By Maddy PUMILIA
Three candidates running for La Cañada City Council debated key issues such as crime, the 710 freeway extension and disaster preparation on Feb. 6.
Running for city council are 24-year-old accountant Joe Layton, current councilmember and businessman David Spence and attorney and business owner Jon Curtis. The La Cañada Flintridge Coordinating Council and Kiwanis of La Cañada sponsored the event. It was held at Flintridge Prep and was moderated by the school’s headmaster Peter Bachmann. Questions came from the audience.
Layton lives in La Cañada with his family. He is engaged and is looking to stay in La Cañada when he moves in with his fiancé. He graduated from USC and works as an accountant for a real estate company. Layton said his work will translate well for the city council. His two younger siblings attend La Cañada public schools and he said that he wants [local] education to be number one in the state. He also is interested in engaging technology, like establishing a La Cañada Twitter page.
“I think what makes me different from the other candidates is my fresh perspective on the city,” Layton said. “Mr. Spence has been on the city council for 20 years now. Curtis has been on the Planning Commission for five years. They both have lots of wonderful experience for the city. I feel that, as someone who is younger, I can bring [our] technologically up to date, which will improve communication in the community.”
Incumbent Spence touted his experiences on the city council as being a strong reason to re-elect him. As a city councilmember, he said he improved the downtown business district and noted that his council has maintained more than $14 million in reserves. He implemented open meetings and installed new stop signs and sidewalks as a councilmember. Spence added that La Cañada needs an experienced council and said that public safety was a passion of his.
“[What makes me different from the other candidates] is my experience,” Spence said. “My knowledge of the city office, of the office that I hold and my regional experiences of the county, which has come because of my dedicated effort to work to improve the city of La Cañada Flintridge.”
Curtis has two daughters who both attended La Cañada public schools. He went to Loyola and UCLA. He supports education, open governments, enhancing public safety, promoting local business and maintaining quality of life.
“What makes me different from other candidates? I would say … experience, both within the community and outside the community, working with all sorts of different governmental agencies on matters not just applicable to this city, but have been in all sorts of other cities and the county and the state. I’ve sort of seen good examples and bad examples of what’s been done elsewhere. I can take some of those examples and use them to help our city. I also bring a legal perspective to the council.”
All candidates oppose the 710 freeway expansion for pollution and traffic reasons. Spence called it a “bad proposal” and wants to seek alternatives.
The topic of sound walls came up. Layton and Curtis are both in favor of sound walls and both called them “long overdue.” Spence said construction is close to starting.
All candidates were not pleased with the town center lights. Spence said he is not 100% pleased, but it’s “complicated.”
On the topic of crime, Curtis said the sheriff does a very good job and he would continue outreach. Spence said the best thing is to listen to the council and neighborhood watch. He also advised that the community should be “good neighbors.” As an example, he said that if you know your neighbor is out of town, remove their newspapers.
“The reduction of crime is a major issue for me,” Layton said. He said he would continue to work with the sheriffs.
Layton has the endorsement from L.A. County Firefighters and support from Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca.
LCF Mayor Stephen Del Guercio, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Pat Anderson and L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich endorse Curtis.
One person in the audience asked about the youth.
“One of the most effective ways we’ve tried to address youth is through the youth council,” Spence said.
Layton said there was a need for upgraded technology and the youth needed an avenue to voice their opinions.
Another resident asked about supporting a single use shopping bag, perhaps a nod to the recent decisions by neighboring cities to ban the use of plastic grocery bags. Curtis said he would study it and ask what the businesses wanted. Layton said he would do what the community wants. Spence said he would talk to the chamber.
The question of term limits brought differing opinions. Layton said he would support a term limit. Curtis and Spence said they would not, because it would take away the value that comes from experience.
Finally, the candidates discussed disaster preparedness. Layton said he would upgrade the city’s technology and work with firefighters and the sheriff. He wants to establish an alert system so people could be notified by text or email. Spence said the city already has a disaster preparedness plan. Curtis said he wants to register cellphones and expand communication.
There are two seats open on the city council. The election takes place Tuesday, March 5. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Residents can vote for no more than two candidates.