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. Juan Martinez, security guard, is a candidate for District Four. District Four covers northeast 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?
Juan Martinez: I am running for Downey City Council’s 4th District to address water contamination, humane treatment for the homeless crisis, fixing our parks, rent stabilization, and taking on corruption at our city council. Can’t be bought, No Corporate Money, No Private Interest, For the People by the People.
As a councilmember, how would you balance the interests of business owners with the interests of residents?
Juan Martinez: As a council member we must always work with our staff, listen to the opinions of our predecessors and colleagues. However I do want to assure the community that the people’s interest and well being must and will always be protected. The well being of the residents must always take priority as we are elected by them to represent them. That is our duty as elected by the people, and it is a duty I will uphold when I am in office.
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?
Juan Martinez: Our community members are the taxpayers. They elect us to work for them. It doesn’t make sense for the City Council to cut a program that provides essential needs to the community and makes their lives more difficult. The Downey Transit LINK is a necessity that allows our youth, senior citizens and all other residents to access the goods, businesses, and other needs of the city. As [a] Council member I will fight to keep the transit link system accessible to our community members and increase its accessibility and promote less carbon emissions in our city.
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?
Juan Martinez: I support speaking with staff and making any [and] all necessary adjustments to make sure that half (55%) of citizens [who] are renters are protected and allowed to live better and do better during this harsh economy that is plagued by a recession, war, high gas prices and pandemic. I support adjusting the rent cap to make living for our residents easier and for our landlords more fair. I applaud Bell Gardens in their success and determination to serve their constituents. 4% is definitely a topic I would like to have explored for the residents of Downey.
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?
Juan Martinez: As a housing advocate I know that the best way to prevent homeless is to keep families and residents in their homes. Working with [the] state and county to bring programs that provide rental assistance [and] purchase buildings to house low income families and veterans is the best way to reduce homelessness. Moratoriums and rent caps are also ideas that I’d like to see further explored and possibly implemented for the protection of our residents and for the fairness of our landlords.
What are the biggest challenges facing Downey in regards to public safety?
Juan Martinez: The biggest challenges facing Downey today are the lack of educational programs to the public. We have an abundance of youth racing cars and performing motor vehicle acts that are dangerous and destructive to the community and themselves. Downey needs to expand educational outreach, affordable transit accessibility, after school programs, and park programs that inform our community, keep our youth and community members healthy and busy. Downey needs to provide the resources that prevent crime before it happens without the use of officer force or legal intimidation.
Should the police budget: increase, decrease, stay the same?
Juan Martinez: Stay the same. Our police budget is above 50% which is the current norm across every city in LA County. Not to mention that they also get additional contracts from the School Board for providing services within our local Downey schools. What we need to do as city council now is determine how we can provide better services to the other areas of Downey that are in need without stressing police use or over burdening the department when their services can be better suited for something else. Addressing concerns like a rowdy youth or the homeless, are issues that we need to [address] before an officer is required to be called.
Should the fire budget: increase, decrease, stay the same?
Juan Martinez: Stay the Same. Currently we have a few measures like Measure S that provides funding to police, parks and fire. Although every budget should be analyzed and taken into account each year with careful scrutiny. I have pride in our fire department and will work to assure that they have the highest, most optimal capabilities to take on any and all concerns in our city.
Which city department or program is most in need of increased funding:
Juan Martinez: We can not cut the Downey transit LINK system and we must continue to provide rental assistance in order to prevent homeowners and renters from [losing] their homes and adding more [to] the homeless crisis. We are facing a pandemic, a recession, and record high growing gas prices over a war of energy across [the] sea. Our task now is to protect our citizens and provide the essential needs that we can to assure the well being and prosperity of both residents and business. Preventing homeless and making the city’s goods, business, and facilities [accessible] assures that we maintain a healthy flow for communities as these challenging times continue. We must also begin to address the contaminants in the city’s water. Downey needs to invest in research and equipment to [remove] substances like PFOA, PFOS and all other carcinogens that currently reside in our water.
What is your vision for the future of the city? What do you propose to make Downey a better city?
Juan Martinez: My vision for Downey is a vision of where the city council serves its residents with pride and honor. Right now what we have in our Downey chamber are council members who only care about themselves and their personal agendas. We have Mayor Blanca Pacheco who has supported water privatization in the past by pushing a bill that would place our central water basin into receivership. We have council members actively voting to raise taxes during a [recession] and a pandemic crisis on our residents. We have council members attacking the 1st amendment by limiting the Public’s right of time to participate, cutting speaking time from 5 to 3 to sometimes 1 minute. We have council members like Mario Trujillo who openly attack, belittle, and challenge constituents to fights in Downtown Downey during city meetings on public record.* We have council members like Claudia Frometa who has lied about contaminants in our water for years and has used her support to maintain a homophobic agenda by voting against and refusing to support voices of the LGTBQ community in Downey.** We have staff members who have taken a leave (Ex. John Oskoui) leaving behind a questionable legal trail [due] to shady practices of which the council refuses to be transparent with the community. Our social programs which benefit and protect the community like the Downey transit system are under attack. And council members continue to undermine housing needs because they have sworn an allegiance to the real estate industry. My vision is to only have a responsibility to the people, not the donors and or private interest. Our residents must always be the priority of the city and as a sitting council member I will fight to make sure that we bring transparency and change to our city council. One that truly reflects the will of the people.
*Councilmember Trujillo responded to this comment on Oct. 25: “I have first amendment rights as well. Video speaks for itself. There is no challenge to a fight. Mr. Martinez is Delusional.”
**Councilmember Frometa was offered an opportunity to respond but did not do so as of press time.