TheLiberalOC caught up with Democratic candidate for Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken. I gave her a list of questions similar to those offered to Lorri Galloway and we got our answers back Sunday night.
1. What made you decide to run for Mayor instead of a city council spot?
As an Anaheim kid, I am deeply passionate about my hometown. I was raised here, went to schools here, and am raising my family here. It would be my honor to serve our neighborhoods at City Hall as the local and regional spokesperson of this great city. I have a unique skill set that includes protecting our neighborhoods as a federal prosecutor, uniting residents as Chair of our Community Services Board and Chair of the OC Fair Board, and as a consumer rights attorney—empowering people who have been wronged to have a stronger voice in fighting back. My background allows me to bring people together and be a strong and uniting leader.
Now more than ever, our neighbors are yearning for a leader who is not bound to repeat the mistakes of the past. There is a real desire for the next generation of Anaheim leaders to take over, and it should start now. That’s what my neighbors and other leaders have told me when urging me to run directly for Mayor.
2. The homeless crisis in Anaheim has dramatically increased since the last election; how does your experience equip you for dealing with this crisis?
As president of the Orange County Bar Association, I worked with judges, lawyers and community leaders to help address the growing homeless problem outside the county courthouse. Using the robust talent of the OCBA, we created the Veterans Task Force to address the issues facing our homeless and underserviced veterans, from discharge upgrades to assistance accessing the myriad of services offered by the Veterans Administration. I have served on the Homeless Task Force and spent time on the riverbed to understand the causes of this problem and develop real solutions.
We need a regional approach to solve homelessness in Anaheim, and a leader who can engage the county in advocating for real solutions for Anaheim, not at the expense of Anaheim.
Increasingly, working people in our neighborhoods cannot afford to purchase a home and worse, they are being priced out of rental housing. We need more affordable housing near our transportation and employment hubs. We need to review our outdated general plan and see how we can address our housing crisis without losing our commercial tax footprint. We need transitional housing and social services throughout the county. As a federal prosecutor and consumer rights attorney, I’ve worked to bring people together to solve problems and hold bureaucracies accountable. I’m uniquely able to advocate for our residents to make sure Anaheim is answering this crisis compassionately, but not allowing the county to turn this into a north county problem by absolving other areas of our county of any responsibility.
Anaheim is the economic engine of Orange County and we need to protect our neighborhoods by demanding the County of Orange provide real regional solutions in every supervisorial district.
3. There are other four other candidates for Anaheim mayor; how do you differentiate yourself?
I appreciate other candidates wanting to serve. I’ve earned the endorsements of highly regarded community leaders, such as Loretta Sanchez, Sharon Quirk-Silva, and Al Jabbar, because they appreciate that I have a unique skill set that has prepared me for being an inclusive and effective mayor. That skill set is centered in law enforcement, community, and action.
As mentioned above, I’ve helped protect our neighborhoods as a federal prosecutor, prosecuting crimes involving child sex crimes, armed robbery and fighting felony narcotics and firearm violations. I stood with residents in advocating for our district elections, and spoke on the steps of City Hall in support of neighborhood representation. I have united residents as Chair of our Community Services Board, working with our city non-profits to allocate funds to those most in need. I was appointed to the OC Fair Board by Governor Brown, after volunteering to take on, pro bono, an action to protect that sacred site for residents, veterans, families and schoolchildren. If we had lost that action there would be no Heroes Hall, no Agricultural Farmworkers Memorial—just profits for those that wanted to develop the Fairgrounds. And I am a consumer rights attorney—empowering people who have been wronged to have a stronger voice in fighting back.
Last, I am an involved neighbor, leading my Girl Scout troop and serving Girl Scouts of Orange County, our local arts community and my children’s school.
4. What is your position on Short Term rentals?
I’ve talked with people all over the city and what I consistently hear is that we just want our neighborhoods back. Residents want the security of knowing who their neighbors are, and they want to preserve the character of their neighborhoods. They don’t have a problem with a neighbor making some extra money through renting a room in their home, but they don’t want our neighborhoods turned into underground hotels. I’ll work with our neighborhoods and our public safety officials on common sense regulations and enforcement.
