Two challengers vie for Lake Elsinore City Council seat in District 2

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From left to right: Steve Manos, Edwin Castro, and Michael Carroll. Courtesy photos

Stave Manos, city councilmember for Lake Elsinore’s District 2, has been serving the community since 2016 and is running for reelection for the first time, while facing challengers Michael Carroll and Edwin Castro.

Valley News posed the same series of questions to each candidate via email and each candidate returned the questionnaire with their responses.

What is your motivation for wishing to serve the city of Lake Elsinore and more specifically, the district you serve?

Michael Carroll is running for the District 2 seat on the Lake Elsinore city Council. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Carroll: My wife and I decided to raise a family here and start multiple businesses in Lake Elsinore. I serve our community through our city’s planning commission which I’ve served on for the last four years, and through nonprofit organizations like Rotary Club and others. I love our city and care about its future. I’m running for city council to shape our city’s future. We are in desperate need of leadership that doesn’t involve the pursuit of the next political rung but leading our city into the future. I will work to ensure our district receives the attention and resources we need.

Edwin Castro is running for the District 2 seat on the Lake Elsinore city Council. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Castro: I would like to have the opportunity to represent my district and serve in a more direct role in my community. I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering in many local and county organizations throughout the years including Veterans Affairs, LGBTQ networks, city and coastal cleanups and election outreach programs. I feel there is a lack of community engagement in my district. For too long we continue to see the same circle of figures being reelected, and some even being unopposed. I wish to change this cycle. A new wave of voters will come out to the polls this year, and many of my neighbors and I agree, we are not happy with our current representatives at City Hall. We must engage and promote a diverse and inclusive culture, and I am confident I am the right choice for leading this effort.

Steve Manos, incumbent Lake Elsinore District 2 city council member, is running for reelection. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Manos: Having been raised in Lake Elsinore, I have enjoyed the great fortune of living out a childhood dream to make my hometown a better place to live. We’ve made great progress over the years and I would like to continue this work.

In the upcoming term, what are your top three goals to address or accomplish for the city and/or your district?

Carroll: Public safety is my top priority. As a city councilmember, I will prioritize spending to fully fund law enforcement to put more officers on our streets, reduce gang and drug activity and improve 911 emergency response times. My second goal is attracting new businesses to our community. Local businesses are key to a strong and vibrant community. As a planning commissioner, I’ve worked to streamline the process to allow businesses to open and grow in Lake Elsinore. We must roll back the red tape and burdensome ordinances that thwart job growth here in our city. Third, District 2 hasn’t had a leader who has listened to the concerns of our residents. It is my priority to ensure our district is represented and the issues and concerns of our residents are not only heard but addressed. That is my commitment to our residents.

Castro: Public safety, diversity and fiscal responsibility. Homelessness continues to be a topic of great concern coming from our neighbors. The city of Lake Elsinore has done a wonderful job with creating a task force and formed strong partnerships with the Lake Elsinore police department and county sheriff. I would like to grow this taskforce and encourage our community to volunteer and help advocate this task force. We can also create neighborhood watch programs to assist our friends at the Lake Elsinore police department. Tackling this issue will require community engagement from all of us.

Our budget. A very large part of the city funds goes to our partners at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. We want to consider an option that the people of Lake Elsinore can decide that will help the city gain revenue and provide the funding we need to help maintain our streets and keep our city clean. Should another natural disaster occur, we want to ensure we have the tools and resources to tackle any emergency and crime. A measure passed by the voters can open many windows that will provide goods and services to our city.

Diversity. Our neighboring city Temecula has an amazing Pride event each year, I’d like to see Lake Elsinore create something similar to that. I think a Pride event added to Elsinore’s amazing list of community events would be an amazing thing to see and many people from our neighboring cities would come and show support. I would love to get the conversation started and get working on this project.

Manos: The top three goals during this next term is to continue driving crime rates down, enacting projects to improve lake water quality and help restore businesses and jobs to the city following the pandemic. There are many other goals, but these are three most important goals at this time.

What do you bring to the council that is lacking if any? Or what do you bring to the table that makes the council better or more well-rounded?

Carroll: As a small-business owner I understand how to balance a budget and as a city planning commissioner, I’ve seen firsthand the red tape and regulations that need to be cut to spur economic development by attracting businesses to our community. My experience in the private sector helps me to understand the issues our residents are facing and lead the city in finding solutions to help our city and our residents.

