Voters will go to the polls Nov. 6 to pick who will represent them on the City Council.
Ahead of the election, all candidates were invited to share information about themselves and answer questions about their priorities and local concerns for this voter guide. In each city, all were asked the same questions and given the same word count for their answers.
In Costa Mesa, three are vying for the District 5 seat on the City Council.
Allan Mansoor, 54, sitting councilmember, retired deputy sheriff (allanmansoor.com)
Arlis Reynolds, 34, owner, AZR Consulting (arlis4costamesa.com)
Rebecca Trahan, 44, finance executive/account manager for CalFirst National Bank (takebackcostamesa.com)
Question 1: What are your top two priorities if elected?
Allan Mansoor: My top two priorities are protecting public safety and preserving the Westside’s way of life. To protect Costa Mesa’s public safety, we need to hire more police officers, reduce rehab homes, stop proposed needle distribution programs, and reduce homelessness to ensure Costa Mesa doesn’t bear Orange County’s burden. To preserve the Westside’s way of life, we must keep Fairview Park as natural as possible and keep the Westside charm without overdevelopment and traffic.
Arlis Reynolds: Our residents and businesses should feel safe anywhere in Costa Mesa, know their property is protected, and feel proud of our City. 1) We must reverse the rise in homelessness and drugs on our streets with short-term (resources for public safety and outreach) and long-term (permanent supportive housing) solutions. 2) We must invest in safe streets, parks and public spaces, and partnerships to activate neighborhoods, attract visitors, and support local business.
Rebecca Trahan: As a mom, homeowner, resident with 25 years of political experience at almost every level of government, and former business owner I love Costa Mesa. However, we need to rid our council of the career politicians, stop the nepotism with political appointments, we need to solve the homeless crisis, we need more reserves to pay down our pension debt, and we need resolutions for our sober living predicament.
Question 2: How should the city balance paying off debts, such as pension liabilities, and building reserves with meeting residents’ needs? Should it involve finding new revenue or trimming the budget?
Allan Mansoor: For Costa Mesa to pay off debt, build reserves, and meet residents’ needs, requires using multiple means to balance these important parts of our city finances. We must attract job-creating small businesses because they will pay taxes in our city, thereby giving us new revenue without raising taxes. We need to examine city spending and find ways to more efficiently provide city services.
Arlis Reynolds: We must develop and commit to a strategic financial plan that supports high-quality services (that benefit residents and businesses and attract visitors) and proactively allocates budget to pay debts and save. We must invest in cost-effective upgrades that reduce life cycle costs, eliminate waste, support our local economy and encourage tourism, optimize grant funding and partnerships, and leverage high credit ratings to optimize debt obligations, and effectively collect cannabis fees as permitted under voter-approved Measure X.
Rebecca Trahan: To pay off debts and build reserves, it should involve finding new revenue and trimming the budget – not trimming necessary items but cutting any pork spending.
Question 3: What should the city’s role be in encouraging the development of low-income housing units? Would you support a mandate or an incentive of some kind?
Allan Mansoor: The city’s role should be to ensure that any development reflects the character of the neighborhood without overdeveloping the area or causing traffic problems. I do not support a mandate or incentive for low-income housing. Costa Mesa voters approved Measure Y in 2016, which requires many projects to go before the voters. Many types of low-income housing projects could fall under one or more of the conditions that would trigger a vote under Measure Y.
Arlis Reynolds: Inaction created a crisis with rising homelessness and housing insecurity across our city, including seniors, students, and children. To avoid imposed mandates, Costa Mesa should work with stakeholders to design strategies for a housing stock that protects current residents and provides options for fixed-income seniors, veterans, students, and our workforce. Diverse housing options keep families together and reduce traffic by keeping people near jobs. We should consider both mandates and incentives to implement our strategy.
Rebecca Trahan: I do not support building low income housing units in Costa Mesa but do support incentives and mandates for cleaning up and renovating such existing housing. We have enough low income housing in Costa Mesa and do not need more. Instead, we need to hold the landlords over these units accountable to continue to keep their housing up to code and in livable condition, make sure their tenants are qualified for such housing and are drug free, and are abiding by our community standards–as should be the case for all Costa Mesa residents. While I do not support low-income housing I do support housing and rent prices that are more affordable and more in line with other parts of California and America.
Question 4: Communities across the state are grappling with rising pension and other post-employment benefit costs. What do you think needs to be done to deal with this problem?
Allan Mansoor: We need to have greater restraint of pension benefits. That’s why I officially supported SCA 10 by Senator John Moorlach to require voter approval for any increases in retirement benefits. Locally, I voted to authorize prepayments from Costa Mesa to CalPERS when cash flow and cash balances permit. I made the motion to have city staff research using an Internal Revenue Code Section 115 Irrevocable Trust to pre-fund pensions and other accounts, such as OPEB.
Arlis Reynolds: Costa Mesa is in good financial health with an AA+ credit rating. We must establish a strategic plan that proactively allocates budget to pension obligations while maintaining high-quality public safety and services that benefit residents and attract visitors. Employees already contribute at a rate higher than legal mandates. We should optimize non-PERSable benefits, consider a Section 115 trust, invest in upgrades that reduce costs, support economic growth, and leverage credit ratings to optimize debt obligations. I will work with our Finance and Pension Advisory Committee and our new Finance Director to analyze various strategies and develop a long-term plan to address pension costs and overall financial health.
