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Elizabeth Wong Ahlers is a Republican candidate running for the California 25th Senate District seat being vacated by Democrat Anthony Portantino due to term limits. Ahlers hails from Crescenta Valley, where she is on the Town Council.
Q– We know the programs on everybody’s agenda, like homelessness and immigration. But are there new programs you think we need in the community that you might champion at the state Senate level?
A– I am primarily concerned about families.
This is the first time in California history that our population has decreased. I’ve got neighbors from down the street and family members who have been leaving the state during the past several years. This is not good for the future of our local communities and for our ability as a state to sustain ourselves and contribute to the leadership that California has always shown.
So why are people leaving? And what kind of populations are leaving? It seems to be primarily stable families with children or retired people that have family connections here in California. Business owners, middle-class people.
So, what are the issues that these families are concerned about? It’s things like education for their children. A lot of families left during COVID because of the school situation, so we need to protect situations where children and parents are involved in the schools and decisions about the curriculum.
”We need to protect situations where children and parents are involved in the schools and decisions about the curriculum.”Elizabeth Wong Ahlers
And there is an issue about taking school board authority over the curriculum away from local school boards. I think it needs to stay local.
Of course, homelessness is an issue. People have come to California because it’s so, so beautiful. We need to preserve that beauty to preserve a thriving population.
So, the programs that I would support and promote at the state level will be those that sustain families, children, and businesses.
As a council member, I see the concerns of our constituents as things that are coming from the state level. It has to do with their own properties here locally. And so we need to go back to the state level to make these decisions.
Q– When you say properties here locally, are you mainly thinking about the high cost of real estate?
A– Yes, the high cost of real estate and the density. So here in Crescenta Valley, there’s a corner that had a really cute historic motel on it. It’s used in a lot of movies. The owner had to sell, so it’s been unused for a long time because, you know, it takes a long time for developers to have their plans approved.
But the proposed development has 81 units to go in there. And so the residents are concerned because that’s already a congested traffic area. Traffic gets backed up when people are going to work, and there’s really not enough parking for 81 units. So that one, I think, shouldn’t be approved as it’s proposed. But these are the kinds of issues that local people are bringing up that they’re concerned about.
Q– So, is there a percentage of affordable housing in there?
A– Yes, there is. And all the units are proposed to be very small. So, it’s not really family housing. And that’s what I was expressing about the need for families and their children to be able to stay in California.
“All the units are proposed to be very small. So it’s not really family housing.”Elizabeth Wong Ahlers
I’ve got six children. They’re all grown now. And I really relate to the families that are disappointed that their families have been splitting up because the children can’t afford to stay. So, if they’re going to have their own children and raise them here, I really would like to protect neighborhoods and affordability for the next generation.
Q– Do you have other young people that you mentor?
A– Yes, I’ve got some interns who are juggling school and working with me. They’ve got aspirations, and so working with me gives them gives them experience.
A lot of it is sort of adopting them into my family. So my kids have their friends, and our house is always open. We have discussions. We talk about the politics that I’m into. So, I’m curious about what they are thinking and what they are hearing. They give me their boots-on-the-ground experience, and it’s a lot of fun.
They help us with social media, all those hashtags and memes and stuff. So they’re helping me as well. As they’re helping me, I can impart something to them: experience, values and perspective and purpose.
Purpose is really important. There’s such a concern now with the suicide rate going up with teenagers. When they have a purpose, they feel there is good they can do in the world. And they see suffering; they see situations that seem unsolvable.
But when they feel there is hope, and when they as an individual can do something to bring goodness into a situation, it’s energizing. And I think they’ll get addicted to it, and that will be something all their lives, always wanting to contribute and see someone smile.
Q– So that brings me to one of the questions that I posed for you about civic engagement and the value of local news. We find that people wake up one morning and their local newspaper has closed down, and they don’t know why. How do you feel about saving local news and civic engagement?
A– I really support everything local because that’s where the real power is for long-term change. It’s also legacy and tradition and the community. So, the attrition of the local news sources is disturbing.
We need to support local news and, especially, when there are local activities and school activities to get reported on, and people are excited to read about what their own group is doing. I remember getting a scholarship in Glendale when I was in high school, and the local paper wrote a story about it, and my mom put it in the scrapbook. And you know, I can still show it to my kids. This is documenting community life.
“Even at the local level, it’s important to hold our elected officials accountable.”Elizabeth Wong Ahlers
Also, you know, even at the local level, it’s important to hold our elected officials accountable. And the news agencies are the best vehicles for free speech, for questioning and for people to know and understand and be informed about what’s happening locally and nationally.
Q– I saw you had the endorsement of Mike Antonovich, who’s a beloved personality in Southern California. So, can you talk a little bit about your relationship with him as a mentor?
A– He’s such a beautiful man. He’s become a precious, precious friend. We have a lot in common here in the Glendale area. And I went over to visit him a few years ago. He brought out these framed pictures and articles from his time in China. His wife is Chinese and I’m Chinese and he can speak Chinese.
He was telling me stories about being in Tienanmen Square in China so that was 1989. And he’s got a picture of a Chinese man at Tienanmen Square wearing a Mike Antonovich shirt. I’m so privileged to be his friend.
Q– Do you have any other thoughts you want to share?
A– I really appreciate the Pasadena area. I feel like it’s a real cultural center for this District and it’s a real hub of people coming together. I do so much in Pasadena. Everybody seems to enjoy it.
I noticed that there’s a rally coming up at the Pasadena courthouse and I appreciate the residents of Pasadena speaking up, being involved.