Residents mingled with local leaders Sunday at the Alhambra Preservation Group's (APG) 8th Annual Ice Cream Social. Alhambra City Councilwoman Barbara Messina, City Council candidate Eric Sunada, and U.S. House of Representatives candidate Jack Orswell joined dozens of residents for a Fosselman's ice cream flavor contest and meet-and-greet.
The group organized the event at The Alhambra so that residents could speak to local politicians before the November election, said APG President Chris Olson. "An effective democracy is really based upon an informed and engaged electorate. And Alhambra Preservation Group is doing its part to help make that happen in our community," Olson said. "We do this for three reasons: To build community, make new friends, and to build support for historic preservation. We try to do something fun and relaxed."
Sunada, who is challenging incumbent Councilman Stephen Sham in the election, told the crowd why he is running for the 1st District seat on City Council. "I want to bring a more equitable return to the residents here," he said, adding that he believes the city should implement a historic preservation ordinance. "One of the things to do is incentivize investment into the neighborhoods. We've incentivized commercial development for years and its time to bring it to the neighborhoods as well.
Sunada was happy to see residents engaging with their local government at the ice cream social and said that two-way communication is crucial for an effective city. "No city can develop without public engagement, transparency, and outreach. Part of a councilman's duties is to take time to meet with residents and meet their needs," Sunada said.
Sunada's supporters were also in attendance, wearing "Vote Eric Sunada for City Council" t-shirts. Caj Birur, clad in a Sunada shirt, pushed for his election. "I support him running for office because he's passionate about public service and passionate about the city treating people justly," Birur said, adding that "everyday citizens would get what they're due" if Sunada is appointed.
Messina also took the stage to stress the importance of preservation and wish the City Council candidates well. "I've always appreciated and supported Alhambra Preservation Group because I do believe in preservation. I believe in preserving the history." Messina said.
"Everyone is entitled to an opportunity to run and I believe that," she said. "I wish Mr. Sunada the best of luck."
Messina was glad to speak to residents on Sunday. "It's very important for people to engage their local government. People need to know what's going in the community, that they can talk to elected officials and give their input," she said, adding that she belives the city offers adequate transperancy of its activities, including open study sessions that she encourages residents to attend. The next study session is Sept. 29.
Olson was grateful to Messina and Sunada for their preservation efforts. "[Messina] has been a member of APG every year since 2008 and she has supported APG and historical preservation," Olson said. "And it's been a plank in Sunada's platform. I'm glad they both came."
APG is a nonprofit organization that identifies and fights to preserve culturally and historically relevant sites in Alhambra, the APG website states. Olson believes that preserving Alhambra's history is critical because it also preserves its culture. "Preservation of historic architecture in our society supports our culture," she said. "They tell the stories of the people who came before us. We believe that's important."
Alhambra resident Joe Stadler agreed and encouraged Alhambra city government to take an official pro-preservation stance. "The city will hopefully include something in their charter to protect historic sites," he said.
Residents who attended the meet-and-greet enjoyed the opportunity to speak to local leaders. Alhambran Antoinette Morales was invited through an email from APG. "I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk to the council members," Morales said.
Vi Nguyen attended at the request of a friend to learn about local politics. "I came to support friends and family," Nguyen said.
While the election is not until Nov. 4, residents did vote on Sunday for their favorite Fosselman's ice cream flavor. Four flavors were renamed after historic Alhambra sites or people: "Don Benito Butter Pecan," "Jacob Coffee Bean Chip," "James DeBarth Shorberry," and "Rocky Ramona Road." Jacob Coffee Bean chip won by one vote.