The five candidates vying for the three open seats on the San Fernando City Council are campaigning for support for next month’s election.
On Nov. 8, City of San Fernando residents will vote to elect either current Mayor Mary Mendoza, Councilmember Sylvia Ballin, former Mayor Joel Fajardo, attorney Victoria Garcia or educator/counselor Mary Solorio to the City Council.
The San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol newspaper reached out to each of the candidates to hear about the issues they’re running on and what they plan to do if elected. Their interviews are listed in alphabetical order.
Out of all the candidates, Ballin has the most time on the City Council, having been elected in 2011 and been mayor twice. Although she has been on the council for around a decade, she said she feels like she could serve another two terms. She also said that she helped keep the City from going into bankruptcy and to create financial reserves.
For the upcoming election, the main issues that Ballin is focused on are infrastructure, water and climate change.
“There are infrastructure issues that need to be addressed. There’s water issues that need to be addressed [and] we need to do what we can to ensure that we continue to have our wells working,” Ballin said.
Ballin has been reaching out to constituents door-to-door and through events in the area. From talking to residents in person, Ballin said that most were happy with the work she’s done for the City’s economy.
“I’m really proud of the fact that our city is doing well and we came out of that bankruptcy … within six years, [so] we’re doing fairly well,” Ballin said.
Ballin also said that, so far, this election campaign has been civil and professional, saying that it’s been “one of the nicest campaigns ever.” She recalled that, during previous elections, there were “hit pieces,” which she said disappointed her. She said she hopes that it doesn’t happen again.
“Even if it’s [hit pieces] directed at me, I will not participate in that.”
Hit pieces are often mailed to voters on the very last days of the campaign, giving no time for the person who has been maligned to respond before election day.
Fajardo is running to return to the City Council after losing to opponent Celeste Rodriguez by a narrow margin in the 2020 election. He was first elected in 2012 and was previously the City’s mayor.
He said his 2020 campaign was adversely affected because he was unable to canvas the City due to the pandemic until the last two and a half weeks of the campaign. Also, Fajardo said an outside group, called Voters for Good Government ran attack ads against him. One ad said that Fajardo raised taxes on homeowners, although he said that the City Council lowered it during his tenure.
However, sales tax did rise during that time, with City Council and voter approval, to 10.25 percent — the highest in the San Fernando Valley.
“All of these attacks were premised around mistruths to help my opponents,” Fajardo said.
He said that he hasn’t seen any hit pieces during this campaign so far, and that he is in a stronger position now that COVID-19 has subsided and he can do much more canvassing. Fajardo is now able to focus more on talking to residents and the main issues of his platform: hiring more police officers, increasing funding for street repair and preventing homeless encampments in the City.
“I’m running for City Council to bring state leadership to San Fernando so we can make our community the cleanest, safest and most prosperous [in] the region,” Fajardo said. “I have a proven track record of leading San Fernando City Hall to budget surpluses while increasing access and accountability.”
Garcia is one of two new candidates running for City Council. She has volunteered for the City as a member of the Technical Advisory Committee for the Housing Element and as a community advocate at the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments’ Mobility Academy.
Having grown up in the City and raising her three children here, she said she wants the community to be the best it can be, and has attended almost every City Council meeting in the last couple of years.
“We can make our city beautiful,” Garcia said. “It has a history of beautiful people and … we can make this happen where it’s where we want to live, work and play.”
Garcia said she wants to work with the business community to find ways to help them thrive and improve public safety, noting the rise in homelessness. She recounted how a friend who was eating at U Crave Grill saw a man defecate in public.
“[When talking to residents,] the things I’m hearing a lot are homelessness, and I’m hearing about crime and … the business community seems very frustrated,” Garcia said. “The phrase I hear a lot is that it’s hard to do business in San Fernando.”
Another issue that came up when talking to constituents was the lack of accessible resources for those in the special needs community. Garcia said that every time she spoke to a parent of a child with special needs, they would say how miserable it was to navigate the system.
“I know a lot of those resources are going to be [LA] County or maybe LAUSD, but … why don’t we have someone where they can turn to where it’s a committee or representative where they can turn to and get the help because it’s hard raising a kid and, if you add things on top of it — whether it’s medical care or developmental needs — that’s hard and who knows how to get that help,” Garcia said.
Mendoza was elected to the City Council in 2019 and became mayor last December. Her priorities for the council, if reelected, include repairing roads and sidewalks, providing clean drinking water and repairing the wells in the Sylmar groundwater basin, hiring more police officers and increasing neighborhood patrols.
One other issue that Mendoza is also attempting to tackle is the rise in homelessness.
“It’s a topic that always comes up and in addition to me, discussing that with a city manager with our police officers … and understanding what resources they find that the homeless need,” Mendoza said. “We’re trying to find whatever resources they need to help them [homeless] out, especially with housing.”
Mendoza also talked about her first year on the City Council in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the globe. She said she is proud of the work she did during that time, such as providing personal protection equipment (PPE) to businesses and working with nonprofits to provide mobile vaccinations.
“The community came together to get our residents and our workers vaccinated,” Mendoza said. “When our COVID numbers were the highest rates in Los Angeles County, we lobbied our state elected officials and demanded they help us get our COVID numbers down.”
Solorio is the other new face in this election and, like Garcia, also grew up in the City. The daughter of Mexican immigrants in a low-income household, Solorio said that one of the things that has motivated her to run is the lack of collaboration in disseminating the resources out to the community, as well as a rise in homelessness.
“One of the resources that I really believe is needed … whether it’s mental health services or connecting them to county resources like Medicare and things like that, just having those available for residents but also having them available in Spanish,” Solorio said.
She said her nephew began taking services for developmental therapy and behavioral therapy, but that her family was only able to get connected because Solorio had 10 years of experience working in the behavioral health field. She said that there is a lack of connectivity in the City and that people don’t know what avenues they need to take.
When talking to residents, Solorio said one of the main issues that comes up is safety, whether it’s cars speeding down the streets, fireworks going off at night or roads in need of repair.
“Those are concerns that I definitely validate,” Solorio said. “I have seen that, even a block away from my house … so it’s important to take note of that and make sure that we’re providing a voice within the community to state their concerns.”
The General Municipal Election will take place on Nov. 8. For more information, go to our election guide at https://sanfernandosun.com/election-guide/.