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Three Signal Hill Council candidates present goals, platforms at forum

The three current city officials discussed public safety and how to support local business

Courtesy City of Signal Hill

From+left%3A+Keir+Jones%2C+Christopher+Wilson+and+Tina+Hansen+prepare+to+take+part+in+the+Feb.+13+Signal+Hill+City+Council+candidate+forum+at+the+Signal+Hill+City+Council+Chamber%2C+2175+Cherry+Ave.
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Three Signal Hill Council candidates present goals, platforms at forum

From left: Keir Jones, Christopher Wilson and Tina Hansen prepare to take part in the Feb. 13 Signal Hill City Council candidate forum at the Signal Hill City Council Chamber, 2175 Cherry Ave.

From left: Keir Jones, Christopher Wilson and Tina Hansen prepare to take part in the Feb. 13 Signal Hill City Council candidate forum at the Signal Hill City Council Chamber, 2175 Cherry Ave.

Cory Bilicko | Signal Tribune

From left: Keir Jones, Christopher Wilson and Tina Hansen prepare to take part in the Feb. 13 Signal Hill City Council candidate forum at the Signal Hill City Council Chamber, 2175 Cherry Ave.

Cory Bilicko | Signal Tribune

Cory Bilicko | Signal Tribune

From left: Keir Jones, Christopher Wilson and Tina Hansen prepare to take part in the Feb. 13 Signal Hill City Council candidate forum at the Signal Hill City Council Chamber, 2175 Cherry Ave.

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Three weeks ahead of the March 5 general municipal election, the three individuals seeking to fill two available seats on the Signal Hill City Council participated in a candidate forum co-sponsored by the City and the Signal Tribune Wednesday night in the council chamber in City Hall.

Tina Hansen, Keir Jones and Christopher Wilson introduced themselves, presented their goals and answered questions posed by Neena Strichart, publisher of the Signal Tribune, about how to best support local businesses, provide more recreational activities and enhance health and public safety for residents.

During her introduction, Hansen, the current mayor who has served on the council since 1994, said she has lived in the city since 1991. She has worked as a prosecutor for 33 years with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, where she currently serves in the Environmental Crimes Division.

“I can tell you the Signal Hill of 1994 is completely different from the Signal Hill of 2019,” Hansen said. “Since I have been on the city council, there has been significant residential development, which started with the hilltop development, and which has now spread all over the city. We have $1-million homes, and we also have beautiful workforce housing, such as Las Brisas and Zinnia. There has been significant commercial development during my years on council, as well.”

Hansen added that commercial development is essential because it generates tax revenue, which funds the City’s services.

“During the years I have been on the council, much has been added to our park-and-recreation program,” she said, “such as the addition of active parks, destination parks and art pieces, the dog park on the north side of town, the trail system, Panorama Promenade with exercise stations and a project that has become personally important to me over the years– the construction of a new 12,000-square-foot library, which will have the most up-to-date technology available, as well as provide a showcase of the history that makes our city so unique and special.”

She added that her interest and belief in the importance of community service was a driving force behind many of those projects.

In his introduction, Jones, who currently serves as city clerk, said he is running for city council because, in the 10 years he has lived in Signal Hill, he has learned to listen to his neighbors and become more engaged in various activities.

“I’m also a small-business owner,” Jones said. “I’ve been involved with the Signal Hill Chamber of Commerce for 10 years, and I have used that experience to learn more and more about our city and become more engaged with the residents and the businesses that operate here. And then I became more of a volunteer, and, most recently, I’m the president of the Signal Hill Community Foundation, so we work on the concerts in the park, as well as the million-dollar endowment […] for our new library, for its continued success.”

Jones added that, through his position as city clerk, he has been focusing on voter engagement.

“We had our highest turnout in the election last year, in November, of over 60 percent of registered voters participating,” he said, adding that he also worked on Measure M, which will be on next month’s ballot, to change the city’s general election to the date of the statewide primary election.

