Signal Hill, meet your council candidates

Three incumbents and one newcomer vie for three council seats. Voters to decide Nov. 3

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https://signalhillcommunityfoundation.org/

Signal Hill voters will get a chance to change up their city council during the Nov. 3 elections.

Three incumbents– Mayor Robert Copeland and Councilmembers Lori Woods and Edward Wilson– are running to retain their seats on the council after completing four-year terms.

But one newcomer– Terry Rogers, a city commissioner and realtor– may replace an incumbent if residents so decide.

The Signal Tribune asked all four candidates to share their experience, vision for the city and anything else they’d like Signal Hill voters to know about them.

Here’s what they have to say, in alphabetical order.

Robert Copeland, Signal Hill mayor, running for a second city-council term in the Nov. 3 election
(Courtesy City of SH)

Robert Copeland
Copeland has been a Signal Hill resident for 18 years and involved in its government since 2008, beginning as volunteer chairperson of the Sustainable City Committee.

Residents elected him city clerk in 2015 and then to the city council in 2017.

Copeland has been serving as the city’s mayor since March, a position that rotates annually among the five councilmembers.

“Based upon all of this experience, I believe an effective councilmember engages the community and applies sound reasoning and judgment when making decisions,” Copeland told the Signal Tribune.

Over his 12 years of public service, Copeland said he’s participated in numerous city events to meet and talk with people to help him make decisions.

“I make it a point to actively engage residents to understand their concerns as I form an opinion on a topic,” Copeland said. “It is especially helpful to talk with those who have an opposing viewpoint so I can better understand all of the impacts.”

Copeland said his priorities for the city– including its children– stem from that interaction.

“My vision for the City of Signal Hill is to ensure a safe and connected community that is self-sufficient and inclusive of all residents, businesses and guests,” he said. “My priorities for my next term represent steps toward my long-term vision.”

Copeland said those priorities include, in his words:
• Public safety– reimagining how to keep residents and businesses safe.
• Community services– ensure continued delivery and enhancement of youth and senior programs.
• Economic recovery– position residents, businesses, and the city for the swiftest recovery.
• Housing and business development– balance development to provide appropriate housing and excellent retail.

In terms of what else residents should know about him, Copeland said his experience as mayor during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic allowed him to facilitate healthy discussions and a path forward with community input.

“The impact of the COVID-19 health crisis on city finances will continue well into the future,” Copeland said. “It is critical for the City to continue to make prudent long-term decisions to ensure important community services are delivered with our reduced budget.”

As mayor, Copeland said he has also facilitated council discussions and actions on race relations, following the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the end of May.

“Recovery from the events of 2020 is only part of the picture,” Copeland said. “The city needs councilmembers who are vested in the future of the community and who are connected and available to residents and businesses.”

With degrees in law, business and chemistry, Copeland is a registered patent attorney, according to the city’s website. He is married with two children.

“All elections are important and this is a particularly important one,” he said. “There are many decisions that benefit from a reasoned approach and I believe I offer this as a councilmember.”

Terry Rogers, one of four Signal Hill City Council candidates in the Nov. 3 election. (Courtesy Terry Rogers)

Terry Rogers
Since moving here in 2001, Terry Rogers has been deeply involved in Signal Hill’s business community and municipal activities.

“I’ve dedicated my entire life to this city because I really do love it and its people,” Rogers told the Signal Tribune, noting that she is neither married nor has children. “I am known for being honored by all levels of local government for my leadership and service to community.”

Rogers currently serves on the Parks and Recreation Commission, though she also does much more.

Rogers notes she is an award-winning realtor specializing in luxury and commercial properties in Signal Hill and has served as president of the Signal Hill Chamber of Commerce for five years, educating local small businesses and encouraging networking.

Rogers is also a founding board member of the Signal Hill Police Foundation, which sponsors police department events such as its National Night Out, Popsicles with Police, Christmas Toy Drive and an annual open house.

“I bring many years of hard work, passion and dedication that I have cultivated towards the greater good of our residents, businesses and city,” Rogers said.

Furthermore, Rogers serves as vice president of the nonprofit Signal Hill Community Foundation, helping raise capital-campaign funds to enhance the library and programs for seniors and children.

“One of my most memorable accomplishments was serving on the city’s Library Design Committee to design and plan our new library [completed in 2019],” Rogers said.

She also serves as secretary of the nonprofit Signal Hill Historical Society, an organization dedicated to preserving the city’s history and fundraising for its events.

Also secretary for the nonprofit Friends of the Library, Rogers coordinates books sales to fund library programs and materials.

And she is a frequent volunteer at city events, including Spring Fest, Halloween Carnival, Tree Lighting Ceremony and Hounds on the Hill, and has helped sponsor events such as Concerts in the Parks and Rock for Vets.

“Through my involvement, my specialty is understanding the dynamics of the community’s needs,” Rogers said. “I have my finger on the pulse of the city to know where we need to improve.”

Those improvements include public safety and economic development, Rogers said.

“I want to work with our police and community to reduce crime in these challenging times and develop solutions for homelessness,” she said.

In terms of development, Rogers said she wants to see new enterprises in the city that create job opportunities while strengthening current businesses.

She also wants to see specific development projects completed, including a hotel, shopping and movie-theater complex planned on Spring Street between Atlantic and Orange avenues; a proposed light-industrial complex at the corner of Orange Avenue and Spring Street; and Heritage Square, a planned housing complex with shopping, restaurants and community-gathering space at Cherry Avenue and Burnett Street.

Rogers also wants to see the city improve its cultural diversity through education programs, complete a proposed View Park and turn the former library into a senior center.

“All of these will make Signal Hill a better place to live, work and play,” Rogers said. “It would be an honor to serve you, and I respectfully ask for your vote.”