Rebecca Trahan: As a former Costa Mesa finance and pension committee member I had direct access to the city budget information, which included the money allotted for CalPERS. While on that committee I worked with a team to find solutions to this impending financial disaster and minimize the risk to our city — not just for current residents but also for those whom it most likely will have a devastating effect, our younger and future Costa Mesa residents. If I am elected to the city council representing district 5, I will continue to make addressing and resolving the pension debacle one of my top priorities. One of the ways I will address this is by re-examining every aspect of our budget and find areas where we may set aside more money for reserves to cover the pension payday when it will occur. In doing so, I will not just study it and do nothing as has happened with the council in the past — I will actually take action to draw down our liability and set us on a path for recovery and sustainability.
Question 5: On the ballot this November, voters will be asked to decide on whether to repeal the recently enacted increase to the state gas tax. What is your position on the gas tax?
Allan Mansoor: I oppose the recent gas tax increase, which costs the average family $700 each year. Gas taxes are regressive, taking a bigger share of working class families’ incomes than upper class incomes. If the state government didn’t divert existing transportation taxes and fees for non-transportation purposes, there would be $5.6 billion annually for transportation projects. California families shouldn’t be forced to pay for Sacramento’s bait-and-switch. I support Proposition 6 to repeal the increase.
Arlis Reynolds: Costa Mesa receives significant through traffic from Newport Beach and Huntington Beach and has benefited from these funds to improve our transportation infrastructure. We should pursue funds to upgrade roads and transportation technology (e.g., signal synchronization) and invest in alternative transportation options (e.g., safe bike lanes) to improve traffic and safety. I am concerned that revenue raised disproportionately affects working families that travel long distances for work and/or cannot afford alternative-fuel vehicles.
Rebecca Trahan: Those who promoted the gas tax effort misled Californians. While I don’t support costly initiatives like this, had voters been told the truth this tax would have never passed in the first place. For that reason and other reasons the gas tax needs to be repealed.
Question 6: The high cost of housing in California has spurred increased interest in rent control. On the ballot this November is Proposition 10, which would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act. What are your thoughts on rent control?
Allan Mansoor: I oppose Proposition 10. Rent control exacerbates the very problem it seeks to solve: ensuring affordable housing. In places with rent control, experience has shown that many people are unable to obtain affordable housing because new rental units, like apartments, are not constructed, keeping the supply of rental units lower than the number of people who need them. Additionally, some landlords choose to convert apartments into condos or short-term rentals (Airbnbs) to bypass rent control.
Arlis Reynolds: We are in an affordable housing crisis. Proposition 10 increases local control of housing policies; it does not establish rent control. Because housing markets vary across the state, local governments should remain in control of designing strategies to meet housing needs and need a portfolio of tools to work with.
Rebecca Trahan: While the cost of housing in California and Costa Mesa is out of control, the answer is not rent control. The answer is to add more housing inventory in the appropriate areas and reduce the regulations and taxes that increase the cost of building houses/housing for builders and developers.
Question 7: Proposition 64 authorizes the legalization of marijuana, while granting local jurisdictions the authority to approve or deny certain marijuana-related businesses. What are your thoughts on marijuana legalization to date and what do you think of your own community’s policies on marijuana?
Allan Mansoor: Costa Mesa is one of the few jurisdictions where the voters have approved a local ballot measure on marijuana. In the same election that California voters approved Proposition 64, Costa Mesa voters approved Measure X to permit testing, manufacturing, and distribution of marijuana but restricting it to industrial areas of our city. Measure X is a good compromise that was reached between marijuana advocates and city leaders to protect Costa Mesa neighborhoods.
Arlis Reynolds: In 2016, Costa Mesa residents passed local initiative Measure X, which allows cannabis manufacturing, processing, wholesale distribution, and R&D in a defined area north of the 405. Measure X does not allow dispensaries. I respect the residents’ vote, as well as concerns raised, and support policies that protect public safety, ensure we collect appropriate cannabis excise tax, and enforce against any violations.
Rebecca Trahan: I think the jurisdiction of the legalization of marijuana should continue to be left to local jurisdictions. I oppose illegal drugs but support our Costa Mesa medical marijuana businesses who are operating appropriately and following the law, and support Measure X, which Costa Mesa voters passed in 2016. This measure amended the Costa Mesa Municipal Code to allow medical marijuana distributing, manufacturing, processing, and transporting businesses, and research and development and testing laboratories, to be located in one specific area of the city, provided such businesses obtain a conditional use permit, a MMJ business permit, and a business license. While I do think the 6% gross receipts tax is high, these businesses do bring in a great deal of valuable, much needed revenue to our city and I will do everything I can to support this continued source of revenue.
Question 8: Senate Bill 54 limits the role of state and local law enforcement in enforcing federal immigration laws. The law has drawn legal challenges from some localities which want the flexibility to work with the federal government. What do you think of SB54?
Allan Mansoor: As a retired Sheriff’s Deputy, I strongly oppose SB 54. I sought to have the city oppose SB 54 when it was still pending in the legislature. Earlier this year, we formally declared Costa Mesa’s opposition to SB 54. When I was Mayor, I led Costa Mesa to be the first city in the country to declare ourselves a Rule of Law City, in which our city pledged to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Arlis Reynolds: SB54 opponents claim concerns about safety. Our police chief confirmed SB54 has minimal effect on law enforcement procedures and emphasized the importance of maintaining trust with community members. We must focus resources on true sources of crime (e.g., drug abuse, theft) and safeguard public trust so residents report crimes and information to help officers do their jobs safely and effectively. My commitment to effective public safety services earned me the Costa Mesa Police Association endorsement.
Rebecca Trahan: In May of 2018 I was one of the key figures who pressed our Costa Mesa City Council to make a decision regarding SB54. After doing so, the council changed their prior opinion and voted to not become a sanctuary city. I support diversity and legal immigration, oppose racial profiling and discrimination, and will use my influence to promote programs that safely help immigrants and their families with their path towards citizenship. However, I oppose SB54 and immigrants who choose to live here illegally without becoming a citizen.
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