“So, as a member of Signal Hill City Council, my goal is to continue to work on an economic-development plan for everyone [and] a master plan for future growth incorporating the needs of the city, along with the needs of the residents,” he said. “I think it’s important that we have a healthy environment with more parks and open space. And I think it’s important to protect our public-safety officials, making sure they have enough resources to get their jobs done, and they have new technology so that they can continue to improve.”

He said, lastly, it is essential to have a “21st-century City Hall” that provides 24/7 access to services, transparency and an increase in Wi-Fi availability in public spaces.

Wilson, a vocational specialist who serves on the Planning Commission, introduced himself as “a proud community leader” who has become involved in a number of projects, such as small-business workshops. In 2008, he began working for then State Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal as her Signal Hill representative. He moved to the city in 2014.

Wilson said his focus has been on improving relationships among neighbors and between residents and law-enforcement, as well as mapping neighborhoods for emergency preparedness.

“I believe that our best days are ahead of us,” Wilson said. “I believe that we have done big things in the city by putting million-dollar homes on the hill, a row of car dealerships in the heart of the city and built a world-class police station powered by solar. We are here because we thought big; I want to think bigger. I am a fresh face with a new perspective. I’m running because I want to build on the economic progress in Signal Hill by bringing my 10 years of government experience and futurist thinking to city council. I’m running to make sure our businesses have the economic support they need. I’m running because I want to rebrand the image of our city to a 21st-century economy. I’m running because I believe in the values of leadership and courage of our city staff, residents and community leaders.”

The first question Strichart asked the candidates was, “When it comes to our residents’ protection, in your opinion, in what areas could the City improve overall public safety, and how could that be achieved?”

It was Jones’s turn to answer first, and he emphasized the high quality of the police department, to which the City dedicates 45 percent of its budget.

“I feel like our involvement with the police department really requires us communicating and letting residents know how to utilize the police department,” he said. “And so, I think, for me, the way to improve our public safety in Signal Hill is connecting our residents with the resources they have– improving the communication lines, helping people understand who to call when they need help, understanding the resources outside of Signal Hill for the homeless community and those in need. A lot of that has to do with the communication component. So, I would advocate improving that aspect of it.”

Wilson said public safety is one of his priorities and that he is happy to have the support of LA County firefighters and paramedics.

“I want to make sure I work to maintain fast emergency response times,” he said. “A lot of it is making sure we continue to adequately staff police and firefighter levels, and I think that the current city council did an amazing job in making sure that the police is fully staffed and that we are great partners with LA County. But we need to make sure that we take a lot of the technology services that are available in the city– through our Signal Hill app– to be able to connect neighbors and police.”

Wilson explained that one of his initiatives is to facilitate ongoing roundtable discussions that involve “block captains” and law-enforcement.

“Making sure that we have a neighbor-to-neighbor relationship with law-enforcement is very, very deep, and that is why I have been president of the Signal Hill North Neighborhood Association since 2014 […] because I’ve built those relationships in the north side, which has often been known as the forgotten area.”

Hansen said the City took a “very huge step” in ensuring overall public safety when it opened the new police station a few years ago.

“And that is something I was proud to be a part of, as a member of the city council,” she said. “I also sat on the Blue Ribbon Committee when we talked about whether we need a new police station.”

Hansen explained that what she really likes about the city is that it has a community-policing model.

“And I think that’s essential in this day and age, whether it’s school-liaison officers– which the chief knows I’m very supportive of– whether it’s having a police substation at Las Brisas, and that was again one of my, kind of, requirements when we rehabilitated Las Brisas– to have a police substation there so that the officers could connect […] at ground level with the residents. I think continuing that kind of community policing is very important.”

She added that the City has also been responsive to the need to ensure that officers’ salaries remain competitive among surrounding law-enforcement agencies.

Next week, the Signal Tribune will publish the second half of this two-part story.

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Three Signal Hill Council candidates present goals, platforms at forum