Although not all the results are in, Mayor Joe Vinatieri and District 3 Councilwoman Cathy Warner have indisputably been re-elected to Whittier City Council. Newcomer Jessica Martinez will join Henry Bouchot (District 2), Fernando Dutra (District 4) and the re-elected incumbents to take her first public seat as Whittier’s District 1 representative.
Sustainable City News reached out to the re-elected and newly elected officials to ask where they will start their work moving forward.
For Warner, homelessness and public safety are the issues at the forefront. “We simply do not have enough police officers,” Warner said. She also said that, according to the state, Whittier must build roughly thirty four hundred more living units in the next 10 years, in accordance with the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA).
Warner said that the City Council and City Manager have been working closely with Judge David Carter to address the homeless issue with a four-pronged attack. “It will yield the opportunity to have a shelter with the beds that we need, based on the potential agreement with Judge Carter, that would then satisfy Martin v. Boise, that would then get people off the streets and into beds, and would also provide wrap around services,” Warner said.
Warner said the Council is working to attract developers and nonprofits as well as determine the exact 60 percent of homeless (per Judge Carter) that the shelter is required to house before the start of construction. In the meantime, while unhoused residents are permitted by law to camp on public property, the Council has put into effect additional camping ordinances that further restrict camping.
Warner said that a professional study of Whittier public safety, in regard to incidents and calls, is needed to dictate how many more officers the City needs. “One thing that Fernando [Dutra], Joe [Vinateri], and I were a part of several years ago was building a new police station in Whittier. We did that without going to a bond,” Warner said.
“We were able to cobble together the funds, and that was an amazing resource that we were a part of creating for the police department, but now we need to shore up the department. We will use that report as a basis for recommendations on how to shore up the department. Now with the passage of Measure W, we will have the funding to be able to do that.”
Warner has worked with newly re-elected Mayor Vinateri for 14 out of her 16 years in public office. “I believe the results of the elections locally, as far as myself and Joe, people are saying . . . they are okay with what we are doing. We’re finally on a path that will get us to where we want to be good,” Warner said.
Sustainable City News asked whether Warner would adopt proposals made by candidates during campaign season. Mayoral candidate Rolando Cano had suggested the City repurpose the old unoccupied police station as a navigation center for unhoused residents. Warner said there are no plans for that building at this time. She said that any use of the building would need to be thoroughly examined before use could be determined.
Mayoral candidate Louis Reyes proposed to significantly increase production of ADUs, also called granny flats; Warner noted that the City is in the process of drafting a new ADU ordinance because its current codes contradict the new state law. The City can aid in fast tracking ADU production, Warner said, and the Council can provide education on how property owners can build ADUs.
Mayoral candidate Christine Singer-Luna proposed to create an environmental commission; Warner said the City has already made strides in dealing with climate change, and referred to the City website, which states that the updated Whittier General Plan will include climate action plan policies.
On the topic of new commissions, Warner said, “When you have a board or a commission, you always have to have city staff time to support the board or commision, and the more commissions you have the more city staff time is utilized to support those commissions. It’s always a balance, just like when you study for your classes.
“We don’t want to have 20 commissions, because then that would be too much pressure on staff time, and we can’t afford to hire more staff. So we need to be efficient with the board and commissions that we have. So lets evaluate all of them from the larger perspective. Are they all relevant? Are they all doing all they can do?” She said she would prefer to embed environmental issues into the existing boards and commissions before adding another.
Warner said ideas from other candidates might be considered when brainstorming with the Council. “I need to go back and look at the transcript and or video of our candidates’ forums, and . . . see what ideas they did have that could potentially have merit. And I think that is a great suggestion, and I appreciate it,” she said.
Warner said that these suggestions are why she appreciates the Public Comment time at Council meetings, and suggested the community reach out to Council members personally. “I’m always encouraging folks, please email suggestions that you might have. Then we can get into a dialogue one-on-one.”
Re-elected Mayor Joe Vinatieri and newly elected Council member Jessica Martinez did not respond to requests for interviews.