The Alhambra Source will be interviewing candidates running in this year’s municipal elections. Last week, we spoke to the candidate for the Alhambra City Council’s third district seat, Mark Nisall. Next up is his opponent, Jeff Maloney, who is a graduate of UC San Diego and USC Gould School of Law, and works currently as chief counsel for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. Maloney also serves as chair of Alhambra's Transportation Commission, and previously served on the Parks and Recreation and Planning Commissions. Below are his stances on issues ranging from citizen participation, overdevelopment and smart city planning.
I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, Pasadena, just a few minutes away from where I live now. And I was fortunate to grow up in a neighborhood that was safe and secure and stable. And I wanted to make sure that my kids and their peers and the next generation were able to enjoy that same sort of security in Alhambra. And it takes hard work, it takes people who know what they’re doing and it takes people who are really dedicated to the community. And I figured that after discussing with folks that I think I fit those qualifications, and I decided to do it. It’s been a very interesting experience so far.
What issues do you think are important that you’re running on?
One of the most consistent themes that I’m hearing are that people want to be included in the city. They want to be included in the decisions that our city government is making. I think oftentimes people aren’t aware of when these decisions are being made, they may not know exactly how to participate. They may just go down the street and see a new building or see a new improvement, or see some project taking place, where they say, “Where did that come from?”
And it’s two-way street. Citizens have to be motivated to be involved with city government, and me, if I’m lucky enough to be elected to the city council, I’m going to make that a key part of what I do, is reaching out to voters, reaching out to the public, making sure that they feel like they’re included, that their voice is heard at city hall. I think it goes beyond public comment period at city council meetings. That’s extremely important because you have to make a record of that for legal reasons, and for the Brown Act, and all kinds of different reasons. But I think we can do more. And I plan individually, if I’m elected to the council, to do whatever I can, to hear people out. Ideas off the top of my head might include a table every so often at the farmer’s market where it’s publicized, “Come talk to your councilman.” Or we have a coffee at a nice new place like Mattlorna Cafe, and people come and talk about their concerns in a less formal, maybe less intimidating environment. But we also have to reach out to people who might not have the luxury of spending time after work or on the weekends talking to their city councilmembers, seeking them out. We have to reach out to them, solicit their opinions, and ask them to participate more.
Substantively, we need to have good city planning. I have a background in working for a public agency in the environmental law field, working in land use, so I have a real good handle on city planning, and regulations and city ordinances, and I’m ready to roll up my sleeves, and get my hands dirty to help make sure that we have good city planning that prepares us for whatever might come down the line in the future.
I think we need to protect our residential neighborhoods. They are sort of the heart of the community. These are people who have been here for a long time, or newer residents who have moved here because they really appreciate that small town character and quality of life that our old residential neighborhoods provide for us. When I was on the planning commission, I supported a moratorium on mixed-use, in the east part of Main Street, because that area, where mixed-use could have been proposed, is right up against those low-density residential neighborhoods, and it just wasn’t appropriate to have those kinds of big buildings there. That’s part of preserving our small-town character and quality of life. Within that, I think we need to invest in our public parks. We need to invest in community services. I think these things we do down here on Main Street, like this MainFest coming up—I think those are great community building events. And our community can only be stronger when we come together and celebrate as a city like that. It strengthens the ties between everyone and it makes us a stronger and a better place to live.
I’m a real strong advocate for pursuing a secure economic and environmental future. I talk about this all the time. We have to be prepared to plan for a sustainable economic and environmental future. And that means a lot of things. I think sometimes people think that those two issues are at odds. And I disagree with that. I think that you have to plan and you have to have a balanced budget. Part of that means, setting aside something to deal with issues that come up. Recently, the Regional Water Board has told us that we’re going to be on the hook for potentially millions of dollars for improvements to our stormwater system, because of when rain falls on our city streets, it washes a lot of contaminants into the storm water system that ultimately pollutes the ocean. We’re gonna be on the hook for penalties if we don’t address that. And this is an unfunded mandate from outside entities. We have to figure out a way to get this done. And there are some low-cost common sense ways we can approach problems like that. This is just one of many issues that we can work on like this. That’s one thing that would save us money in the long term, that would save our budgets down the road, if we just invested a little bit of money up front.
All of my platform really is geared toward setting us up for the future so that in ten, twenty, thirty, forty years from now, we can look back and they can say, good thing we did that back in 2018, good thing we planned ahead for these eventualities that are bound to happen. So all of these things sort of fit into that goal.
You previously mentioned the moratorium on mixed-used, and all the traffic problems [in Alhambra]. We published an interview with Mark Nisall, and he referred to your time on [the planning and traffic] commissions [negatively]. Do you have a response?
By the time I got to the planning commission [Maloney served from 2012 to 2016. – Ed], a lot of the mixed-use projects on West Main were already approved and some of them I think were even under construction. I don’t know the exact date for all of them, but I think for the most part, they were all approved and under improvement. The one thing I did weigh in on was Garfield and Main, the project there. And I thought that was an appropriate use of a long-defunct property there. That was just a massive ghost of a property there that really needed some work. And what I’m most proud of there is the types of businesses that we were able to attract with that project. I’m happy that the new Sprouts is there, there’s going to be some really new interesting dining options, and I think that was overall a win for the city.
But to be clear, I’m against overdevelopment. And that is exactly why we need good planning up front to make sure we’re dealing with these issues ahead of time. So we’re not playing catch up as a city when someone comes in and proposes a development that the people don’t like, that the city has problems with. You have to have the right planning in place ahead of time.
And what about the traffic issues?
It’s always a concern. Traffic is a concern for everyone in the L.A. area. There’s no city that’s immune to traffic problems in our region. But I think for our purposes here in Alhambra, especially on Main Street and the denser parts of town, we got to figure out a way to encourage people not to jump into their car every time they need to go out on an errand or when they want to go out to eat after work or go to the grocery store. We can’t have people driving every time they want to do that. They’re unnecessary car trips that just exacerbate the transportation issues and the traffic problem here in town. I think we ought to encourage—whenever possible—people to walk. We need to create pedestrian-friendly public spaces on our sidewalks and streets. I think we need to have a diversity of businesses in the denser areas so that people don’t have to drive places to get to where they need to go. And I think we need to pursue all options to get people out of their cars, so I support expanding public transportation, I support looking at common sense safe bike routes. As I said, I support pedestrian routes. I think these are all crucial parts of solving a traffic problem that is a regional issue.
You talked at the Democratic Club forum that you’re endorsed by the entire city council. There’s a question [from Nisall] about how independent can you be, because of that. I’m wondering if you have a response to that.
I don’t want to put words in any particular elected official’s mouth, but I have the endorsement of Congresswoman Judy Chu, of State Treasurer John Chiang, former assembly member from our area Mike Eng, lots of other elected officials, city commissioners, community leaders. That includes all five members of the Alhambra city council. These are folks who don’t always agree on a lot of issues, that you have people from both sides of the aisle, yet one of the things they agree on is supporting my candidacy for city council. All I can say is that I’ve been a long time civic and community volunteer in this town, and I’ve worked with our community leaders, I’ve worked with our elected officials, and early on in this process, when I asked them for support for my campaign, they said yes. And they didn’t ask for anything in return. The only thing that I promised was that I would do the best for this city, and that I would try my best to keep us moving in the right direction. And that’s all I’ve promised anyone.
The interview was edited for length and clarity.