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Alvarez recall qualifies for vote

Mayor Pro Tem Catherine Alvarez. Photo: City of Downey.

By: Joe Brizzolara

Embattled Downey Mayor Pro Tem Catherine Alvarez will face a recall election

Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan said Tuesday that recall supporters collected 3,881 valid voter signatures, 410 more than the required 3,471.

The City Clerk will certify the results to the City Council at its Oct. 11 meeting and council must call a special election to be held within 88 to 125 days after that point. If more than 50% of voters in District Three vote yes on the recall, Alvarez will be immediately removed from office and a second election will be called to fill her seat.  

Alvarez, who was elected to represent District Three in 2020, says she’s not surprised by the recall election. 

“I knew what was going to happen,” said Alvarez. “We’re going to see what the voters want, if they want me there or not. That’s on them now.”

Recall supporters are elated. 

“This is good for the City, and the People of Downey,” said recall organizer Jesus Torres via text. “For the first time in history the people will remove a [Downey] city official!” 

Recall supporters’ primary justification for removing Alvarez from office stems from her criminal record, which was not widely known when she was first elected. 

“Catherine Alvarez failed to disclose her extensive criminal record while running for office,” said recall supporter Victoria Smith at Tuesday’s city council meeting. “How can she [be] responsible for making and approving our city laws and ordinances when she herself has publicly thwarted the law? Cleary Catherine Alvarez is not qualified to hold public office and lead our wonderful city.”

Alvarez received two misdemeanor convictions related to welfare fraud in 2014 and a misdemeanor petty theft conviction in 2013. Felony charges against Alvarez in relation to the welfare fraud case were reduced to a misdemeanor following a guilty plea. 

Alvarez says she did not lie about her criminal background, and that all documentation filed to run was answered honestly. 

“The only question that is asked is if you have a felony and I don’t have felonies. I have misdemeanors,” she said. 

Alvarez has previously responded to her past convictions, saying they are the realities of being a working class mother and that she has paid her debt to society. 

“I represent working class families. I think all working-class families go through something. It could be a ticket; it could be stealing something from the store just because they couldn’t afford it. I don’t think they should criminalize my poverty” said Alvarez after signatures were submitted for an earlier unsuccessful recall attempt in February. 

Other complaints recall supporters have with Alvarez include: voting against a code of ethics, protesting outside of councilmembers’ personal residences prior to being elected, and saying that the American flag “brings me pain” while discussing genocide of indigenous peoples.

Downey’s real estate lobby has been a driving financial force behind the recall, opposing Alvarez’s attempts to pass a cap on annual rent increases. An analysis by Downey Latino News found that over half of financial contributions to the first recall attempt of Alvarez were attached to those with ties to the real estate industry. A review of the current recall effort’s financial disclosure forms shows multiple repeat contributors, including the California Real Estate Political Action Committee which donated $4,000 on June 2. 

“They’re [supporting] this recall, saying it’s about my past but there’s evidence that it’s [because] I’m trying to bring rent control to the city,” said Alvarez. “It’s because real estate is behind it.” 

Alvarez says she will continue to push for a rent increase cap and plans to ask city staff to prepare a presentation on a recently passed ordinance in neighboring Bell Gardens which established a hard cap of 4% on annual rent increases.