Downey City Council elections are quickly approaching with residents already receiving vote-by-mail ballots. We asked candidates about caps on rent increases, police, homelessness, and more. Art Montoya, policy advisor, is a candidate for District Two. District Two covers southwest Downey.
You can find out which district you live in here.
You can check your registration status, request a vote-by-mail ballot, and find a local voting center by going to www.lavote.gov or calling 800-345-8683. The last day to vote is November 8th!
All six candidates were asked the same questions. Responses have been edited for clarity.
Why are you running?
Art Montoya: I’m running because I genuinely care about my community and where I grew up. My fiancé and I could have bought our home anywhere else, but we both wanted to buy our home, and raise our family here in Downey. When I’m elected, I’m going to make sure that District 2 has a voice and good representation in Downey. That means making sure that funding is equitably spent in all Districts, including District 2. I will make sure that we continue making public safety our top priority, but also focusing on economic development and bringing good paying jobs to the city, pushing for us to do better in improving our environment and carbon footprint, and lastly, making sure we’re fiscally responsible with our citizen’s tax dollars. Additionally, I plan on bringing stability and civility back to Downey. I’m not here to pick sides between one group or another, I’m here to do what’s right for the community of Downey.
As a councilmember, how would you balance the interests of business owners with the interests of residents?
Art Montoya: As a councilmember, it’s important to understand the wants and needs of both the business owners and the residents. Some of those interests overlap, such as ensuring safety within the community, maintaining clean and safe streets. Ultimately, [business] owners want to ensure that the city allows them to run their business in a manner that’s successful for them and residents want to ensure that the city tries to provide city programs or attract businesses that enhance the quality of life for them. I would balance both the interest of business owners and interests of residents by always keeping in mind how the decision will impact the other, and the community as a whole. There will be times where the positives outweigh the negatives, we just need to make sure we really do a thorough cost to benefit analysis to ensure we’re always making the [best] of the choices available to us.
There has been talk about eliminating Downey LINK, Downey’s citywide transit system, by councilmembers. What are your thoughts on Downey LINK? As a councilmember, will increased public transit ridership be a priority?
Art Montoya: As a kid, I would sometimes take the Downey LINK to and from Warren High School when I couldn’t get a ride to school. So I appreciated having that option to get around Downey before I was able to drive. As a councilmember, I have a fiduciary responsibility to our residents to ensure we’re using their money with the best return on our investment. So if something isn’t working, and we are wasting money and we have to make the tough decision to eliminate a public benefit, then that’s something I would have to consider. However, before I even consider eliminating a program or the Downey LINK, I would want to consult with our staff and see what the number of riders has been in the past 5 years and see where those numbers are trending, if they have been increasing, steady, or decreasing. I would want to see if it would be possible to increase ridership on the Downey LINK and see if this is a resource that we need to remind residents about to ensure its public use and success. Maybe that means marketing, changing routes that would better serve riders, or talking to other cities and understanding how they run their local [buses]. I would be open to discussing this more with staff and my other councilmembers if any changes are to be made, for either increasing or decreasing funding.
Neighboring Bell Gardens recently imposed a hard cap on annual rent increases of 4%, going beyond the state imposed cap of 10%. Do you support a cap on annual rent increases that goes beyond the state cap?
Art Montoya: As stated in the question, we have a statewide rent cap of 10% already, however I think a better way of addressing this issue is by creating more housing, and affordable housing at that. LA County plans to develop some of the land that is part of the Rancho Los Amigos South Campus. My goal is to work with [the] County alongside their development of that land to ensure that we can develop housing and ensure that we designate a portion of that as affordable housing. Affordable housing is necessary for those who are renting, to have a chance at owning a home. So many working class people cannot afford to buy a home, but if we can assure them housing that someone like a teacher, or an electrician, or a veteran can afford, this would be a solution to the housing problem as opposed to a band aid.
