Homelessness, crime and housing: Here’s what the 6th district council candidates had to say during a public forum


Sebastian Echeverry | Signal Tribune

(From left to right) Candidates Craig Ursuy, Steve Meng, Josephine Villasenor, Suely Saro, Sharifah Hardie, incumbent Dee Andrews and Ana Arce participate in a public forum Friday, Nov. 22 to allow 6th district residents to ask questions about their political platforms.

Candidates vying for the 6th district seat this coming March pulled their punches, despite a few under-the-radar remarks, and mostly shared common strategies during a public forum Friday night.

The theatre hall inside the Ernest McBride Park Cal Rec Center was filled wall to wall with 6th district residents as they gathered to hear what the candidates running for their council district had to say about their community’s most pressing issues.

Candidates Craig Ursuy, Steve Meng, Josephine Villasenor, Suely Saro, Sharifah Hardie, incumbent Dee Andrews and Ana Arce opened up the forum by giving a brief description of themselves and their platform.

Emceeing the event was members of the Cambodian American Civic Engagement Council (CACEC) including Marc Coleman, Laura Som and Alex Norman.

Throughout most of the forum, candidates refrained from challenging one another head-on during certain talking points. However, near the end of the event, Arce said that voting for someone such as Saro would not bring change to the community because Saro was once chief-of-staff for Senator Ricardo Lara.

“If you want things to stay the same, vote for Suely,” Arce said.

Saro corrected Arce by saying she was a field representative for the senator, and asked for additional time to respond to Arce’s comments. Norman said that there was no argument being made and did not grant Saro additional time during her closing remarks.

The first question Norman asked the candidates to respond to was homelessness in the community and how to address it.

Saro said that providing the corrected housing and mental-health services was the best way to approach the issue.

Hardie followed up the question with a personal story. She was laid off eight times before she started her own career as an entrepreneur. Her approach is to teach people work skills so they can pursue their own careers.

Andrews, who is his fourth term this election season, stated that rent control alone was not enough to fix the issue. He told residents that he thinks raising the cost of rent is “not OK” for the community.

Villasenor responded to the question by stating that if elected, she will not accept any checks from the City and would donate it toward funding for community projects. She said that she was the 15th sibling of 22 brothers and sisters, and she experienced homelessness for one year.

Ursuy, a professor at Santa Ana College, noted that he would tackle the transient issue by decriminalizing homeless people living on the streets for victim-less crimes.

Lastly, Meng said the neighborhood is too poorly lit. He added that businesses close too early along the Anaheim Corridor because the streets are too dark. He would tackle the homeless issue by improving the infrastructure along the corridor.

Sebastian Echeverry | Signal Tribune
The Cambodian American Civic Engagement Council (CACEC) hosted a public forum on Nov. 22 at the Ernest McBride Park and Cal Rec Center to give 6th district residents the chance to hear from the seven candidates vying for their district’s council seat with less than 100 days left till election day.

On the topic of crime, candidates seemed to share a similar mindset that the police and community had to work closely with each other.

Andrews said he knows that there crime in the district, but he noted that the 6th district has the quickest response time to emergency calls. He said that partnerships with home-security companies such as Ring would help lessen crime.

Hardie said that only hungry people steal, so she would approach the issue of crime by trying to create more jobs–– which is a major part of her platform.

Similarly, Saro mentioned that the loss of employment drove people to commit crime. She noted that she would want to work with law enforcement to address racially profiling individuals.

Arce harkened back to her Latina background, and said that she witnessed police harassment growing up. She claimed that police-public relations would be a top priority to address crime in the 6th district.

Ursuy approached the question by saying he was upset that law-enforcement officials said crime was “social-media hype.” Throughout the forum, Ursuy was not shy in stating that he was discontent with the city manager, although he did not make it clear if he was referring to former city manager Patrick West or acting city manager Tom Modica.

Meng took a personal stand against crime, specifically homicides. He said that two of his relatives were killed in shootings, although he did not say where the shootings took place or when they happened. Meng said his approach to the issue would be to increase patrols in the 6th district.

Villasenor noted that as a neighborhood-watch member, she has seen crime first-hand. She claimed that her actions helped stop criminal actions as they were taking place while she patrolled her community from midnight to 4am.

As the seven candidates gave their closing remarks, the topic of a diverse community echoed across the room. The candidates and the CACEC thanked the public for attending the two-hour long event.

Citizens will have their final say come election day on March 3, 2020.