Editor’s Note: Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper will be featuring all of the candidates seeking election to the California State Senate in 2014 in the 32nd District during the next several weeks and months. This feature is on candidate Mario Guerra.
By Tammye McDuff
Hews Media Group [HMG]: Tell me who Mario Guerra is?
Mayor Mario Guerra [MG]: Well, Mario Guerra is a father of five kids, and a husband of 30 years. I am someone who wants to give to the community and ensure that we can improve the quality of life for the citizens of Downey and for all people. It starts that simple. I am also a Catholic Clergy, so my background comes from the background that we can just serve one persona at a time. I have enjoyed being an elected official of the City of Downey, because we have gotten things done and now that I have a track record of ‘doing things’ I want to take it to a different level. I am an average person that loves doing small things with great love.
HMG: How did you get started in politics?
MG: I was asked by a former Mayor Meredith Perkins, if I would consider running for a seat on the Downey Council. I had to get permission from Cardinal Mahoney and my wife. It was an interesting conversation because sometime politics and religion don’t mix. Since I have been the chaplain of the Downey Police Department for twelve years, My wife and I thought long and hard about this request. I have an insurance brokerage
HMG: You are running on the Republican ticket …
MG: Yes. But I don’t like being called a Republican or a Democrat. I would rather be called a ‘Citizen’ or an ‘American’. There are so many issues that are on both sides. I believe in Immigration Reform; I believe in the Dream Act, these are typical issues that people want to talk about. We have 350,000 Latino business people in California that have the same the principles and values of less regulation, less government and lower taxation. The State of California has the highest property tax, the highest sales tax, the highest personal tax, highest car tax, the unsecured property tax and most people don’t know that. I belief in a fair playing field. There should be regulations, but don’t make it anti-competitive to the point where business cannot succeed. We put too many restrictions on businesses and we are killing them.
HMG: What is your background in managing businesses on multiple levels?
MG: I have an insurance brokerage firm, which has been very successful for my partner and I. We have one of the largest top ten insurance brokerage firms in Southern California, and the 90th largest in the United States.
HMG: How do you find time to manage a family, an insurance brokerage firm, being Mayor of Downey, including the multiple boards and projects you chair and now running for Senate?
MG: Different briefcases! I have four full time jobs. The hardest part of my day is keeping my schedule. So I must stay organized. I want to make sure that if I make a promise, I keep it. But it is a great opportunity. I get to make citizens happy as Mayor, by just showing up. Who get’s to do that? People don’t care if Mario Guerra comes around, but being the Mayor of Downey is a big deal. I get to read to children or talk to our Senior citizens, how cool is that? I really believe in the accountability factor.
HMG: What made you decide to run for the Senate of the 32nd District?
MG: I’m not done yet. There are things that I want to do. I have an agenda that I carry on my sleeve every single day. My agenda is to make us better. To do those things that can impact people in a positive way everyday. People say that I am going to get up to Sacramento and get frustrated with certain bills and such. And maybe I will, but I’m a big boy. But for me it has to do with constituent services, when citizens need help, channeling through the maze of bureaucracy. knowing what state legislation is, what is local government and even what the government does. Being accessible to the citizens is a big part of my decision to run.
HMG: What are you looking forward to the most?
MG: If nothing else I plan to have the most constituent friendly offices ever, in the 19 cities the district represents. I want to bring some of the things that have worked in the city of Downey to the state level. For example, I was just sworn in as the President for the Independent Cities Association [ICA], there are 53 cities, about 7 million people, and these cities are all doing great things. We need to use these ideas to improve the bigger picture from a state level. We have created 8,000 jobs in the city of Downey over the last four years, in this bad economy. Who else can claim to that? In the 26 cities of the Gateway region, we have the lowest unemployment rates, with a population of over 50k working citizens. This did not happen over night and there is a reason for this. We have improved our schools test scores. Recently the scores California Standard Test scores went down, yet, our scores went up in the Downey Unified School District. I park my car in responsibility row.
HMG: What is Responsibility Row?
MG: Responsibility Rose stands for Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. TRRFC&C is the DNA of our community. We are a Character Counts city. President Obama Administration came here to Downey to see how this is working. The administration wanted to witness how this works differently between the School District and the City to stand as the Character Community that we are. I am very proud of that.
HMG: How do you plan to handle this fiscal crisis?
MG: We need to lead my example. Just like the City is leading with a balanced budget. You can cry fiscal responsibility, but either put up or shut up. I am a business guy. I have taken by small business to one of the leading agencies in the nation by making sure that we have enough to pay our bills. Government should not be any different. You should not spend more than you have, while also planning for the future.
HMG: How do you foresee taking financial responsibility into the Senate in light of the recent Government shut down?
MG: What has happened with the shut down is more of a political strategy than anything else. Whether we like it or not Obamacare is now the law of the land. I don’t think it is going to work, personally. I am an insurance broker, and from a city standpoint where you have part time employees that are only getting 30 hours a week that now have to be cut back to 20 hours a week is going to impact families. Cities have laid off employees so that they don’t have pay the health care. In my opinion, the youth of this country, which you need to make Obamacare work, are going to want to pay the fine versus signing up. I can see many obstacles and I foresee in a couple of years from now, people will begin to realize what some of the impediments of this law are. But right now it is the law of the land. And that’s all I have to say about that.
HMG: How do you plan to change some of the laws that are in effect today?
MG: Some of these items are by the cry of the people. And then there are those laws that make no sense. AB109 is the law of early release of ‘non-violent’ criminals, a total of 20k have already been released with another 9k due to be out in December of 2013. Our police department tracks them, and 80% of them you cannot find. From the prisoners released in 2012, 60% of those were rearrested in the first six months with the majority of them being arrested more than once. These are not ‘non-violent’; they went to the state jail for a reason. I saw the rap sheet of one of these individuals that was 14 pages long with some violent offenses on the sheet. I went to Sacramento on behalf of the ICA a few months ago, and the folks there seem to think that it is an issue and not a problem, yet every Police Chief in 53 cities were telling Sacramento that this is the biggest crime problem we face as a state. There are laws that need to be looked at, amended or changed all together. I look forward to tackling these issues. My concerns are quality of life, jobs, public safety, and education.