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By Randy Economy
The five candidates running for two Norwalk city council slots openly clashed on several issues on Monday during a lunch time debate sponsored by the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce.
Challengers Enrique Aranda, Candy Martinez, and Darryl Adams aggressively challenged longtime incumbents Cheri Kelley and Mike Mendez over the issues ranging from nearly two dozen gang related murders during 2012 to spending priorities on street maintenance, and how to bring local jobs to small business owners.
Aranda, a member of the Los Angeles Housing Trust Fund, and a “hometown boy from Norwalk,” called the leadership of the current city council has being
a complete failure.”
“Norwalk is a city the exact size of the city of Pasadena. But unlike Pasadena, Norwalk lacks a real vision and a real plan to change,” Aranda said. “We need innovative problem solvers, our present city council has missed opportunities over and over again,’ Aranda said.
Challenger Candy Martinez took a direct swipe at both Kelley and Mendez by saying “our city council needs to be business friendly. People are scared to shop in Norwalk. People want to move out of Norwalk. People are homeless and roaming the streets. We need to step up; we need bold leaders who are going to take charge.”
Martinez told the nearly 100 business leaders in attendance that she is spending “less than $1,000 on my campaign for a specific reason. We can’t continue to have city council campaigns that cost a fortune year after year.”
Adams, a currently member of the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District Board of Education said “violence is all over the city. Now we are all really scared. We can’t attract businesses to Norwalk in this climate. The city council needs to make public safety our top priority.”
Adams, who touted his “twenty years as an elected official here in Norwalk” said that he does not favor term limits for Norwalk City Council members, but said that the “people should make that decision at the ballot box.”
Mendez said he has spent his “entire 62 years on this earth here in Norwalk.”
“This is my hometown, and I am not going to go away and I only want what is truly best for this community,” Mendez said.
“I know how city government works, inside and out, from all angles. Public safety is my number one priority. We can stop crime by making sure that people have jobs here in Norwalk,” Mendez said.
Kelley, who was battling the flu, defended her record as Mayor during the past year and squarely placed blame on “Sacramento lawmakers for causing our problems here in Norwalk.”
“The politicians in Sacramento raided our money here in Norwalk this past year,” Kelley said.
“I blame the State of California for our fiscal problems,” Kelley said.
Aranda took aim at the “current environment with the community.” “In my opinion, it is criminal that we have beautiful open spaces and parks here in Norwalk and our children placed in lock down on our school campuses on a regular basis. This is failed leadership, and cannot be tolerated,” Aranda said.
Martinez was even more direct in responding to a question about crime levels in Norwalk.
“Our children are in the direct line of gun fire. Crime has got to stop,” Martinez said.
Adams said “we’re not electing people to do the coin toss in the Super Bowl. Let’s not make a blind faith choice this election.”
Kelley said “this is a great city. We remove graffiti in a 24 hour period. We have made great progress in Norwalk.”
The debate was videotaped to be aired on local cable programming during the next several weeks.
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