Doug Tessitor is the only one of the seven candidates who can say he has city council experience. The current Mayor Pro-Tem has served on the city council since 2003, along with 35 years of banking and business experience. Ask about his qualifications for another term, the long-time Glendora resident points to what he considers his accomplishments – his support for major developments including Glendora Marketplace and Diamond Ridge, and his current role as chairman of the __, which focuses on the planning and funding for the from Arcadia to Montclair.
But with three open seats available this election, and the city going through critical economic times and major development projects in the works, Tessitor said an institutional base must remain on the council.
Tessitor talks to Patch about this election, his views on economic and redevelopment issues and who he wants serve alongside if he were re-elected to Glendora City Council.
Why are you running for another term on the city council?
I had decided that I was not going to run again two years ago. I had a couple thousand dollars left in my campaign funds. I divided them in two and I gave half of them to Karen Davis when she was running and I gave half to Gene Murabito when he was running, wiped my campaign funds out and said, “I’m done.”
Then two things occurred. One was the economic situation in Glendora and the budget issues. Those are very serious. We got to be dealing with things very carefully and my colleagues and staff people strongly encouraged me to run again because of the experience and leadership I provide.
The second part is probably as important and maybe more important for me personally, and that is the Gold Line. At the end of 2009, we were finally at a place where it looked like were going to get a project.
Because of that and because where I was on the Construction Authority, we thought it was a great opportunity to be part of something really significant in the San Gabriel Valley and Glendora.
Now that I’m Chairman [of the Metro Gold Line Construction Authority], we’re moving forward with Phase 2A, but now we have to find $500 million to complete the project from Azusa to Montclair. And that’s my job. That’s an opportunity and a challenge that doesn’t come along in many people’s lives; I want to have a part in that.
There has been some issue with you having voted against Measure R, but taking credit to the success and development of the Gold Line.
When that measure was being proposed, a number of us wanted some assurance from that law that the San Gabriel Valley communities and communities outside the city of LA were going to have equal access to those dollars and that not all of that money was going to go to Mayor Villaraigosa and the cities to the west of Los Angeles. We couldn’t get that assurance. Because there was no guarantee we were going to get benefits from the sales tax dollars that were going to be imposed on us, we opposed Measure R. It wasn’t just me or council members in the city of Glendora, there were council members and the people involved in Metro from the San Gabriel Valley who were opposed to Measure R.
It went to the ballot and it passed. Now that Measure R became law, our job was, “Here was the reality. How do we work with it.?”
We went back to Washington D.C. and we went to the legislators and we said, “Are you going to let Metro determine where these monies are spent?” We got what we needed -- commitment from LA Metro to put our money – $850 million—into our project. That’s how we wanted it. I had a large part of that. Yes, I opposed Measure R, Measure R was voted in, and we found a way to work within Measure R to get what we needed to have done
You have served on the city council since 2003. What would you say were your best accomplishments?
I was very active in getting the Glendora marketplace on the ballot after the Harrold council opposed it. I was co-chair on Yes on Measure D. I helped bring the marketplace to Glendora. I don’t think it is an overstatement that had it not been for my efforts and the efforts of a very committed group of people, we wouldn’t have had the marketplace and the city of Glendora would have been in very, very serious trouble. The businesses down there provide 50 percent of our sales tax revenue. That’s huge.
When you listen to all the candidates for city council, they’re talking about being proactive, and they’re talking about redevelopment this and economic development that…10 years ago that was me. I said to the council that turned it down, "This is nuts. You got to bring those businesses in. You got to bring that kind of development in Glendora. “
We went from a no-growth, let’s-be-against-everything council, to the council we brought in as a result of the recall. The new council has decided, “Let’s do what we got to do to make sure that Glendora is a vital, vibrant, growing progressive city.”
I look at the candidates that we have now, and one of the consistent themes that you hear from them is that the council is doing a great job. And then they say, “But we can do better.” But of course, we can do better. But we need to keep going.
The beautiful thing is that we don’t have controversies anymore like we did before. We have a good group of people who are pulling together for the good of the city. We are accomplishing things and we don’t have half the town coming to council meetings complaining about what we’re doing or not doing. We have a very satisfied community, I think. People are generally satisfied with the way things are in Glendora. I think that’s part of what I’ve brought to the council
Why should voters re-elect you on March 8?
I have 30 plus years of business experience and running my own business. I have 10 years of politics, I have a number of years dealing with high levels of finance. I’ve been around the block a few times on a number of these issues. There is a tremendous amount of naïveté in some of the younger candidates, and not to say that they’re not very bright people. There are ways to gain experience and exposure to different situations and circumstances and problems. For most of us, you do it by an apprenticeship and start out by earning a reputation before you get into the top policy-making in any organization. Some candidates, I feel, have not paid their dues.
Going in a new direction or changing the status quo has been heard a lot in this campaign season. What would you say to some who believe that we should be working on improving rather than maintaining that everything is going well?
I don’t think I do say everything is good. Everything I’ve done for the last eight years has been designed to add to our economic development, protect our neighborhoods, fix our streets, balance the budget and cut our costs, The problem is, these issues are not things where you can snap your fingers today and tomorrow things are all better and it’s done. There are a myriad of problems in all different areas and opportunities in all different areas that have to be balanced and weighed and worked on over time. It doesn’t happen in a heartbeat.
The real question is, does it make sense in a period where we’ve been doing well, but now we’re in very serious economic times, to put in a majority of people who don’t have any experience to set policy?
