the Fairview Developmental Center, I would encourage at least 25% be designated for affordable housing.

What else would you focus on as a council member?

I’d explore our project labor agreement. Is it fair local Independent contractors be excluded from bidding on city projects in favor of unions? The agreement smacks of political paybacks — FOLLOW THE MONEY TRAIL. My concern is for the budget and what’s best for our city. I’m the only District 2 candidate not financially supported by a political party or unions.

City Council District 6

Candidates for Costa Mesa's Council District 6
Candidates for Costa Mesa’s Council District 6 include, from left, Hengameh Abraham, Jeff Harlan, Jeff Pettis and Lee Ramos.
(Courtesy photos)

Costa Mesa’s Sixth Council District encompasses virtually all of the city’s Eastside, except for a portion served by District 3 — this election cycle has attracted four candidates to the race for the districted seat.

Planning Commissioner Jeff Harlan is running against city commissioner Lee Ramos and civic newcomers Jeff Pettis and Hengameh Abraham.

HENGAMEH ABRAHAM

Age: 34

Professional occupation: Small business owner

Education: Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences, “Health Promotion & Disease Prevention”

Time lived in city of residence: 3 years

Previous public service: volunteer work with the Boys & Girls Club; various Orange County homeless shelters; Mary’s Kitchen; Harbor Light Church & Trellis; and Share Our Selves

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

Our city’s response is based solely on county and state mandates. There’s no health care professional or scientist on the council to educate the city and help us navigate COVID more effectively. I’d work with local businesses to open our city safely and start recovery. Testing should be for high-risk individuals and essential workers — healthy individuals shouldn’t live in fear.

This summer, Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

It is our constitutional right to voice our concerns through peaceful protests. However, when that turns into rioting and looting, then I no longer can support that. Law-abiding citizens and businesses shouldn’t have their livelihoods threatened in the name of social justice. Our police department will be fully supported by me as a councilwoman.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 11,733 residential units. How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

The housing crisis has been an issue for many. I don’t think high-density projects and housing are the answer. My District 6 constituents oppose high-density housing, and I will respect their opinion. Costa Mesa has six council districts, and each has its own housing needs. Only a collaboration with real estate developers, contractors and residents will address them effectively.

What else would you focus on as a council member?

Transparency! We need to bring trust back to our people. Our (projected) multi-million dollar deficit can be addressed by eliminating unnecessary spending, such as city aides that cost taxpayers over $300,000 a year. Small businesses would be supported to the fullest extent and would never be ignored as they have been in the past six months by our current council.

JEFF HARLAN

Age: 49

Professional occupation: Attorney

Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of Pennsylvania; Juris Doctorate, Vermont Law School

Time lived in city of residence: 15 years

Previous public service: Costa Mesa Planning Commission (2017 to present); Deputy for District & Environmental Policy, Los Angeles City Council member Ruth Galanter (1998-2001); Planning Director, Baldwin Hills Conservancy (2003-2006)

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

I support efforts by Mayor Foley and the City Council to not only protect our community’s health, but to help local businesses survive during this uncertain time. As a council member, I would continue our economic recovery by expanding opportunities for restaurants to use parking and public spaces (e.g., “streateries”), incentivizing businesses to continue investing here, and providing tenant relief.

This summer, Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

I think Costa Mesans take these issues seriously and recognize that social justice should be addressed in our communities and inside City Hall. On the Planning Commission, we had genuine discussions about racism and equity and ultimately proposed measures to examine our land use and planning codes. We can always improve upon our policies and practices.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 11,733 residential units. How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

As a land use attorney and urban planner, I know how difficult it is to build housing in California and how the limited supply of homes impacts communities. To preserve and enhance our neighborhoods, I believe we should grow smartly, locating new housing near existing job centers to minimize traffic issues, expand transportation and mobility options and reduce environmental impacts.

What else would you focus on as a council member?

As a Planning Commissioner, I have helped regulate sober living homes and would continue to ensure our ordinance is enforced. For the Eastside, I would protect our neighborhoods from impacts related to the airport, maintain the city’s efforts to address homelessness, better manage traffic and improve pedestrian mobility and safety on our streets.

JEFF PETTIS

Age: 49

Professional occupation: Registered Nurse Manager, Outpatient Psychiatry, VA Medical Center Long Beach

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Political Science; master’s degree, Nursing Administration

Time lived in city of residence: 9 years

Previous public service: First-time candidate

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

Costa Mesa did well expanding ordinances to allow businesses to conduct commerce in outdoor spaces. A poor public response from Mayor Foley involved a public masking ordinance that carried a $100 fine. I condemn such blatant government overreach and hijacking the pandemic narrative for political purposes. I will seek to lessen the culture of fear around the spread of COVID-19.

This summer, Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

Constituents support First Amendment rights to peacefully protest. Following the murder of George Floyd, residents expressed concerns at the behavior of the police officers involved and supported the peaceful protests that followed. Attitudes changed when violence, vandalism and mayhem erupted. I reject defunding of our police due to the actions of a few. Law and order must be preserved.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 11,733 residential units. How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

While the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), mandated an unattainable number of low-cost housing units, I believe we need more affordable housing. My district is primarily zoned for single-family homes. It is immoral, and possibly illegal, to infringe on the private property rights of homeowners by rezoning neighborhoods. There is available commercial space that can be rezoned for affordable housing.

What else would you focus on as a council member?

My profession lends itself to taking on the homeless and unlicensed sober living home crises in Costa Mesa. Both issues can be addressed with an empathetic approach, accompanied by my understanding of constituents’ desire to live in a safe, desirable community. I will reach out to those that can be helped while promoting enforcement of anti-camping and anti-vagrancy laws.

LEE RAMOS

Age: 77

Professional occupation: Retired businessman

Education: Local schools; Orange Coast, Fullerton colleges

Time lived in city of residence: 70 years

Previous public service: Senior Center Commissioner, Vice Chair Orange County Historical Commission, OCTA Diversified Community Committee Member, Newport-Mesa Unified School District Measure F Oversight Committee.

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

I want to be a conduit for residents of our city. I want to ensure every Costa Mesan has food and access to city services. The need for jobs and business recovery is imperative. I suggest local job-sharing sites to give residents the opportunity to work locally. I would like to see city work closely with businesses to improve solvency.

This summer, Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

The First Amendment is powerful and the basis of our Constitution. We must support and facilitate a safe environment to practice our freedom of speech. Attitudes appear to be tied to political leanings. People need to be heard in a way that is peaceful and remain respectful of the property and rights of others.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 11,733 residential units. How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

The numbers are unrealistic and unattainable and would change the character of our city. Smart planning should always be the basis for growth and fulfilling community needs. Accommodating more residents with limited facilities will require smart planning and will be a challenge in a city that’s 94% built out. Residents will have a voice with the small-growth initiative, Measure Y.

What else would you focus on as a council member?

During my campaign, I’ve found a distrust among residents regarding the city’s budget and policies. Homelessness is another concern, along with public safety and parking. Residents feel homeless individuals have become very visible. We need to enforce anti-camping laws and expedite the city’s new bridge shelter. That, sound fiscal planning, and communicating responsible virus practices are our three biggest challenges.

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