By Nick Diamantides
Signal Hill’s next municipal election is less than three months away, and the deadline to file as a candidate was Dec. 3. Incumbent Councilmembers Larry Forester and Tina Hansen are running for reelection and facing only one challenger– Matt Simmons. Incumbent City Clerk Kathee Pacheco and incumbent City Treasurer Emerson Fersch are running for reelection unopposed.
Pacheco explained that, in order to run for public office in the city, a person must be a resident of Signal Hill and obtain at least 20 valid signatures of registered Signal Hill voters on a nominating petition. She added that candidates must pay a minimum fee of $25 to have their name appear on the ballot but that a candidate’s statement and photograph would require an additional charge.
Pacheco was first elected as Signal Hill City Clerk in April 1993 and is now seeking her fourth term in office. “Personally, I have enjoyed serving the residents of Signal Hill as the City Clerk, and I look forward to another four years of service,” she said. Fersch, who was first elected in 2003, is seeking his third term in office. “I have been serving in this capacity for eight years now, and I feel that I have added value to the position,” he said. “And it’s a way for me to serve the community that I live in. We have a very unique investment portfolio, and I am very proud of it.”
Forester, who is now serving as vice mayor, was appointed to the City Council in 1998 to replace then-Councilmember Gerard Goedhart, who resigned midterm because he had moved out of the city. Forester was then elected in 1999, 2003 and again in 2007. “I am completing my third term on the Council and am running for a fourth term on March 1,” he said. “I have spent 12 years watching the city grow and develop. It is going through tough financial times right now, and I want to help guide it through these times and see some other projects, like our new library, move forward.”
Forester said that he believes this is not a good time to bring a newcomer to the Council. “I understand the City, its finances, its means and lack of means,” he said. “During this critical financial period that our entire country is going through, I feel that somebody with my history in the City is needed to continue the operation. To bring somebody new in at this time would not be effective for the City.”
Hansen, who is seeking her fourth term in office, also explained why she is running for reelection. “I feel grateful to represent a city of such diversity,” she said. “I am excited about all of the changes that have taken place during my time on the Council and the fact that we have housing for all income levels, parks, trails, public art, infrastructure maintenance and a strong business presence, as well as being fiscally conservative.”
Hansen added that she wants to continue serving the community to accomplish even more, such as the funding and development of a new library. She agreed with Forester that the residents of Signal Hill need experienced leaders to help the City move through ongoing fiscal challenges that will exist for the foreseeable future.
Simmons said he believes there is a growing unrest in the city and that many people feel that City Hall is not responsive to their needs and concerns. “I want to provide everybody in Signal Hill with a voice,” he said, explaining that he has already put effort into doing so by starting a blog called signalhillvoice.com.
Simmons acknowledged that in many respects the members of the current City Council have done well in running the city. “But I think they could do a better job,” he said. “A lot of people that I talk to feel that the City lets some issues drag on and on and does nothing to resolve those issues. If you look at the last election for City Council, in this city of more than 10,000 people, only a few hundred people voted.”
He insisted that the voter apathy is due to a sense that, no matter who is elected, the local government will never be responsive to the needs of the people. “My goal is to get more residents involved in the City,” Simmons said.
Pacheco also expressed concern over the apparent apathy among Signal Hill residents. “I want to encourage everyone who is not registered to vote to do so prior to February 14,” she said. “And I want everyone to remember to go out and vote on March 1.” Pacheco noted that municipal elections held when there are no national or statewide elections usually have a very low voter participation. “Sometimes our local elections do not have a good turnout,” she said. “I would really like to see more people exercising the privilege of being able to vote.”
Pacheco said the City has budgeted $20,000 for the March 1, 2011 election.