I don’t think being on the council is rocket science and anybody is capable given the right motivation to do the job, but the risk that you run is changing the majority and making a U-turn, because now you have an unknown majority. If we continue on the path we’re going down which has been successful, you can bring in some new people and bring them up to speed. But if you bring in all new people and do a 180, you will destroy whatever progress has been made over the last three years.
Let’s talk about some of the biggest issues in this campaign. There have been quite a few ideas thrown out there regarding some of the city’s most pressing issues such as economic development and redevelopment. How would you address this and some of the ideas you’ve heard?
You have some ideas that might sound good in a sound byte once it rolls off your lips, but the reality is it’s either unworkable, illegal or both. For example, one of the candidates made the suggestion at the first forum to take some of our reserves and give them to tire dealers so that the tire dealers could be more competitive with the big boxes. You can’t use the taxpayers’ money and give it to private businesses in order to make them more competitive with another business. It’s illegal. We have a redevelopment agency, but it’s set up in a way in which legislature said it was appropriate. The city council has to work within the legal framework and we have to do things that are appropriate and not because it sounds kind of neat. We don’t have that flexibility.
People are talking about new businesses, one person wants to see a Whole Foods Market and other businesses like that. That’s fine, but now you have a couple of problems. How do you get that corporate entity to decide the city of Glendora is where they want to go? How do you convince them to come here and where are they going to go? Most businesses require 1-2 acres for where they decide to locate. We don’t have very many, if any, 1-2 acre sites that would be appropriate for some of these businesses. Also, the city of Glendora is right up against the foothills, it only draws from a 180-degree radius. We don’t have any customers up there in the hills, so retail businesses tend to not want to locate where their marketing area is cut in half.
One other thing is that stores like Whole Foods don’t generate sales tax. Food is not taxable. Now, you can take something like Walmart – Why does that work and somewhere else doesn’t? Well, Walmart sells more than just food, and you may buy your groceries at Walmart and decide to buy, let’s say a fishing rod in another part of the store. So there’s a synergy with Walmart that will increase sales tax revenue. Plus, we have the parking and the location.
The success that Monrovia has had in the redevelopment and revitalization of their downtown has been going on for the last 30 years. The first 10 years of that project, they didn’t really have much to show for it. That’s where we are right now. We are now in the first several years of the redevelopment and specific plan of route 66. We’re just getting started. We don’t have a lot of things Monrovia did such as eminent domain and if someone doesn’t want to sell, we can’t make them. It is very important that we keep to the original plan before we decide to make any changes.
One of the candidates said that the South Hills should be developed. You want to see a revolt in Glendora? Ask [candidate] Erica [Landmann-Johnsey] what the reaction was to that idea when it was brought up at the Tribune meeting.
So, ideas are one thing, but the reality of what you can do and how you can do it is another. That’s why I think my experience is valuable.
All the stuff that candidates have talked about is stuff we have discussed, have attempted to do, explored, or are in the process of doing.
There are three open seats available on a five-seat city council. You are the only incumbent running among seven candidates. If you were re-elected, who, among the other six candidates, do you believe should join you?
I’ll take you through the list and tell you exactly why. This is always dangerous, but as you get to know me, you’ll know that I’ll say what I think, I mean what I say, and I don’t care much for political means or trying to be devious. So take this for what it’s worth.
I wouldn’t vote for Erica [Landmann-Johnsey] because of her association with [recalled mayor] John Harrold and his group. There’s way too much history and she has sued the city before. I wouldn’t want to serve with her. Not to say that she wouldn’t be a nice person.
Cynthia Carrasco, she’s a very bright young lady, very bright. My concern with her, and I’ve had several conversations with her in the last year at length and I told her what I thought she should do – get involved in any number of organizations in Glendora and develop a reputation. I thought she should show she could make a commitment and fulfill the commitment. Until she did that, I don’t know enough about her other than “great potential” to feel comfortable enough to put her on the city council.
Jason Nagy, Jason is a commission real estate sales person. Jason has two young children. I’ve known Jason since he was a kid. He went to school with my eldest daughter. I said to Jason that I was a commission sales person with 25 years business experience, with grown children when I got on the council. I could not run and keep my business going as a council member. I said to him, “Jason, get your kids raised and get them educated. You have lots and lots of time to get involved in this political nonsense. Go do what you have to do and put your family first.”
That’s how I feel and I really feel like he’s shortchanging his family, but those are my values. Not to say he can do what he wants, but I wouldn’t vote for him.
Now we come to John Fields, Judy Nelson, Joe Santoro and me. I’ve known Judy for about 30 years. Her kids grew up with my kids. I watched Judy start her bookstore. She put in a location in La Verne where no one should have been successful with a book business in that location. She was. Not only was she successful in that business, she was able to grow it and expand it. I have tremendous respect for any small business owner who is able to grow it into a viable economic success. Judy did that. Because I’ve known her for so long I know she’s a very bright person. She may not have the most vibrant personality, but she’s analytical and she knows how to approach a problem. That’s what we need on the city council.
John Fields has some good background and a range of experience, which I think is very good. I think I can work well with John and I think he’s very bright.
Joe Santoro has years and years of experience. He was a police chief, he knows city budget, he knows the law, he knows the rules and regulations, and he’s a very bright and down-to-earth guy. When he tells you something, you know he’s telling you the truth.
So my choices would be Judy Nelson and Joe Santoro. I can live with Fields, I can live with Jason Nagy with the reservations that I said, and I think Cynthia could be a very good councilperson. But I would not want to serve with Erica.
Editor's Note: This feature is the final article in a seven-part candidate series. Each one-on-one interview will focus on an individual candidate for Glendora City Council in the March 8 election. The order of candidate profiles ran in the order of the final ballot.
Read each of the candidate profiles in our seven-part series, One-on-One: