By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor
Albert Robles is running as a candidate with a unique perspective: a Carsonite born and raised in Carson. He’s also billed as the balm that could heal a fractured council. As testament of that, Robles is being backed by Mayor Jim Dear and former Recall Dear leader Vera Robles DeWitt (no relation to Albert). The fact that he is one of the most academically credentialed and politically experienced freshmen candidate in Carson’s City Council race doesn’t hurt either.
Robles holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, and masters from the University of Southern California, and Juris Doctorate from University of California at Berkeley. He worked as a Congressional Fellow in Washington D.C. And served as staff assistant to the late Congressman Mervyn M. Dymally. He is also current President of the Water Replenishment Board.
When asked what makes him a viable candidate, he notes his relationships on the council.
“I have a great relationship with all of the council members. Take council member Mike Gipson, I’ve known him for over 20 years,” Robles said.
“Elito Santarina, I’ve known him for about 15 years. Mayor Dear, I’ve known him for about ten years. Lula (Councilwoman Lula Davis-Holmes), I haven’t known her as long, but I have a good rapport with her. She and I talk and we have great conversations,” he said.
With Robles’ credentials, it is difficult to imagine that he doesn’t see Carson as a stepping stone for higher office and greater responsibility. And perhaps more importantly, contrary to the local boy made good storyline his biography would indicate, he is no pushover.
In 2007, the District Attorney’s office accused Robles of paying cash for pamphlets supporting a slate of candidates in a water district election in Pico Rivera and mailing them anonymously. The law requires payment by check and return addresses on political mail. Robles was eventually acquitted of the charges but chose to run against the longtime District Attorney Steve Cooley before the acquittals event came. Robles came in a distant second.
Rather than talk about his political aspirations, he instead focused on his economic agenda, noting the need for a Plan B since Gov. Jerry Brown ended redevelopment agencies as Californians knew them.
Robles noted that in 2012, the city of Carson invested and spent about $50 million in capital infrastructure projects, and that within four years, the city will have spent less than $4 million.
“So what is Carson doing to make up for that?” he asked. “My proposal is to position the city to take full advantage of EB-5 Foreign Investor Program.
The Foreign Investor Program would allow wealthy overseas investors to either finance or launch business ventures in local municipalities that spur economic development and job creation in exchange for a green card. California cities including Los Angeles are looking closely at this program— particularly candidates running for office.
“What I propose to do is have the city of Carson become designated as a resource center under the EB-5 program,” he said. “Other than that program, investors wills be able to pool their money and the city as a partner in a public-private partnership would be able to direct how that investment continues.
On Measure M
In regards to Measure M, Robles says he’s on the side of abiding by what the voters had decided for themselves in 1992 when Carsonites decided to directly elect their mayor.
“I’m a constitutional attorney and one of the things I fight for are peoples rights and their right to vote. I believe that the more democracy we have the better. Just like when you have a proposition on the ballot, it’s the voice of the people whether it’s right or wrong. The people have voted,” he said.
He ultimately believes that the more people that have a say, the better. He also recognizes the pitfalls of democracy, particularly in general law cities like Carson.
“It’s not perfect… it has flaws…Sometimes demagogues get elected. Sometimes the best person doesn’t get elected, but that’s democracy. It’s the system we have.”
Robles calls arguments that cite the mayorship’s culpability in City Hall’s gridlock as being totally false.
“What we have here at City Hall right now is a lack of respect and personality conflicts. It has nothing to do with whether or not the mayorship is directly elected or not, at least as far as I can tell,” he said.
Robles argues that a directly elected mayor somehow creates a more accountable mayorship, adding that, “if the mayor is able to move the city forward, move the agenda forward, introduce policies and initiatives and get the majority support from the rest of the council members, then he’ll be a successful mayor.
“He’s up for reelection, he’ll be able to point to his record, and say, ‘Look here’s my record. Here’s what I’ve been able to do.’ If a directly elected mayor cannot do that, then the record will be very clear.”
When it was suggested that the mayor’s accountability level differed little from that of a council member, Robles insisted that, “the mayor controls the agenda, as chairman of the board, if you will…In the course of the meeting, certain matters are moved forward, aren’t approved, aren’t taken up and in due course, it falls into the mayor’s lap.”
Anyone on the council can agendize an item, and with the requisite three or more votes, an item can be approved, denied, or substituted in favor of something else. The mayor can continue items or even table certain decisions with the agreement of the board. Even appointments to commissions require three votes. Robles tries again, attempting to draw a parallel to the obstructionism President Obama is facing in getting his appointments to his cabinet approved.
“The way I see it, it’s like the President and a Republican Senate,” Robles tried. “The president is a Democrat and he wants to appoint someone in an executive position, the Senate has to confirm it. The Senate is controlled by the opposite party but the President has to work on his relationships and interact with Republicans, he’s not going to get his appointments.”
Though Carson’s city council seat is nonpartisan position, the entire council have been and continue to be by and large ideologically in synced along progressive lines. Also, Carson’s committees and commissions are indeed instruments designed to incorporate direct citizen involvement in the city’s government.
Mobilehome Park Residents
However, Robles is an eternal optimist and is generally the guy that sees the glass as half full. This was particularly evident when he discussed his hopes for mobilehome owners in their struggle against landowner James Goldstein and the condo conversions.
“My hope is that the city can talk to the landlord and they can work it out with the mobilehome owners,” Robles said. “There are success stories where that has happened.”
“My hope is that wiser-heads will come together and have dialog and conversation and I understand that attorneys are involved and that there’s litigation, expensive litigation. I understand that Mr. Goldstein has millions and millions of dollars and can probably out-litigate the city. There needs to be dialog and there are success stories in the area of mobilehome parks… if Mr. Goldstein can be brought to his senses and realize there is a smarter path for everybody. Not just for the mobilehome owners, but for him too.”