Aja Brown has sights on re-election June 6

COMPTON — Mayor Aja Brown is not a Compton native, but when she moved to the city nine years ago, she was drawn to its “underdog” quality and saw it as a place where she could make a difference.

Now, as her first term as mayor comes to an end and she campaigns to serve four more years in office, Brown reflects on her mission to bring her adopted city to the head of the pack.

When she took office, Brown said the city was reeling from financial issues due to mismanagement of funds. Under her tenure, the city paid back $7 million and negotiated with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to excuse some of the outstanding debt.

“Some of those debts were over 20 years old,” she said. “Now we’re on schedule to remove our debt in the next 12 years.”

The effect of the deficit reverberated through the workforce, as the city had to lay off employees to remain solvent, Brown said. But during her four years, at least 100 jobs were restored, she said.

“Unemployment was at 18.5 percent when I took office and now it’s at 11 percent,” she said.

Brown, who grew up in the Pasadena area, was introduced to Compton as an adult when a friend invited her and her husband to attend a Bible study group at Faith Inspirational Missionary Baptist Church.

But her history with the city goes back to a dark place. Her maternal grandmother, Lena Young, was murdered in a home invasion rape and robbery in Compton in the 1970s. The case is still unsolved.

Following the incident, her mother, Brenda Jackson, fled the city in her 20s. It was too sad to remain there, Brown said.

The mayor draws inspiration from Jackson, who raised her and her twin brother Jonathan as a single mother. She gave her daughter the same name as the Steely Dan song, one of her favorites.

“My mom was kind and believed in holding yourself accountable, but with a lot of love,” Brown said, “I get that from her. Everything I do, I do with love.”

Brenda Jackson is now retired and “living the good life,” Brown said. She used to work in administration at the Jet Propulsion Lab.

If re-elected June 6, Brown said her goals for the next term include building up downtown Compton and restoring the nightlife, “which has faded in the past,” she said. She would also like to expand one of her pet causes, re-entry programs for those who have served jail time.

“Everyone makes mistakes and I believe they deserve a second chance,” she said.

Aside from her life in politics, Brown’s interests include interior design, perfecting her Pinterest page and reading faith-based books.

Brown will face off again against former Mayor Omar Bradley, who served the city from 1993 to 2001.

Unlike Brown, Bradley grew up in Compton, teaching high school before entering politics.

In 2004, he was convicted of misappropriation of public funds by using a city-issued credit card for personal items. He was accused of misusing about $75,000 for purchases that included a stay in a penthouse hotel room, golf balls and shoes and cigars.

In 2012, an appeals court overturned his conviction, ruling that his trial did not prove he intended to break the law.

He is now facing a retrial that could prove he is not “criminally negligent” and did in fact have unlawful motives.

Bradley did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him for this story.

Also on the June 6 ballot is a runoff for city treasurer with incumbent Doug Sanders facing Jasper Jackson and a runoff in City Council District 3 between incumbent Tana McCoy and challenger Carlos Tomas.


Compton Mayor Brown draws five challengers for April election

COMPTON —The field of candidates vying for elected office in the city is expansive, including five candidates hoping to unseat Mayor Aja Brown, who made history in 2013 when she became Compton’s youngest mayor.

Brown won that election, defeating both incumbent Mayor Eric J. Perrodin and former Mayor Omar Bradley. Bradley will appear on the ballot along with Lynne Rodgers Boone, Bryan O. Parker, James Hays and Ernest “Scooby” Green, when the city’s primary election is held April 18.

The two candidates receiving the most votes for mayor will face off in the general election June 6. Voters may cast their ballot for one mayoral candidate only.

Ann Crigler, professor of political science at USC, explained that off-year elections historically see less voter participation and that primary elections sometimes determine the general election results.

It’s anyone’s guess, however, what the outcome will be in Compton.

“Off-year elections generally don’t get as much attention and tend to attract less interest,” Crigler said. “In this case, you have forces going both ways. Some voters are tired of the election process and, then with Trump being elected, people are starting to be concerned. They don’t want to be in a country or place that advocates the kinds of things that Trump is advocating. Voter registrations are up.”

Crigler noted that after only one term in office, Brown had several challengers for re-election.

“I can’t tell you what the outcome of the election will be, but I think it’s a good sign that so many people want to be involved in the political process,” she said.

There will not be any ballot measures on the April 18 ballot.

In addition to the mayor’s office, there are two City Council seats up for re-election as well as the city attorney, city clerk and city treasurer offices.

In City Council District 2, incumbent Isaac Galvan is being challenged by Bill Ivey, Al Hamade and Jacqueline Venters.

In City Council District 3, incumbent Tana McCoy is being challenged by Chris Petit, Robert Ray, Tomas Carlos and Joyce Kelly.

Incumbent City Attorney Craig Cornwell is being challenged by Marcus Musante, City Clerk Alita Godwin is being challenged by school board President Satra Zurita and City Treasurer Douglas Sanders is being challenged by Jasper “Jay” Jackson and Jenise A. Davis.

Voters may find a sample ballot on the city’s website, which includes background information on each candidate and their plans for the office if elected.

As of November 2016, there were 43,643 registered voters in the city of Compton, according to the Countty Registrar’s office.

The last day to register to vote for the primary election is April 3. Voters may request vote-by-mail applications from March 20 to April 11.