Rogers added that she feels more qualified than some of the current councilmembers.

“One of us is not going to win,” she said. “I have the best interests of the city at heart with zero bias, which none of them can say.”

Edward Wilson, Signal Hill councilmember, running for a seventh city-council term in the
Nov. 3 election

Edward Wilson
First elected in 1997, Edward Wilson is now seeking his seventh term on the city council.

Wilson told the Signal Tribune that during his time on the council, he’s brought to fruition visions like developing million-dollar homes on the hill and building the city’s budget reserve-funds. ​

As a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Wilson said he understands budgets and the importance of safeguarding and managing the city’s resources.

He said he wants the city to prosper and be financially stable following the impact of COVID-19 and its impact on sales-tax revenue.

To help ensure that, Wilson said he supports the planned development of Heritage Square as a community center and a multilevel premium-outlet mall at Atlantic Avenue and Spring Street, with the top floor devoted to restaurants with patios and views to the ocean.

He also supports a movie theater and hotel at that location, which he said would help make the city a regional draw to boost its sales-tax revenue. Wilson noted that he is currently pursuing an MA degree in urban planning at USC.

Another way to ensure economic security is through allowing cannabis businesses to operate in the city, Wilson said. Signal Hill does not currently allow such businesses.

See related story: Wanted: Cannabis Consultant

As controller for a cannabis cultivator in Long Beach, Wilson said that a 22,000 square-foot cultivation business would yield more than $200,000 in annual tax revenue for the city.

“If we had a car dealership that did that, we’d be really excited about it,” he said.

Wilson added that Signal Hill residents are supportive of cannabis, since 64% had voted to approve the state’s 2016 measure legalizing recreational marijuana.

“In 15-20 years, it’s just going to be normal for those kids that are growing up now,” he said.

In terms of those young people, Wilson advocated for the city to keep its youth sports and recreation program during last year’s council budget discussion.

See related story: SH City Council reinstates youth-sports program

“Youth are our future,” he said, adding that parks programs are part of public safety, giving kids a place to go between school and when their parents get home, and sports fosters pride in the city.

“When you have productive things for kids to do, the better we are as a community,” Wilson said. “They learn a lot of valuable lessons. Having them in our [Signal Hill] parks allows them to be close to home as well.”

Another element that Wilson brings to the council is diversity, he said, noting that he had been the only person of color ever elected in the city’s history until 2019, when Carmen Brooks, who is African American like Wilson, was elected as city clerk.

“When people point to Signal Hill’s diversity, they also point to me– that I’m elected and have been mayor five times,” Wilson said.

However, Wilson also mentioned the council’s decision not to rotate him in as mayor for the sixth time in March, noting that some residents subsequently wrote to the council accusing it of systemic racism.

“Acts can be racist from people that are not racist,” Wilson said. “You don’t have to be a racist to commit a racist act.”

See related story: Systemic racism and reorganization dominate Signal Hill City Council discussion

Nevertheless, Wilson helped write a city resolution during the worldwide protests over George Floyd’s killing on May 25, advocating for equality and condemning systemic racism.

“I believe that as the city continues to grow and change, that everyone is included and everyone’s voice is heard,” Wilson said. “So we get the best of everyone we have to make our whole community better.”

Lori Woods, Signal Hill councilmember, running for a third city-council term in the Nov. 3 election.

Lori Woods
First elected in 2013, Lori Woods is now seeking her third term on the city council.

“An effective councilmember is one that is passionate about Signal Hill and dedicated to making decisions to the benefit of all residents,” Woods told the Signal Tribune. “As a resident and homeowner for 22 years and councilmember for the past [seven] years, I take the responsibility as an elected official very seriously.”

According to the city’s website, during her year as mayor in 2016-17, Woods developed a neighborhood-based emergency-preparedness plan and a program encouraging residents to shop locally.

Woods also noted her previous experience as an executive secretary, property manager, real-estate professional, wife and mother– and soon-to-be grandmother.

“All have provided me the ability to look at opportunities and challenges from more than one side and to gather all the information needed to help make the best decisions possible,” Woods said.

She credits the council for its collective decision-making skills and experience, especially during the current pandemic.

“Each councilmember brings a unique perspective to decisions that must be made and together we’ve made some pretty incredible advances for a city of our size,” Woods said.

“We anticipate some serious challenges following the effects of COVID-19 and will need experienced councilmembers to guide us through.”

Her other priority for the city is securing its financial base.

“I believe that Signal Hill is one of the best-run and stable cities in Southern California because of the conservative and prudent decisions that have been made for years,” Woods said. “That does not mean that the future of Signal Hill will be as stable.”

Woods envisions the council working diligently on creative ways to stabilize the city’s revenue sources, she said. The city relies on auto and retail sales taxes for 65% of its income, according to its budget.

See related story: SH City Council approves 2020-2022 budget with reduced revenue and personnel cuts

Woods encouraged voters to approve a Nov. 3 ballot measure increasing the city’s sales tax by .75 cents.

“Voters should look closely at the ballot measure to increase our local sales tax,” Woods said. “This sales-tax increase will definitely go a long way in maintaining our financial ​stability and allow residents to continue enjoying the safety, community programs and infrastructure that has been built and the ability to keep and maintain these benefits that our community deserves.”

See related story: Voters to decide on raising Signal Hill sales tax to 10.25%

Woods said that overall, she’s dedicated herself wholeheartedly to the job first entrusted to her in 2013.

“I believe and appreciate that Signal Hill still has developable land and amazing opportunities ahead,” Woods said. “Things may not always happen quickly in Signal Hill, but when they do happen they are successful and stable. I look forward to continue being a part of bringing that stability to Signal Hill, if I still have the trust of the voters.”