Of the nearly 30 years that Laura Olhasso has called La Cañada Flintridge home, 20 have carried official duties at City Hall. A mother of two and a government affairs consultant specializing in real estate, it would be fair to say that Olhasso has made a second job - third, really - of local public service.
Olhasso started out at City Hall serving four years on the Public Works and Traffic Commission, and she put in eight years as a planning commissioner before her election to City Council in 2003. As a council member, she participates in a number of regional boards and is currently president of the California Contract Cities Association.
And there's no way she's going to quit now.
Olhasso's campaign involves much more than her resume, she said, promising to continue careful spending, keep battling extension of the 710 Freeway, and fight state regulations that would force homeowners without sewer connections to install them.
Beyond City Hall, Olhasso has served on the board of the local YMCA, the Lanterman Museum and the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge. She won the Les Tupper Service Award in 2007 and was the 2009 La Cañadan of the Year.
Olhasso's involvement in civic affairs appears to translate into widespread support. In the first three weeks of January alone, Olhasso raised more than $10,000 in political contributions, according to her latest campaign disclosure statement.
Briefly explain why you want to be on the council and your top priority if elected.I'm very proud of what the City Council has accomplished. We've made the city safer. We have a healthy reserve. We've cut down on mansionization. We've worked closely with the school district. We've opened two parks. We've done a great deal of work along Foothill Boulevard. I would like to continue working.
What would you describe as the city's most important accomplishment over the past several years?I look at cities around us and how they are struggling to make ends meet, how they are running deficit budgets and we are not. We have a philosophy of being very mindful of taxpayer dollars, and that's important. Within the context of fiscal responsibility, we've been able to put some projects on the map and done everything we can to help our small businesses stay afloat in this time of Great Recession.
What would you identify as a missed opportunity?We've had over the years a number of chances to buy property, which we have declined mainly because of the state of the economy and the need to manage our resources carefully. You'd like to keep open space, but sometimes you just can't.
Which personal qualities that you posses are most relevant to being a council member?A good council member is smart, has patience, perseverance, tact and diplomacy. The ability to synthesize complicated issues. The ability to be empathetic and sympathetic. The ability to represent our city outside of our city, because many of the issues we deal with are regional and statewide. A good council member has the time to do the homework, to attend the meetings - not only two Mondays a month, but the subcommittee meetings, the regional meetings.
If the city experienced unanticipated and significant revenue loss in the near future, where would you look first to make cuts?If this were a temporary setback, money from the reserve can carry us over for a year or so. In my mind, city government's primary job is to provide for public safety and maintain the public infrastructure. After that is the fun stuff, actually - things you want to do but may end up cutting.
Is City Hall user-friendly?It's been the council's goal to make every staff member absolutely accessible and responsive to any member of the public. I'd say that's been accomplished with varying degrees of success, but it remains a high goal. We have asked the city manager to come back with numbers for funding a revamped website and live Internet streaming of our council meetings.
How strong is the city's general plan?We are going through the city's 10-year general plan review, and I want to make sure the community is aware that their input is wanted and appreciated. The job of the general plan is to protect our primarily single-family residential community, and I think the plan is a good one.
All candidates have opposed the 710 tunnel, but what should a council member be doing about it?We've gone and testified before Metro. We also meet with council members of other cities to see what we can do jointly. We help activate and educate the community.
Any thoughts on sewers?
What worries me for our residents [without sewers] is that the state and regional water boards are still talking about more stringent regulations on septic systems. We need to make sure we protect residents as much as we can from undue and unnecessary restrictions.
What about peacocks?
The council has tried very, very hard to strike a balance between the two sides, and in my mind that's what government is about, that compromise. Everyone gives a little and see if it works.
Why should voters choose you?I think I've proven that I have the leadership qualities and experience to continue moving this very fine community forward. I've been proud to represent this city at a statewide, regional and local level, and I believe I can continue to bring value to the City Council and the community.