Whittier residents to elect mayor for first time

WHITTIER — Veteran City Council members Owen Newcomer and Joe Vinatieri say their past experience on the governing body will be helpful in bringing residents together as they vote for the first time April 12 under a new district system.

Previously council members rotated to fill the mayor’s seat for one year on the nomination of colleagues. This year residents citywide will vote directly for the mayor, who will fill a two-year term.

Also seeking the mayor’s post is businessman Nick Donovan, who was unsuccessful in efforts for a council seat two years ago.

Owen Newcomer
Owen Newcomer

“The role of elected mayor in our new district system is to unite Whittier’s different interest groups and geographic areas. I am uniquely qualified for this job,” Newcomer said.

“With 15 years on the Whittier City Council, three as mayor, 10 on the school board, and 40 years teaching government at Rio Hondo College, I have more knowledge and experience in public service than any other candidate.”

Joe Vinatieri
Joe Vinatieri

Vinatieri, an attorney, said: “I am running for mayor because my nine years on the City Council have given me a clear view of the needs and vision for our city and our residents.

“This new process for picking our city leaders offers new challenges and many new opportunities.”

Voters in June 2014, approved a City Charter change to elect a mayor citywide for two years and divided the city into four districts, each to elect a council member for a four-year term from among district residents.

The action was to comply with an out-of-court settlement after residents sued the city, saying the citywide election of City Council members discriminated against minorities.

Three candidates are seeking the council seat in District 1: David Gonzalez, an assistant professor of public administration; Robert Canales, a volunteer; and Josue Alvarado, a marketing professional.

The candidates must live in the district and only residents of that district may vote for one of them.

The district is generally on the southwest side of the city.

Councilwoman Cathy Warner was unopposed in District 3. That election was canceled and she was appointed to a four-year term.

District 3 is generally the entire eastern part of Whittier.

Council seats in Districts 2 and 4 will be up for election in April 2018.

Newcomer said he has walked every neighborhood in Whittier multiple times, reaching out and listening to citizen concerns.

“I stand on my record of supporting effective neighborhood policing; responsible budgeting; and efficient and equitable delivery of city services,” he added.

Vinatieri noted that Whittier has been home to his family for three generations.

He was born and raised in Whittier, attended Whittier schools and is a partner at the Whittier law firm of Bewley, Lassleben and Miller.

Vinatieri is a recent widower. He and his wife, Sandy, raised three children, now married — Sarah, Joe and Susanna who attended some of the same Whittier schools as their father.

“Whittier has a lot of old timers and a lot of new families,” Vinatieri said. “Our city is more diverse than ever. We need to keep our city economically competitive and we need to protect our residential neighborhoods.

“We need more local jobs and businesses and we need more housing options. We need to maintain public safety and we need to keep our city government decisions open and transparent to our residents,” he said.

As he did in his City Council campaigns in 2012 and 2014, Donovan, 55, called for new blood on the council.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “There have been too many bad decisions and too much money being lost. It’s time for a change.”

Donovan said he has been critical of the council’s decision to allow oil drilling in the hills. That issue continues in court.

On his ballot statement, he said the city is in an economic decline.

“The city of Whittier is in the red, drowning in litigation, with millions of dollars lost by bad decisions and lack of leadership on the council,” he said.

“I will restore leadership and trust, bringing more transparency, integrity, vision and participation to our city.”

He called for a promenade in Uptown Whittier, “that will stimulate the local economy and bring in good jobs, making sure our city has safer and cleaner streets and bring back the bicycle patrol and community-based policing.”

Born in the United Kingdom, Donovan spent much of his life in the London area before moving to California in 1989.

An insurance and finance advisor, Donovan has lived in Whittier for 17 years. He and his wife, Antonia Garcia, have four sons.

In the District 1 City Council race, Alvarado cited his ability to speak Spanish in a district that consists of southwest Whittier and is 84 percent Latino.

“We need to look at this part of Whittier as unique,” Alvarado said. “It hasn’t had a leader who can speak the language and speak to their needs. What I have going on is what the other candidates don’t is that I’m almost a mirror image of the individuals here. I come from immigrant parents.”

Alvarado lists his occupation as a “multi-cultural marketing specialist.”

He attended California High School, Rio Hondo College and earned a bachelor of business administration from Cal State Fullerton.

Listing himself as a community volunteer, Canales, 42, said he was born and raised in Whittier, attended local schools and earned an associate degree in business administration at Rio Hondo College and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal State Fullerton.

He said he will work with the community to address such issues as crime, public safety and the development of the Nelles property, a former state youth facility on Whittier Boulevard.

Canales calls for City Council term limits, creation of an independent redistricting commission, a veteran’s housing and reception center and moving city elections from April to November.

Gonzalez, 38, an educator and member of the Transportation Commission, said on his ballot statement: “This election is about a community finally getting a voice. The time for change is now.”

Gonzalez, 38,  said his qualifications include 20 years as a police professional and his work as a community activist. He said he has served as a mentor to local youth and on the board of the local YMCA.

Voting for the April 12 election began on March 14 with the issuance of over 13,000 ballots to people registered as permanent vote-by-mail voters, City Clerk Kathryn Marshall said.

To date, 15,199 ballots have been issued and 2,915 have been returned she said as of April 4.

Any voter can come to City Hall, 13230 Penn St., weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and vote; or request a vote-by-mail ballot using the application form on the back of their sample ballot pamphlet.

Applications are also available on the City’s website: www.WhittierVotes2016.org.