La Cañada City Council candidates debate key issues

The three candidates vying for two seats on the La Cañada Flintridge City Council all vowed Wednesday night to decrease crime, support local businesses and stop a freeway extension.

In the first public debate before the March 5 election, candidates agreed on many topics raised by audience-generated questions.

The La Cañada Flintridge Coordinating Council and the Kiwanis Club of La Cañada sponsored the event, which was held at the Flintridge Preparatory School auditorium.

Incumbent Dave Spence touted his experience as both a council member and mayor of the city, while Planning Commissioner Jon Curtis pointed out his long list of endorsements from community members and elected officials.

Newcomer Joe Layton, a 24-year-old accountant and financial analyst who has lived in the city with his family over the past eight years, promised a fresh approach to issues and improvements to digital communication, if elected.

Layton called the recent makeover of the city’s website a “wonderful first step” but said he would go even further to reach out to tech-savvy residents and create Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“Many youth, my generation and younger, operate mainly on the Internet,” he said.

All three candidates showed hesitation to support restricting single-use shopping bags even though neighboring cities have recently adopted such proposals.

Curtis and Spence both said they would want to study the issue. Layton said he would support a restriction if the majority of residents really wanted it.

All candidates opposed a controversial plan to extend the Long Beach (710 ) Freeway.

Spence was the only one to offer alternative solutions to curb increased traffic on the freeway, such as a light rail system or a direct bus line.

The spike in residential burglaries and crime over the past year was a hot topic during the forum.

Curtis and Spence cited neighborhood watch programs and special task forces as possible ways to reduce incidents. Layton repeatedly mentioned a close working relationship with Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

“This is a tough community to keep an eye on,” said Spence, adding that neighbors need to look out for each other and remove evidence that someone is on vacation, like stacks of newspapers and mail.

A question asking the candidates if they were pleased with the traffic light system around the Town Center generated chuckles from the audience.

Spence admitted that the system wasn’t perfect. “I was sitting there tonight, and thought, ‘Man, I’m going to be late!’” he said.

But he was confident that the city could fix it.

“I think we can mitigate the issue and resolve it very shortly,” he said.

Curtis was worried that drivers are avoiding the intersection, causing traffic to spill out onto residential streets.

“A lot of people avoid Foothill because the traffic light issue,” he said. “People should be taking Foothill so they see the businesses and shop the businesses, so hopefully we can fix it.”

Layton hammered for a stronger relationship with the school board. He also said he wants to reintegrate the western section of the city, known as the Sagebrush area, into the district, despite the fact that the Glendale Unified School District has successfully kept the Sagebrush schools in its system, winning all legal challenges to date.

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council doesn't have much authority over the school system. But Layton said building up the school system should be a priority for the council.

“One of the main reasons people that people live in the area is because of the top-ranked schools and that helps our property values,” he said. “If our schools began to suffer, our property values would go down.”


Follow Tiffany Kelly on Google+ and on Twitter: @LATiffanyKelly.

Copyright © 2019, La Cañada Valley Sun
EDITION: California | U.S. & World