Meet the Candidates

Upcoming elections will shape the future of Crescenta Valley. Ballots will be cast on Nov. 2 at the La Crescenta Library at 2809 Foothill Blvd. in La Crescenta for the Crescenta Valley Town Council. On Tuesday as part of the municipal election, voters will choose from four candidates to fill three seats on the CV Water District board of directors and, in La Cañada, eight candidates are vying for three seats on the school board.

To better acquaint voters with the candidates, the following are Q&As answered by the CVTC candidates (available through the council’s website at as well as questions posed by CV Weekly to the CV Water District candidates.

Crescenta Valley Town Council Candidates
Two questions were posed to the candidates by the council: 1. What would you like to see the Town Council accomplish?

2. As a new or returning member of the Town Council, what would be your goals for the next year or what would you hope to contribute to the Town Council?

Here are their responses in order received:

Leslie Dickson Professional Volunteer; Master’s in Education
1. The CV Town Council is doing many great things in our community. We have had many accomplishments that keep our city great and keep the small town feel. Our biggest goal as a community is to keep the neighborhood feel.  We need to keep our roads safe and traffic-free. The biggest job that the town council accomplishes is the unseen job; communicating with key constituents and helping volunteers beautify our land, helping Eagle Scouts develop mini-parks, and working with the county on key public works projects. In the coming year I want the council to continue to work with public works, community members and businesses to bring wonderful projects to our city like the skate park and Rosemont Preserve.

2. Continue to act as a liaison between multiple groups and stakeholders in the community.

Dr. Young Suh, incumbent M.D., Chon-Nam University Medical School
1. Keep our community safe for residents, especially from crime, flood and fire; make sure our kids will have good education and protect our kids from crime, alcohol and drugs; help our local business; enhance my role as a liaison between Korean American and other residents.

2. With my past three years experiences as a town council member, I can contribute for our community more efficiently. I will continue what I have been doing for our community.

Harry Leon, incumbent Plumbing Contractor; D.S. mechanical engineering/environmental waste management and biodiesel of engineering
1. Banning over size commercial truck parking in our community and around CVHS and all overpasses; building a community and youth center; building code enforcement.

2. My goals as a council member are to promote quality of life in La Crescenta neighborhoods by delivering services to youth, families and seniors and ensure safe and vibrant environment for all to enjoy and prosper.

Kyle Studebaker Assistant Director, Administration, Facilities Management
1. I would like to see the Council continue to listen to all residents in an effort to identify and pursue area improvements. I’m very much interested in the well-being and safety of our residents, with emphasis on our schools. I’d like to see continued education and increased awareness of the activities of the council and assist with outreach to improve and broaden community involvement.

2. I’ve held volunteer positions in many community organizations; PTA/Foundation for Monte Vista and CVHS, community service for CVHS; board of directors for CV Prom Plus and CV CAN. Through my involvement I’ve been fortunate to work with a great number of other residents and together we’ve facilitated change and growth as needed. I believe it’s important to give back and support the community we live in and feel fortunate to have the opportunity to do so. I would bring passion, energy and commitment to working with other Council members to meet the immediate and future needs of our community.

Cheryl Davis, incumbent Law Firm Office Administrator; BS Bio chemistry (UCLA).
1. I would like to see the Town Council continue to partner with the various organizations within our community to help accomplish mutual goals. During the 6 years I have served on Council, I feel that awareness of the Town Council and its role in the community has grown considerably and that cooperation between the various groups has improved and I would like to see that continue.

I hope to see the skate park at CV Park completed and personally, I would like to focus on our youth. I would like to see the Town Council help get access to additional resources similar to the Fire House and safe events such as Prom Plus.

I would also like to see the Town Council’s calendar become the “Community Calendar” so all organizations in our community will add their events to this calendar. This should help groups schedule their events and avoid date conflicts with other community events.

2. I would like to see the Town Council continue its outreach to include members of the community to serve on Town Council committees and help at events.

I enjoy working with the youth in our community and many are in need of gaining access to or finding resources to help them cope with the pressures of school and being teens making the transition to adulthood.

I am willing to commit to serving as treasurer or recording secretary (again) if no one else on Council wishes to hold those positions and as the outgoing president, I look forward to mentoring and working with the future leaders of the Town Council.

I also look forward to continuing on the CV Ready team [that is] working with the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health during its second and third years of its Community Disaster Resilience Project. Other partners in this project include L.A. County Fire, the L.A. County Sheriff, CERT, CV Fire Safe Council, the Chamber of Commerce, and many other community organizations.

