Downey Latino News sent questions about a variety of issues to the candidates running in the special election to replace former Mayor Blanca Pacheco, elected to the state Assembly last year, in Downey City Council District 1. The introduction below was collected from independent reporting, news coverage, and their responses and websites. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity. Lengths of residency in Downey and the district were self-reported by the candidates and have not been independently verified.
Ramon Casas Jr. says he’s “running as a conservative American.”
“I’m the political strongman that will bring Downey back to safety,” Casas said at a recent candidate forum.
When asked what was meant by “political strongman”–a term often used to describe murderous dictators with cults of personality–Casas offered this definition via text: “A strong political figure who is loyal to America (a nation), conservatism, and religious freedoms. I appeal to the common citizens and my priority is to serve the best interests of the Downey residents and all Americans.”
“I knew exactly what I said,” Casas said. “That’s why I used it.”
When asked whether he was aware of the dictator definition, Casas pointed to a definition from the Cambridge dictionary: “Strongman: (Literal) a person who is very powerful and able to cause change, especially of a political type.” When asked about an accompanying example to this definition referencing Haitian dictator François Duvalier whose private police terrorized and assassinated political enemies, Casas responded: “I gave you the Cambridge definition. Have a good day.”
Casas’s “Downey Revitalization Plan” offers sweeping pronouncements like “Increase Police Officers, Firefighters, and Careers in Public Safety,” “Conservative Family Values,” and “Solve the Transient and Homeless Problem.” He also lists national chains he’d like to bring to Downtown Downey including Macaroni Grill, Outback Steakhouse, Chuck E. Cheese, and a “Barnes and Nobles Bookstore with a Starbucks inside.”
“People say how are you going to do this?” Casas said at a City Council Meeting on Oct. 24 about the public safety plank of his Downtown Downey Revitalization Plan. “We need to work with the best, the police chief, the fire chief, they know more than I do but we have to communicate with them to see what they need and accommodate them.”
Casas received a degree in city planning from the University of Southern California and is currently an English teacher at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower. He previously worked for a commercial real estate firm.
Why are you running?
I’m running as a conservative American to protect the people of Downey during these times of high crime and to make our city a family-friendly environment. We all need to keep Downey a safe place to raise our families in. I have a beautiful 3 year-old daughter named, Olivia, and I’m creating a world for her that is safe and sustainable. Life is all about preservation, maintenance, and growth. As our American “Pledge of Allegiance” states, we are “one nation under God.” Therefore, I’m working and fighting for every Downey resident and American. Currently, I live a life of public service as a high school English Teacher. I also have a college degree from the University of Southern California in Policy, City Planning, and City Management. I’m a policy expert and I’m the most qualified and best person for this Downey City Council position. Throughout my campaign, I have been advocating my “Downey Revitalization Plan”.
The Downey Revitalization Plan is a 7-point comprehensive plan that focuses on the items listed below:
1. “Safety First” for Public Safety and Code Enforcement – Increase Police Officers, Firefighters, and Careers in Public Safety.
2. Infrastructure and the Downtown Downey Project – Advance the Public Works Department – Develop and redevelop infrastructures – Incorporate Public and Private Partnerships for projects and funding – incorporate public equity and private equity – Develop and redevelop Downtown Downey with new infrastructure – make pedestrian-friendly environments in Downey
3. Conservative Family Values
4. Community Events and Parks – Advance the Parks and Recreation Department – inclusive events that are welcoming to all law-abiding citizens. A) Annual “U.S.A. 4th of July Parade and Fest” B) “Downey Community Fest” C) Celebrate “Global Diversity Month” in October – people from all ethnicities and cultures are represented and welcomed
5. Build the Best and Strongest Economy – increase better family-friendly businesses – incorporate large scale nationally and globally recognized tenants and businesses – perhaps bring Frantone’s back to Downtown Downey A) Barnes and Nobles Bookstore with a Starbucks inside – 2 Story Structure B) Trader Joe’s C) Sprouts D) Dave & Busters E) Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-b-que F) Black Angus G) Macaroni Grill H) Outback Steakhouse I) Chuck E. Cheese
6. Solve the Transient and Homeless Problem
7. Finance Department and Financial Management A) Audit every department in the city B) Raise major capital/money for every department C) Conservative spending and expenditures
What is the biggest problem facing Downey and how do you plan to address it if elected?