Downey has 218 unhoused residents according to the county’s latest homeless count. What policies or programs do you support to help these individuals secure housing?
Art Montoya: I would like to apply for funding through funds from Measure H or other grant money, to hire or contract 1 or 2 people as dedicated city staff to engage in homelessness outreach. The goal of these two city staffers would be to actively engage in Downey’s homeless population to gain an intimate understanding of those individuals that are homeless, what led to their state of homelessness and for our staffers to get the resources needed for each person, whether it be mental health services or other health services, or to find them temporary housing. I would also consider creating a City Subcommittee on Homelessness to include members of our community in order to get more minds to talk about other solutions.
What are the biggest challenges facing Downey in regards to public safety?
Art Montoya: The biggest [challenge] facing Downey in regards to public safety is crime. Crime is up everywhere in LA County, and Downey is no exception to that. However, I think we need to invest in technology to help our officers with crime prevention. One example of this was the use of license plate vehicle readers which curtails vehicle thefts. Or possibly looking into the use of drones to ensure public safety.
Should the police budget: increase, decrease, stay the same?
Art Montoya: Stay the Same. We have a top notch police department that does a good job protecting the city. I think the police budget should generally remain the same, as about a third of our budget goes towards our police department. We’re a city of roughly 114,000 residents, so we need to be realistic and smart about our budget and how much we fund our departments. However, I am open to the purchase of technology and equipment that would help our police department in reducing crime or increasing the safety within our community.
Should the fire budget: increase, decrease, stay the same?
Art Montoya: Stay the Same. We have a great fire department that our community supports, and it shows as we recently invested in upgrading all our fire stations in the city. Having [said] that, I believe our fire budget should also remain the same so that we may maintain the same caliber of safety that we have come to love and expect.
Which city department or program is most in need of increased funding:
Art Montoya: There [is] one department but also one general upgrade that I believe is in need of increased funding, and that is our Parks and Recreation Department and an upgrade in our technology at City Hall. I would like to increase funding for our Parks and Recs to upgrade parks, to potentially build a new dog park in Downey, but also to increase the programs for our seniors and children. We have some programs for children, but most of the programs are focused on sports, and we have a small handful for seniors, but I believe we need to increase that. That’s been something that a lot of residents have asked me for as I have been canvassing and meeting everyone. Lastly, we need to upgrade our technology in City Hall and enter the 21st century. It’s embarrassing that you cannot go online in order to make an appointment with the city to have someone come out to your home or your business to do an inspection, but that we still have to go in person or make a phone call and leave a message. This is a cause for delays with businesses, which results in unnecessary increased costs, as well as costs for homeowners when they’re doing work on their homes. Using technology to make work easier for both our staff and our residents and businesses is a smart decision.
What is your vision for the future of the city? What do you propose to make Downey a better city?
Art Montoya: My vision for Downey is to really elevate it to the next level for our community. Downey is a good city, but we can be better. I also want to focus on District 2 and make sure our city funds are equitable for all districts, everyone talks about “North Downey” or Downtown Downey, but on our side of Downey we are just as important, and I plan to make sure we get the same attention as the other districts, because we are One Downey. Our district also has a huge opportunity to give some [say] with the big Rancho Los Amigos South Campus development, and I plan to be that voice for our community.
To make Downey a better city, I plan on ensuring public safety continues to remain a top priority, by supporting our police and fire departments. Ensuring we continue to maintain our public services such as keeping our streets and alleys maintained. Being an environmental champion and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. Lastly, working on economic progress, cutting bureaucratic red tape (by implementing new technology) so that our residents and small businesses aren’t delayed with any permits or construction; and I also want to work with our DUSD on the implementation of a Downey incubator, so that our students and community have a place to go to learn how to create a business plan, and how to potentially start their own business here in Downey, and hopefully draw the attention of investors so that these business ideas can become a reality. Downey’s motto is future unlimited, and that’s why I believe we need to govern by that motto and keep pushing our city forward into the 21st century.