Q&A: Sandra Armenta. Moderate and Centrist

6 mins read
Sandra Armenta. Photo: Campaign
This entry is part 18 of 22 in the series 2024 Primary Election Candidates

Q – We’ve written about the one-year anniversary of the Monterey Park ballroom shootings. What are your ideas for economic development in San Gabriel Valley after that catastrophic event?

A – I have a great relationship with our Rosemead Chamber of Commerce. I’ve been working with them to increase memberships and provide the services that these businesses need.

Being on the Rosemead City Council for 15 years, I’ve gone out there and spoken to our small businesses. One of the key issues that occurred during COVID-19 is that many restaurants, after complying with the mandates, still were not able to open. Many of our small businesses closed. We need to ensure that we are all in sync with each other – local, county, state, and federal – making sure that our businesses are thriving. Law enforcement is key to this as well. Many businesses are having smash-and-grab incidents. At what point do we make certain that people who are committing these crimes are held accountable? They know that if they’re under $950, they’ll just get a slap on the wrist.

Our small businesses are the ones that provide us with a revenue source.”

Sandra Armenta

I give the most help I can at the local level, but it has to be all of us coming together and ensuring that these businesses are taken care of. Our small businesses are the ones that provide us with a revenue source. They’re in our city because they’re loyal to our city. What are we doing to make sure that they stay in our city and thrive?

We have to work with our federal government to see how the Small Business Association can provide more funding for them. Many small businesses underwent a rigorous process during COVID-19, yet they cannot understand why they were not approved for SBA loans. We need to make sure that the people who truly deserve it and need it are being given those resources.

I’ve attended our Chamber of Commerce retreat and listened to the Board of Directors express their concerns. Before COVID, the City of Rosemead gave the Chamber $200,000.  That was because we believed that small businesses are the backbone of any city. If we don’t give resources, If we don’t provide them assistance that they need, then they’re going to close. So many Chambers of Commerce have closed or have merged together. Every city’s needs are going to be so different from those of its neighboring cities. This is where local control comes in for me.

Q – You’re very proactive about leaving decisions at the local government control. How do you solve the affordable housing crisis and keep the local government’s autonomy?

A – I am the past president of the California Contract Cities Association and still serve on the board. Every January, we have our Sacramento legislative tour, where we speak about issues such as affordable housing and homelessness.

At one of our Rosemead City Council meetings, I literally begged the developer to give us one affordable unit, at least one. He said no. The city could not do anything because he decided not to take any of the incentives offered. There are incentives, but no developer is mandated to provide affordable housing. Many cities do not own property. Rosemead is completely built out. We know we could go up, but what is the state doing to make sure that affordable housing units are being built when more and more mandates are being put on developers that increase the cost of buildings?

“I literally begged the developer to give us one affordable unit, at least one. He said no.”

Sandra Armenta

Legislators have to look at the bills they’re putting out about affordable housing. Where’s the mandate for developers to have at least a certain percentage of affordable housing?  I’m a big proponent of bringing people together and seeing how we can work on fixing a situation instead of saying, “It’s my way or the highway.” We need to make sure that the bills correspond to what each city is dealing with. For example, we have a 17-acre prime location lot between the major corridors in Rosemead that has been vacant for 15 years. It’s called land banking. So many investors buy property, and there’s nothing that cities can do to make them develop that land. I spoke at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and proposed that landowners have five years to develop their land. If they don’t develop that land in those five years, then it gets deeded to the city. No legislator would take that on. So, if we don’t have this partnership to make sure our cities are being protected and make the right decisions for these vacant lots, then we still don’t have local control. Without there being the authority or the assistance to make them develop that land, there’s nothing we can do.

“Cookie-cutter legislation does not work.”

Sandra Armenta

Cookie-cutter legislation does not work. What happens in Northern California cannot possibly be the same as what’s happening in Central California or Southern California. So when it comes to local control, again, we have to work with our legislators to make sure the bills they’re passing are specific to our region.  Why are we not being brought to the table when these bills are being passed? We need to be at the table, give our input and see how that can be applied to our cities. That’s what I’m bringing to Sacramento – to make sure that all the stakeholders are at the table,  hearing from them and working with them. We all understand that there is a housing crisis. But if we don’t address it, the crisis will continue. We have an industrial park in Rosemead where there are many vacant storefronts. Do we convert those into affordable housing? How do we entice the owners of those properties to be willing to build affordable housing?

We actually adopted a small lot ordinance. There are about six inches between structures. They don’t have a common wall. We have a developer that is building 32 units; four of those units are going to be small lots. They’re much less expensive than the other units because the lot is smaller. It’s not like a townhome or an apartment but still allows people to purchase property but at a much smaller land mass. It’s giving many families the opportunity of home ownership at a much more reasonable cost. We need to share this information.

Q – What’s important in your campaign? What do people need to know about you?

A – I’m running because we need more elected officials working with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents to get things done in the spirit of compromise. Politics in our nation has become extremely divided between the left and the right. And we need to lower that temperature. I’m the moderate candidate. I’m the candidate that is a centrist. I have shown throughout my tenure there that I’m willing to work with every single person. It’s really disheartening when one side will not even look at a bill because it has an R or a D behind it. People are seeing that this polarization is not working for our state. They want to work together. We did a poll, and one of our questions was, “How likely are you to vote out of your party if the person is moderate and willing to work on both sides of the aisle,  Republican or Democrat?”  Over 70 percent said that they would. There are so many people out there who are just tired and are willing to work together. That’s why they are changing party affiliations and becoming independent. That needs to stop. I am in this race because people reached out to me, urging me to run. I’m the candidate with the most experience, which makes me the ideal candidate.

I’m the moderate candidate. I’m the candidate that is a centrist.”

Sandra Armenta

In 2019 the Office of the State Auditor ranked Rosemead number one in financial stability. Rosemead gets seven cents on the dollar on property taxes, and we were still able to be number one in the San Gabriel Valley for financial stability. In 2020, we were ranked number two. I know how to work with a budget. I understand budgets. I understand the allocation of funds.

In my first election in 2009, I vowed to be the voice of those who don’t have a voice. I was a special ed teacher. Every classroom got a new computer, except mine. I was on the phone with administrators asking when am I going to get my new computer? My students get the same Title One money. When am I going to get my computer? Two days later, I got my computer. What I do for the City of Rosemead is what I did for my special ed students. It’s not about politics. It’s about being a public servant, ensuring everybody is being looked after and represented. That’s what I’m going to do in Sacramento. I’m going to represent every single person regardless of your party affiliation.

Q – Can you talk about the importance of local news?

A – I am 100 percent supportive of local news. People enjoy locally sourced information and understand that locally sourced information is vital. But we also need to make sure that local news is reliable. On websites, you don’t know if the source is reliable, trying to change the narrative.

I have 16 Republican elected officials endorsing my campaign because they know me and have dealt with me since 2009. They know if they come to me, I will provide my assistance. We need to capture all that and put it in a message to all people who, regardless of party affiliation, need local news. We need boots on the ground to interview people. I vow to you that anytime any local news wants to reach out to me and ask for comments, I’m going to be there. I’m going to be accessible.

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Sheryl Turner

Sheryl is Local News Pasadena's Publisher and Pasadena Media Foundation's Founder. When not saving local news, she devotes her spare time to finding the best meatloaf in town.
Email: [email protected]

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