Crime is the biggest problem in Downey. There has been a major increase in crime in Downey and Los Angeles County. I’m advocating for “Safety First”. We will expand funding to the Police and Fire Departments. We will hire more Police Officers and Firefighters to respond to the rise in crimes and incidents. We will increase their wages on a fair scale because of the rapid increase in population and crime in Downey. I’m their advocate. Downey should have frequent DUI checkpoints on the North, South, West, and East entrances to prevent crashes, injuries, and deaths. Also, we should have police officers on foot patrol in Downtown Downey.
Many of the candidates in this cycle have referenced “family values” in interviews and in campaign literature. How would you define “family values” and how does it relate to being a member of the city council?
I believe that family values refer to ethics, policies, and codes of conduct that promote the safety and sustainability of men, women, and children.
The average monthly rent for an apartment in Downey is $2,225, up 23% from January 2021, according to the apartment search website rentcafe.com. Multiple cities in South East Los Angeles County have recently placed caps on annual rent increases beyond the hard cap of 10%–5% plus inflation or 10%, whichever is lower–passed by the state in 2019. Bell Gardens set a cap of 50% of inflation or 4%, whichever is less; Maywood’s maximum rent increase is 4%; Cudahy’s cap is the change in inflation or 3%, whichever is less. Do you support a cap on annual rent increases in Downey beyond the state cap?
No. It depends on the city within Los Angeles County. Safer cities with better economies that offer more amenities, such as Downey, demand higher rent rates.
What are other solutions to prevent renters from being priced out of the city due to rising rents?
The leases should be annual or beyond and don’t advocate for month-month contracts. This will ensure integrity annually.
In 2016, California voters passed Proposition 64, which legalized the use of recreational cannabis by adults 21 and over, by 14%. In Downey, the margin was much slimmer. Voters in this city passed Proposition 64 by only 2% (51% in favor, 49% opposed). While legalizing personal use statewide, the law allows local governments to ban cannabis storefronts through permitting and zoning and current members of the city council have signaled their opposition to commercial cannabis. Do you support a voter referendum on permitting cannabis storefronts in Downey?
Cities like Los Angeles and Long Beach have city auditors or controllers–independent positions that regularly conduct performance and financial audits aimed at guaranteeing effective and accountable government. Do you support the creation of a city auditor in Downey?
What reforms do you support to increase the transparent and effective use of city funds?
Refer to my “Downey Revitalization Plan”. Audit every department through the Finance Department and present the calculations to the Mayor, Downey City Council, and Directors.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 66% of Downey residents 5 years old and over live in a household where a language other than English is spoken. Currently, members of the public who attend city council meetings and are in need of translation must make a request 48 hours in advance. While city staff is able to provide impromptu assistance to community members who wish to deliver public comments, there is no designated translator at city council meetings. Would you support employing a designated translator for city council meetings?
Downey LINK, a bus line that covers the entire city, traveled over 102,000 miles and had 75,000 boardings in the fiscal year 2022-2023, according to the City Manager’s office. In June, Downey LINK reinstituted a 50 cent fare upon boarding after suspending fares for three years due to the pandemic. Many transit advocates support transitioning towards fare-free transit systems, thereby increasing usage and easing the burden for economically vulnerable passengers who often make up a large percentage of users. Would you support increased funding for Downey LINK in order to facilitate a fare-free transit system?
According to the 2023 homeless count released by the Los Angeles County Homeless Service Authority, service planning area 7–which includes Downey and dozens of surrounding communities–saw a 36% increase in the number of unhoused residents from last year, an increase of 1,730 people. Countywide, the number of people experiencing homelessness in shelter was similar to last year, but the number of unsheltered individuals rose by 14%. Currently, no homeless shelters are located within the City of Downey, and the county-run Hondo Center of Healing is the only interim housing within the city with 80 beds and wraparound services. Would you support developing housing for unhoused individuals within the City of Downey?
No. We should fully utilize the resources, services, and facilities that Los Angeles County currently has.
Should the police department budget increase, decrease, or stay the same?
Should the fire department budget increase, decrease, or stay the same?
Which city department or program is most in need of increased funding, and why?
The Police and Fire Departments because the current Police Chief requested more police officers. There has been an increase in the population, economy, and crime. Therefore, we need an increase in police officers and firefighters to support the demands.