Lisa Griffin Mother/school teacher (retired); MA English Education-New York University (’97)/B A Art & Art History-Providence college (’86)

1. I would like to be part of a Town Council that creates a plan to best serve students should the La Cañada redistricting of the “Sagebrush area” heavily impact Mountain Avenue Elementary. Since we are all stakeholders in the future of students in area schools right now, the Town Council needs to address the needs, concerns, and ideas of local youth … so that wherever students venture for their college years, they want to return to their hometown to work, establish businesses, and raise families. This will be accomplished through continued outreach through programs like Youth Council, The Drug Coalition, etc.

2. I would like to contribute to the Council, and community, through working with GUSD on the continued health, safety, and success of the students in our many elementary schools, middle school, and both high schools. One goal would be to increase the social options for students outside of school. The Fire House, Y dances, and local sports leagues are wonderful, but additional recreational opportunities are needed for teens. Within the last month three overdoses nationwide attributed to the drug known as “Molly” (Ecstasy). Continued dialogues and education on the subject (without lecturing) would be an area of focus for me as a member of the CV Town Council.

Krista Smiley Glendale School – Plant Manager; Graduated cosmetology license
1. I am a big supporter of keeping Crescenta Valley – La Crescenta & Montrose [with] the feeling of a small town. I really believe in slow growth for our community and would like CVTC to be vigilant, to [be] watch dogs of building [that are] not following building and housing zoning and codes ordinances. I would like CVTC to reach out to community members and small businesses in [the] area to participate in [a] study of parking and problems on Foothill Boulevard. I would like to have CVTC help to get medians on Foothill Boulevard with grass and trees. We also need clean-up days on Foothill Boulevard for our community.

2. My main goal is to be very supportive of CVTC and work as a team to help community members and residents with any problems and work with [the] supervisor’s office to expedite any concerns in a timely manner. I would like to work in areas of housing and building zoning help keep aesthetically community-oriented. Help the CVTC with my past experience and leadership on the CVTC as vice president for two years on CVTC.

Mariam Gabra Barnes Co-owner of Level54 Digital Media Recruiting; Bachelor’s from Cal State Northridge

1. I would like the Town Council to serve as a forum, and represent the people who live in our wonderful community, and send their kids to our amazing schools. My hope is that the Town Council can help make decisions that will allow La Crescenta to grow economically, while preserving la Crescenta values. I would also like the CV Town Council to make recommendations that help keep our community clean and safe.

2. One of my specific interests as a possible town council member is in Land Use. I feel that it is important to make recommendations to our small businesses that allow them to grow, while simultaneously keeping our streets aesthetically appealing, and most importantly safe. I feel that it is important to make recommendations about the proper use of residential building/permits that allow people to increase the value of their homes, which ultimately increases the overall value in neighboring homes.

My hope is that La Crescenta is always viewed as a desirable place to raise a family.

Kerri Lewin Realtor; BA, Cal State Northridge in Liberal Arts
1. As a member of CV Town Council, I would encourage a more involved community feel overall. As was discussed in the past, a beautification of Foothill would help give the businesses along the boulevard the pedestrian traffic they need for a long-term successful establishment. The town council should work closely with the chamber of commerce to give a cohesive look along the boulevard.

I would also like to see more community events which involve the whole family. It is rare that anyone knows their neighbor [except] in a time of emergency.

2.  As a new member I would hope to bring a fresh look on issues that arise to the council’s attention.

I am a current board member of Pasadena Foothills Association of Realtors charitable foundation board and have successfully run events to raise money for our foundation. I would hope my knowledge would benefit the community of which I have been a resident for 20 years.

Crescenta Valley Water District Candidates
Three questions were posed to the four candidates.

1. What is your view of Crescenta Valley Water District building new infrastructure (for example new pipelines and water meters)? And how important is building that new infrastructure even at the risk of raising rates?

2. CVWD imports the majority of its water from Metropolitan Water District. Do you feel CVWD could use more of the local well water?

3. In the past, CVWD board has offered long term solutions for reducing water rates, including recycling and using more well water, however do you have a feasible plan that could reduce water rates more immediately?

Here are their responses in alphabetical order:

Charles Beatty
1. I believe that the district has to be maintained in order to function efficiently.

If you put off today’s problems, as in your own real life, you pay for it two fold to solve it later, if indeed it can be solved.

As I just stated, it is very important to do the necessary maintenance.  However, the district does not have to raise rates to do so. It can float municipal bonds to pay for the work needed. However, that is after you have exhausted all other ways to pay.  Some suggestions are to divert money made by using solar power for electrical use as well as savings from purchasing Glendale water rather that “imported water” from Foothill Municipal Water District, the wholesaler.

