For the first time in 24 years, voters in National City will choose a new City Clerk in November.
Two candidates are vying to replace longtime City Clerk Michael Dalla, who is set to retire. The contenders are Luz Molina, a contract and grant officer at UC San Diego, and Javier Alvarado, a representative and auditor for the Laborers International Union of North America, LUINA Local 89.
For the record:
11:54 AM, Oct. 27, 2020This story previously misnamed the new deputy city clerk position.
Dalla also works as nonelected, records manager, a position the city will revamp and rename deputy city clerk. City Manager Brad Raulston said the city has made a condition offer to fill the new position.
Both Molina and Alvarado believe their jobs make them qualified to be the next city clerk, a part-time post. The winner will serve a four-year term.
“I work with a team to ensure that my organization is transparent, financially prudent and accurate in its reporting,” Alvarado said.
“In my day job, I make sure that university grants for federal and state funding follow the rules — sometimes including thousands of pages — to ensure the appropriate use of our tax dollars,” Molina said.
Molina — who serves on the California Board of Accountancy, which regulates the accounting profession, primarily by overseeing licensing — said her top priorities would be to facilitate public meetings and future elections, promote transparency, uphold the rights of the public to voice their perspectives and ideas, and advocate for diversity on boards and commissions.
A member of the city’s Parks, Recreation & Senior Citizens Advisory Board, Molina said she understands the importance of the community’s “collective knowledge to continue to address the needs of our city.” To encourage civic engagement, she said she would visit schools and speak to community groups, such as Olivewood Gardens and the senior center at the Morgan and Kimball Towers.
Alvarado, a member of the city’s Traffic Safety Committee, said his priorities would include upholding strict enforcement of city ethics laws and posting political campaign contribution data online. He also said he would work to modernize the City Clerk’s Office, which recently was involved in efforts to post more records online and improve webcast services for the public to stream public meetings.
“I am committed to protecting voting rights (and) fair elections, and plan to bring integrity, transparency and professionalism that is free of politics and favoritism to the City Clerk’s Office,” he said.
The race has drawn attention because of the amount of money poured into the contest — toward Alvarado’s campaign in particular. According to the City Clerk’s Office, campaign contribution records for a period through Wednesday show Alvarado has taken in more than $81,000 in contributions, with the largest contributions — ranging from $5,000 to $20,000— pulled in from labor political action committees, including from Sacramento and Los Angeles.
Records show Molina has taken in about $8,000. A $1,800 personal loan was the largest single contribution to her campaign.
In a letter sent to voters this week, Dalla raised concerns over the contributions to Alvarado’s campaign.
“I feel very strongly that fairness and public confidence in the election process are seriously undermined when outside groups or organizations can pour unlimited amounts of money into a local campaign,” he wrote.
He noted that the City Council adopted in April an ordinance that limits contributions, but the rules don’t take effect until 2021.
Dalla also noted that the contributions to Alvarado’s campaign were within law, but he added, “Out-of-town funding of local elections is a serious threat to local control and unfairly tips the scales against other candidates.”
The outgoing city clerk, who said his practice has been not to endorse candidates, stopped short of voicing his support for Molina.
Molina called the contributions to Alvarado’s campaign “obscene.”
“Public office is earned and should never be bought by big-moneyed interests,” she said. “My campaign is about heart. It’s not about money.”
In response to the criticism, Alvarado said, “I am proud to be the choice of working people and it’s shameful that National City’s political establishment is trying to desperately cling on to power by attacking the construction workers, hotel housekeepers and janitors supporting my campaign.”
Meanwhile, longtime City Treasurer Mitch Beauchamp is not facing an opponent. He said his priority will be to work with the City Council to stop spending of money he said the city doesn’t have, particularly on matters he views as “non-governmental” — such as festivities put on by the city. Beauchamp didn’t report campaign contributions.