5. What is your position on all of the staff turnover in city hall?
6. What should the city’s relationship with Disney be like?
The Walt Disney Company should be treated like every other citizen, corporate or private.
Previous city councils gave away too much in previous subsidies, a gift that no other resident or small business would be afforded. I want to see the Walt Disney Company, and the Resort District as a whole, become better partners with our neighborhoods to help fund the infrastructure improvements we need for increased public safety, affordable housing, and reliable public transportation.
Yes, the big hotel chains, developers, and the Walt Disney Company create thousands of jobs in our community, but they’re also extremely profitable due to a low wage labor force. How many of our Disney employees can afford to buy a home in our city? How many of the housekeepers clean rooms that cost more per night than they make in a week? The Walt Disney Company is not responsible for solving all of Anaheim’s problems, but there is a clear opportunity for them to engage in the community and make sure their employees are afforded a decent opportunity to thrive.
I’m excited to see the Walt Disney Company invest and grow—whether it be more hotels, a third gate or in-park improvements. The city can help by cutting through the red tape or streamlining permits and inspections, but the city should not give up its future tax revenue to one of the most successful corporations in the world.
7. Outside of Disney, there seems to be very little economic growth in Anaheim; how would you handle this?
Anaheim continues to be a place that people want to live and work. While our housing prices have been a tremendous financial boon to people who purchased homes here long ago, it makes it harder to recruit new businesses and employees. We are unique in that we are losing college graduates to other more affordable cities. To combat that, we need to address the cost of housing through a combination of expanding inventory and partnering with non-profits that provide housing assistance for working families.
We should support incubators for clean tech jobs, aggressively promote the advantages of having our own utility and promote entertainment jobs that are supported by Anaheim’s status as a destination city. The city can alleviate some of the red tape that burdens small business owners when they try and open up shop. This will help keep our economic growth expanding.
8. Will you or won’t you seek Mayor Tait’s endorsement for his job.
I’m working hard to earn every vote, including Mayor Tait’s.
9. Do you think Anaheim should have taken steps to be a sanctuary city before Trump was sworn in?
Yes. I’ve always felt people living here, working here, and making our city better should not be discriminated against because of their immigration status. This country, and this city, was built on the labor and love of our immigrant communities and we need to make sure they know they are safe and valued within our city borders.
10. There is a crisis in city hall with large staff turnover and “interim” in front of many positions of leadership. How would you resolve this problem?
Whether you’re a 911 dispatcher, city landscaper, librarian, or providing one of the many other important services benefiting our city, you deserve to be respected and rewarded fairly. City workers are on the frontlines, helping to keep our neighborhoods safe, clean, and thriving. As mayor, I’ll work with city management and city employees and their union to permanently fill positions with the highly qualified workers needed to provide the services Anaheim residents count on.
Further, I believe we need city leadership that advances the needs of the residents by implementing the policies of the city council without passion or prejudice. We can’t serve the needs of Anaheim residents with an interim workforce, and filling the interim positions will be a highly important task of the current council.
The city needs to do a better of job of recruiting and retaining highly qualified workers to provide the services Anaheim residents count on. Once hired, the city needs to support its staff and empower them to bring forward new ideas and cost-saving measures and expose waste. They should also be confident that good work will be rewarded through internal promotion.
11. Is Anaheim a City of Kindness or Political Vindictiveness?
Kindness. The residents of Anaheim are proud, welcoming and passionate citizens, and though we do not always agree on how to solve our problems, I believe we all have the best interest of the city at heart. Kindness starts in the home. It starts with how we treat our neighbors. It needs to be extended to city hall. Disagreement and debate are healthy, as long as it is done respectfully. I will lead Anaheim in a transparent and clear manner, so this great city can meet its many challenges.