2. Actually, CVWD does not import the majority of its water. It uses its own water from the aquifer which is approximately 75% as adjudicated by the courts and water master.

We can save a good deal of money by buying Glendale’s excess water via the Rock Haven well. It is located within three thousand yards of CVWD’s processing facilities.  All that is needed is to have a working agreement with Glendale regarding the purchase price.  I have spoken to Mayor Dave Weaver regarding the Rock Haven well and he feels it is feasible. CVWD purchases water from Foothill Municipal Water District and in turn FMWD purchases their water from Metropolitan Water District. Both these districts are wholesalers of water and CVWD is a retailer of water.

3. The biggest component in water production and distribution is electricity.  The district needs to implement solar energy on all its reservoirs. They don’t need to set up a committee to study the program; all that the Board needs to do is to direct the general manager with the authority to explore the website of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) to get the names of other agencies in the state that are now using solar power to save money for their districts and contact them as to how they proceeded to go solar. The California Dept. of Energy has a similar website for water agencies showing them which companies are the most successful in helping water agencies finance at the lowest rate possible and often [offer] assistance with financial aid to the district. I have always believed that after initial study of a problem, “those that can do and those that can’t set up committees and discuss the problem in ad infinitum.”

Please contact my website for links to ACWA and other information. Please vote for me Nov. 5.

James Bodnar, incumbent
1. For CVWD to reliably deliver high quality water to its customers the district must continue to replace the old water pipelines that are in need of repair. The water district must also maintain the groundwater wells, nitrate treatment plant, storage tanks, booster pumps, generators, chlorination stations, and so on. The community depends upon this infrastructure.

The meter replacement program is important for two reasons. First, the new meters more accurately measure the water delivered to customers making our billing more equitable. Second, the new meters will eventually provide additional flexibility so that the district will be able to detect leaks early and read meters remotely. Detecting leaks early will help reduce customer bills and waste. Remote readings will also save staff time so that they can perform other necessary work.

There are no easy solutions to managing water rates. The water district must collect sufficient revenue to operate and those costs must be passed on to the customers. The district can cut corners and delay infrastructure improvements to the point that the system fails, but for me, that’s not an option. The district can also “kick the can down the road” and finance annual capital projects, but that places future generations holding the bill. Also, there is only so much the water district can borrow. And borrowing is not free.  Effectively, the district pays two dollars over the life of the loan for every dollar it borrows. Those dollars come from customers and are collected through higher water rates at some point.

My vision for the water district is to maintain the water system to reliably deliver high quality water to its customers. As your director I will work to ensure that staff has the resources to get the job done, while keeping the water costs as low as possible.

2. Crescenta Valley Water District (CVWD) receives water from two sources:  local groundwater and imported water. Local water makes up around 65% of our community’s supply with around 35% imported. Because local water is less expensive than imported water, I would encourage its use. To achieve this, I support the rehabilitation of our wells to maximize local production. However, there are water right limits on how much water can be produced each year. CVWD only has water rights of up to 3,294 acre-feet under the current adjudication. There is the potential to use unused water rights of the City of Glendale.

I would like to work with the City of Glendale to create a win-win solution. Glendale recently drilled the Rockhaven well, but does not currently have the treatment capability to remove the nitrates. CVWD has the existing treatment capacity to remove the nitrates, but not the production capacity to produce the extra water. I will encourage district staff to work cooperatively with the City of Glendale so that both parties benefit resulting in lower customer costs.

Water recycling and storm water capture are two other options. The district has looked at water recycling, but it was much more expensive than imported water. Also, there is only so much recycled water demand in the basin and recharging recycled water is currently not allowed under the adjudication. I do not support direct potable use (drinking treated wastewater) for our community when we have other cost effective options. The district is also investigating storm water capture using a California grant.  Storm water capture will be difficult because there is limited space and underground infiltration galleries are expensive. However, both water recycling and storm water capture should be regularly evaluated, even though they are not often cost effective without obtaining considerable grants or subsidies.

3. I would be very skeptical of any candidate who proposes a plan to reduce water rates immediately and at sustainable levels. I think the best anyone can do is to manage rate increases. As costs increase those expenses must be passed onto customers so the water district will remain solvent. I pay the same water rates as every customer. I want my rates as low as possible. But, I won’t

sacrifice employee safety or customer reliability to save money. My plan is to manage rates sufficiently so that our community has reliable and high quality water.

