The three competitors vying for a seat on the La Mirada City Council in the upcoming June election took part in a forum Thursday to share their visions for a better city.
District 2 incumbent Andrew Segara is being challenged by Chris Pflanzer and David Constantine. The election is to take place in conjunction with the statewide primary election on June 7.
The hopefuls laid out their plans and priorities on a range of issues ranging from public safety to term limits during their first public debate.
Each of the three candidates made their case as to why they are the best person for the job.
Sarega said his participation in the council has helped expand its point of view.
"I bring a different perspective to City Council based on my life experiences," Sarega said. "I've lived in different countries, I've experienced the world in a different way, even through my education... my background as a police officer... I learn from those experiences and I try to bring them to the city of La Mirada, and to the Council."
Pflanzer said his career as a businessman and his work as a Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District trustee have prepared him well for the position.
"My job, the way I perceive it as a city councilmember, is to be a responsive representative of the community. I fully expect people to come talk to me and for me to go talk to them," he said. "If there's a complaint, I want to know about it."
Constantine said public service was part of who he is.
"When we moved here in 2009, the first thing I did was I got involved in the city. We rolled up out sleeves as a family, through Kiwanis, through Key Club. I will continue to do that regardless of what this election says, but I'm going to bring that same roll-up-the-sleeves attitude when it comes to public service, when it comes to helping out however I can in the city."
Sarega said his top priorities included acquiring land for open space, as well as beginning the process of gradually replacing existing block walls along Santa Gertrudes Avenue with safer, uniform design.
Pflanzer said his short term goals included providing Internet access using wi-fi at public spaces in the city, improved asset sharing between the city and the local school district and securing property south of the 5 Freeway for development.
Constantine said he would focus on public safety, with particular attention to pedestrian safety around schools, as well as ensuring the city's projects remain within budget and preventing a tax increase.
Pflanzer and Constantine both pledged not to seek a higher office if elected to the City Council. Sarega said he was focused only on La Mirada, but declined to rule out another office "if, at some point, God opens a door."
Asked whether they would support term limits of two four-year terms for the Council, the candidates were split.
Constantine and Pflanzer said they approved of the limit, citing a need for fresh ideas. Sarega said he opposed a term limit for the Council, saying it should be up to the voters to decide whether or not to re-elect a leader.
Sarega and Constantine both said they supported recalling Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, as well as repealing prior criminal justice reform laws such as Prop. 47 of 2014, which reduced many felony offenses to misdemeanor ones.
Pflanzer said he supported the repeal of Prop. 47, but did not call for Gascon's recall, saying, "I can't speak to that."
On the issue of homelessness, Sarega said the problem needed a larger, regional approach and could not be solved locally. But a strong emphasis on policing public safety can help.
"The only way to solve it, and unfortunately, this is just a reality, is to take a strong public safety approach, arrest them for every single time they commit a violation, stack up the charges, and hope that at some point, they do end up getting incarcerated for a period of 90 days, or whatever," he said. "The reality is, unless you take that more direct and tough-on-crime approach with homeless people, you're not going to solve the problem."
Planzer disagreed. "I'm not sure that arresting, and arresting and arresting is doing any good," he said. He said he preferred a stronger emphasis on "offering them social services, making sure that's accessible."
"It's sad. It's absolutely sad. There are programs that can help and I'm not sure in La Mirada if we do the best we can with outreach to those programs."
Constantine said he wanted to see health insurers and agencies take a more active role in the homelessness issue and making resources available.
"Beyond that, absolutely, we have zero tolerance for anybody that's using drugs in public, anyone who's committing crime, anybody who's gone so down on their luck that they're becoming a nuisance and a danger to themselves and others," he said. "However, there are ways to start addressing this a little more creatively, until we start seeing a reopening of our state hospital systems and some of the other programs out there that aren't available today that should be."
Sarega said he championed La Mirada forming its own public health department, independent from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Pflanzer and Constantine said they did not believe a city public health agency would be practical or affordable.
District 1 is uncontested in the upcoming election, as incumbent John Lewis went unchallenged on the ballot. Council seats in Districts 3, 4 and 5 are not up for election until 2024 under the city's by-district election process.