Below are snapshots of the three candidates running for the District 2 seat on the Redondo Beach City Council, in the order they appear on the ballot. This is the third installment in a series of candidate profiles. Next week, Easy Reader will profile District 4 candidates.
Susan Kowalski believes she represents a different kind of political candidate – the kind that’s “not a politician.”
“That’s what sets me apart,” she said. “I don’t have aspirations aside from being a member of our community.”
She has a long history of volunteer work and believes a position on the City Council will enable her to more fully integrate into the community.
Kowalski, 52, was nominated Sandpiper of the Year for 2013 for her involvement with Sandpipers, the philanthropic organization that awards scholarships to Redondo Beach students, among other initiatives. She is a court-appointed special advocate for foster kids “who fall through the cracks” and will prioritize education if elected.
Kowalski believes candidates are focusing too heavily on Measure A to the exclusion of other important issues.
“I think there are areas of Redondo Beach that aren’t the waterfront and aren’t the power plant that need attention,” she said.
She has ideas about establishing a community hotline and streamlining the bus routes.
“These are the kinds of things I’d like to do,” she said. “They’re completely logical and doable and I think they’re important.”
As a self-employed businesswoman, she is “used to getting things done.”
She sells logo products to university campuses, which affords her the opportunity to be around young people. Kowalski believes this is an important demographic whose needs the council should consider “because they’re going to be in this community for another 50 years.”
Regarding Measure A, Kowalski believes “there is a better way.”
“Of course none of us wants that ugly power plant but I think…we need to negotiate instead of legislate,” she said. “I hate to put in print ‘No on Measure A’ without explaining why. Yes on community, yes on beauty, yes on bettering the community but I think there’s a better way.”
Chairman of the Harbor Commission Michael Jackson, 58, believes the pier is an economic priority for Redondo Beach that “needs a lot of love” from the city and its developer.
“The crown jewel was left abandoned… and now we’re getting something. We’ve got one shot at doing this right and I’m watching out to make sure merchants aren’t displaced and residents’ concerns are factored in,” he said.
Jackson’s primary motivation in running for office is to “restore balance and common sense in city government.”
“Politics is not an all-or-nothing game. No one has an absolutely right of getting 100 percent of what they want,” he said. “I believe in compromise, of working toward the middle. I have no political agenda. I am a problem-solver and I want to do what’s right for the community.”
Having spent 27 years working in the aerospace industry (at Hughes Aircraft, TRW, and Boeing), Jackson is concerned by the potential removal or sequestration of the L.A. Air Force Base.
“It will significantly depress home values and affect city services here in Redondo Beach South Bay,” he said. “If we lose skilled people we likely won’t get them back. Protecting local jobs is a huge priority and shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
He said he will prioritize keeping Redondo Beach safe and balancing the city budget.
Jackson does not support Measure A.
“Measure A doesn’t do what the proponents say it will. It doesn’t shut down the power plant; it just rezones property… No one has the right to infringe upon property rights. It’s a matter of principle.
“No one wants a power plant in their neighborhood [but] it’s about working with the property owner and state regulators sand respecting they will make a good decision based on sound science.”
Bill Brand, currently the District 2 councilmember, has been leading a vocal campaign against the AES power plant on Harbor Drive.
Brand, 55, has a background is in chemical engineering and has worked as a crew captain for American Airlines for 34 years.
He developed an interest in politics in 2001, when he became involved with a movement to arrest the proposed Heart of the City project. When he learned from state authorities in 2011 that “there is capacity to retire a plant the size of AES Redondo in [Redondo Beach],” those were his “marching orders.”
“At that point I realized it was a matter of lobbying and getting the information out there and figuring out the process and how we could stop a new plant from going up in Redondo Beach… There’s no compromised position; there’s only capitulation. I’m not capitulating and neither should the residents. The residents of Redondo should not capitulate,” he said.
While he is passionate about retiring the power plant, Brand said it is not his only concern as council member.
He is also concerned about “leading the revitalization of our waterfront while protecting the views, quality, and life of the residents who live there.”
“Ultimately my platform is balancing the budget and protecting the police and fire services without raising taxes and without dipping into our reserves,” he said. “Getting power plant permanently retired is important as well as the individual resident issues that any local councilmember needs to pay attention – trees, sidewalks, conflict resolution, dealing with parking impacts and traffic impacts, especially concerning the high school in District 2.”
Brand calls himself an environmentalist; he started the South Bay Parkland Conservancy in 2004. He said he is “passionate about making Redondo Beach a better place” and has the “fortitude, background, and track record” to stand up for the city’s residents.