I do think the current board of directors is on track with some good ideas to reduce costs and improve efficiency. The new meter replacement program will reduce customer water waste, more accurately bill customers, and reduce staff time in meter reading. The district entered into an agreement that pays the district to use less on-peak energy, an activity the district already does to avoid high electricity bills. Also, the district has rented out vacant properties that were purchased for future well sites. This not only saved the district because property values have increased substantially, but also generates revenue that far exceeds the interest the district would have earned from money in the bank. The district has also paid off a high interest loan to CalPers that reduces both the future liabilities and annual interest expenses.

To further reduce costs, I will encourage the district to continue to rehabilitate its groundwater wells and to work with the City of Glendale for mutual benefit. Maximizing local groundwater production is key to any long-term strategy to reduce the purchase of more costly imported water.  Unfortunately, recycled water and improving storm water capture are not currently cost effective unless the district receives significant grants.

Kerry Erickson, incumbent
1. I would rather call it maintaining and replacing key components of the infrastructure. Pipes, pumps, reservoirs, control valves and meters wear out. Much the same as the maintenance required on a car. Change the oil, replace brakes, tires and battery. Letting the maintenance go too long before addressing [and] it will eventually catch up with you. Ever experience the frustration of a car failing to start because of a dead-battery or heard the scraping noise when applying the brakes?

The District loses water and of course revenue from leaking pipes and inaccurate meter readings. Water loss due to leakage amounts to about $130,000 per year. And it is estimated the average household meter under-reports water usage by 10% at low-flow rates.

Replacing the vintage analog water meters with digital meters will also result in additional benefit. The manual reading of the meters will eventually be replaced by an automated system saving the District personnel and vehicle cost. Also individual households will be notified of a leakage far earlier, hours instead of weeks, thereby curtailing a costly high water usage bill.

Having the system always available in time of need is pretty much taken for granted. We are thankful that when the Station Fire followed by the flood hit our area we never lost CVWD services. But without performing some level of maintenance this may not [have] been the case.

With prudent management the District should be able to implement the basic needs without having to raise rates. Grant funding, full and matching, is available through federal and state agencies. In May 2013 the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, through its Water Smart Program, awarded the Eastern Municipal Water District a $217,000 matching grant to implement a Meter Data Management System and convert all of its existing meters to Automated Metering.

2. The Verdugo Basin provides the District with the majority of the water we use, over 65%. CVWD and Glendale share the pumping of the basin groundwater under an agreement established with the Upper Los Angeles River Area (ULARA) Watermaster in 1968. CVWD share is 3,294 acre-feet (1 af = 325,851 gallons). Pump problems and reduced water table levels in recent years have prevented the District from obtaining its adjudicated amount. We are presently rehabilitating the pumps and expect to be at full capability by spring 2014 at which point about 69% of our water will come from the wells. Under the agreement Glendale is entitled to 3,856 af but it also has been unable to pump its full adjudicated amount and it may be possible for CVWD to obtain additional pumping rights from Glendale.

The water from about half of the District wells is processed by the CVWD nitrate-processing facility to reduce the nitrate level. The water from the remaining wells is blended with water imported from the Foothill Municipal Water District /Metropolitan Water District to reduce the nitrate level to a state acceptable amount. By installing a pipeline and connecting these latter wells to the CVWD nitrate-processing facility, the District can reduce its dependency on the use of expensive imported FMWD water.

Water obtained from District wells costs about 1/3 of that obtained from FMWD.

3. The District has no control over what FMWD charges for water or Los Angeles for sewer treatment and inflation will continue to pressure the District towards raising rates. Issuing a new municipal bond will cost the customer over twice as much and will indebt the District for many years. Presently the District still owes $14M for a 30-year $10M bond issued in 2007.

My plan includes obtaining small grant funding to enable the District to make improvements where a capital savings can be realized. The automated metering and nitrate processing mention above are two examples.

Continuing to promote water conservation. Rebates are available for most products including water barrels, which I have. A barrel by itself may not seem like much, but putting two in every CVWD household can save two af of water per year.

Our employees are the best, but their compensation must be kept in line with the benefits found in other municipalities. Bargaining unit negotiations begin in the spring of 2014 and I am optimistic we can both reach an equitable agreement.

When job vacancies do occur, the District needs to seriously reexamine its staffing level versus job function. The District had the opportunity this past summer but chose to ignore my plea and motion.

The litigation on the MTBE pollution of the groundwater is ending and the District is in the process of determining how best to utilize the award. Since the MTBE remains in the ground it may at some point re-enter our wells and therefore funds must be set aside. But perhaps a small amount could be utilized to jump-start some activity that would lead to stabilizing or lowering rates.

Small things add up and the District needs to be more diligent of expenses. From pencils and construction contracts to consultant fees.

