In the City of San Fernando, election season is more than “silly,” it can be downright vicious with hate filled accusations, nasty flyers illegally placed in mailboxes and those with past feuds coming back to town to hold clandestine meetings to plan out how to settle old scores. Unsuspecting, community “newbies” are innocently caught in political webs and told to “pick a side,” and residents hearing a sea of rumors try to figure out how to vote.
This week, to offset the gearing up of a full blown “nasty campaign,” The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol responded to residents request to hold a candidates forum for the community at the Valley Family Center that would provide a setting to hear directly from each candidate who would state their positions on the record. This forum, moderated by former Assemblyman Richard Katz, would have allowed residents to ask questions and receive a response for them to collectively hear.
But that didn’t happen.
While the incumbents – Mayor Sylvia Ballin, City council members Jesse Avila and Antonio Lopez quickly confirmed their attendance, the new group of challengers declined.
Ironically, candidate Jaime Soto said he was “in the middle of a campaign,” so he couldn’t be there. When offered another day, he switched gears to say he was teaching a class at that time. He was offered the opportunity to pick another day, but instead, he dismissively replied, “I don’t know, send me an email and IF I can, I’ll be there.” When you talk to Soto, a giant ego permeates the conversation, he shoots orders like he views you as his personal secretary.
Soon after that conversation, Yolanda Haro who claims to be independent, gave a similar reply by sending a text message to say she was “committed to phone banking and precinct walking,” so she couldn’t attend.
Pilar Enriquez, also running on their slate, has been “Missing in Action” altogether. Enriquez hasn’t responded to phone calls to request her attendance at the candidate’s forum and at this point hasn’t even campaigned door-to-door. Early on, after pulling papers to run for office, Enriquez expressed regret and told city hall officials that she had changed her mind about running, but she was told by them, that her name would still be appearing on the ballot.
Meanwhile, it’s no secret that Soto who has lived in San Fernando for only two years, and just recently registered to vote in San Fernando with his filing, now rents the home previously lived in by recalled councilwoman Maribel de la Torre and owned by her [Montañez] family. Observers have wondered if Soto while cloaking himself as San Fernando’s new “savior” could be fronting for those long banished from the council chambers. Soto, Haro, and Enriquez have yet to attend local council meetings to participate in the discourse of city issues.
There are very serious issues facing San Fernando residents. The high-speed-rail and affordable housing are among the most urgent to discuss.
A candidates forum is the right place for residents to collectively hear the candidates on-the record position. To refuse a public candidates forum because you are “campaigning” just doesn’t make sense. They weren’t asked to go to Disneyland, they were asked to participate in a candidates forum. A good politician would jump at the opportunity to address the community. Candidates addressing a community meeting is a time honored tradition. But, apparently not to Soto, Haro or Enriquez. And so the City turns …