Ken Putnam, incumbent
1. Replacing worn out infrastructure is the number one program of the district. Because a major element of our expenses is purchasing needed imported water, the cost of which is increasing annually, the district is making a significant effort to hold other costs down.
2. CVWD, depending on the time of year, does purchase imported water. The amount of ground water that can be pumped is limited by a Superior Court adjudication. The District is working on a program to develop ways to utilize recycled water and storm water to increase its use of local water.
3. Because the purchase of imported water is a significant part of our expenses and costs are increasing annually over which we have no control, the district, the board and myself are working hard on holding other costs down so as to hold rate increases to a minimum.


Kiwanis Hold Daytime School Board Candidate Forum

Candidates discuss parcel tax, state mandated local control formula, common core standards, inclusion of western La Canada neighborhood into district.

By Michael BRUER

Approximately 100 La Cañada residents and community members attended a daytime School Board Candidate Forum on Wednesday. Eight candidates are vying for three open seats on the La Cañada Unified School Board: educator and parent Kaitzer Puglia, executive and attorney David Sagal, Glendale Community College student Kevork Kurdoghlian, Los Angeles prosecutor Dan Jeffries, Los Angeles school counselor Karyn Riel, Urban Fitness Pilates Studio owner Jennifer Rubendall, incumbent Joel Peterson, and recent Harvard graduate Ian Mirisola. The forum featured lunch for guests at a price of $15 per person and lasted nearly 90 minutes.

The candidates answered four questions, with each given two minutes to respond. The first query concerned the candidates’ stance on the parcel tax, and asked at what price per parcel should the district put to a vote.

Puglia stressed the need for voters to think seriously about what is needed for area schools. She argued for a $450 parcel tax. Sagal agreed with her on the figure while advocating for an extension of an exemption of citizens 65 years and over. He focused on the $800,000 deficit in the operating budget as a key concern for keeping the tax at $450.

Glendale student and newcomer to the political arena Kevork Kurdoghlian voiced his support for the parcel tax in the amount of $295. He was careful to mention that in the event that the $450 amount was passed, he would support it 100%. Attorney Jeffries said that the community wants to know how the school board spends its money, and he intends to complete his visitation of every La Cañada street to that end.

Every candidate was for the parcel tax with the exception of Riel. She cited that, given the deficit, the parcel tax should be considered and if passed, it should be no higher than $300. She also said that, theoretically, she is opposed to the tax and proposed that there are other means of finding resources for money.

Rubendall pointed out that the $15 million in city reserve money that La Cañada had five years ago has dissipated. She also mentioned the $17.4 million I.O.U. from the state has since been dismissed while emphasizing that the district will reach negative certification.

Incumbent Peterson noted that he disagreed with his fellow board members, and stressed that the school board didn’t want to gamble with students’ money. Finally, Mirisola began by stating that the tax is a “check against changes.” He pointed out that, in his opinion, renewing the tax is essential, and that $450 for said tax would be extremely valuable to the community.

Candidates were also asked for their input on the inclusion of western La Cañada – Sagebrush – into the La Cañada school district. Both Sagal and Jeffries cited their backgrounds as attorneys as an important part of why they could be so integral to creating a manageable solution. Sagal also mentioned his experience in finance at Warner Bros. Puglia emphasized the importance of a clear, concise and complete formula to best negotiate the transference of the students. Kurdoghlian called attention to his background as a freelance writer for the CV Weekly as being an important part of what he would bring to the conversation.

Mirisola was in support of the inclusion, as were Rubendall, Riel and Peterson. All of the candidates mentioned the potential difficulties of the inclusion, but overall supported it.

The most divisive question of the afternoon concerned the new state mandated local control formula. Sagal again mentioned his background in finance as experience that would greatly help him in the process. Kurdoghlian highlighted a collaboration with Pasadena City College that would make use of an old district office, which could be renovated by PCC and used to offer classes to LC students in preparation of college courses.

Jeffries mentioned external and internal factors; external pertaining to the outdated security measures in La Cañada schools and internal being things like bullying. He stressed the importance of emergency contacts and working closely with the police to establish a line of communication that would ensure the safety of students.

Riel again emphasized the importance of resources coming from other areas, partnerships with programs in other cities and obtaining grants to help supplement the current plans. Peterson noted that the unrestricted funds granted by the state, the categorical funds, are now on the table for negotiation. Mirisola mentioned that the teachers should be able to benefit from the increased money, stressing their importance in the classroom as educators. Finally, Puglia said that it was imperative to have clear and established goals, both short term and long term. She mentioned the need to find sustainable funding and understand the big picture of how the money is spent.

The election for the La Cañada Unified School Board is set to take place Nov. 5 as part of the municipal election.