Castro: I like the idea of having council representatives from different working backgrounds, it seems most council members are either business owners or retirees, you never really see younger members serving in the city council. I’d like to see more of the working class in these positions. We can learn a lot from the experiences of those working the late shift, or the construction worker. There is a large group of people that feel they aren’t being represented. We need more teachers, laborers, stock managers and groceries clerks jumping in for these elected positions. I believe with diversity in the working class we can attract and engage a new wave of people who aren’t so engaged to local politics.

Manos: The Lake Elsinore community knows me best for communicating with the public in an open, transparent, professional and informative way; especially through social media. While going on the record in-writing to answer questions in real time from disgruntled residents in an uncontrolled format is normally avoided by most elected officials, this area is where I seem to shine.

My small-business experience spanning two decades helps me bring a real-world acumen that applies to governance in many ways: budgets, marketing, customer service efforts, technology, negotiation and recruiting are all unique perspectives that I bring to the table in service to the city.

What are the two biggest issues facing the city of Lake Elsinore in the next four years that you hope to address?

Carroll: Two of the biggest issues facing Lake Elsinore over the next four years would be the financial recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing our roadways and infrastructure. Many cities are facing severe financial unrest due to loss of revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must balance our budget and be good stewards of our local tax dollars to ensure financial stability coming out of this pandemic and into the future. Additionally, we must encourage growth in our local businesses and attract new small businesses to our community helping to spur economic recovery. The second issue our city faces as more families find their piece of happiness in our city is investment in infrastructure and roadways. We must maintain, repair and expand roads throughout Lake Elsinore to alleviate traffic congestion. In order for families to get to and from work and around town safely and in a timely manner, we must address traffic issues throughout our community.

Castro: Lake Elsinore is considered one of the fastest growing cities in Southern California. I want to ensure we have a bright future ahead of us. We have to compete with local cities and see what they are doing, what’s working for them? What hasn’t? etc. Before we look at these tasks, we must look at our current issues with traffic congestion, homelessness and our well-being of our beautiful lake.

Our lake itself will be our flagship attraction. We can do so many great things and build around it I feel. I would like to see more of what was created at Launch Point. Lake Elsinore has so much potential for growth, and I am confident one day it will be a serious contender where people can live, work and of course, play.

Manos: The pandemic has erased our city’s efforts to lower employment rates, ruined businesses and, in turn, drastically reduced funding for critical programs plus the staff that work tirelessly to improve our community. This chain reaction threatens projects, public safety and quality of life issues where the city has been making great strides in recent years. Missteps in recovery could plunge the city into a downward spiral that can take generations to recover from. Emerging from the pandemic in an intelligent manner is the most critical issue facing the city.

Growth management is the second biggest issue facing the city. The city is primarily responsible for properly planning transportation infrastructure, parks, trails, activities, public safety resources and community services. Residents may have noticed millions of dollars invested toward numerous improvements throughout the city in recent years. New roads, road widening, interchange upgrades, traffic signals, sidewalks, bike lanes, new parks, proper parking lots, art installations, as well as improvements to public facilities such as the senior center, teen center, cultural center and City Hall are all part of the growth management plan. In the next four years we will see a new post office, library, more shopping amenities and possibly even a new hospital. This improvement is all due to the professionalism and careful planning by our current core of city leaders and staff.

What qualifications or personality/intellectual traits do you have that make you appropriate or the right person for the job?

Carroll: I am a team player. I will work with my colleagues on the city council and anyone who is interested in moving our city forward. I believe partnership with community organizations, the business community, and residents will help us address the issues facing Lake Elsinore, and I am the candidate to build those long-term partnerships.

Castro: I believe it’s important to have representatives who are able to listen and reach across the aisle to find solutions and discover the needs of our community. I feel I would be a great asset to the city council team. I had the privilege to serve on a city commission for Escondido, appointed by Mayor Sam Ahbed. With this responsibility, we were able to partner up with members of our city and engage our community and create outreach initiatives to increase community turnout at events. I’m a community ambassador for a financial institution, serving on minority chapters, veterans, LGBTQ network and Green Earth team chapters. These chapters are a great way to be involved in the community, and I’ve had the pleasure in meeting and working with many people throughout the years.

It’s important that we can reach out to groups of people who otherwise feel they are being left out and letting them know they have a voice. I will bring this representation to the table and work hard to promote a diverse and inclusive culture at City Hall.

Manos: The city’s recent track record of success during my tenure is the best evidence for why I’m the best candidate in the race to lead Lake Elsinore during these uncertain times. The city of Lake Elsinore has been making steady, measurable improvement in every key performance metric – crime, homelessness, economic development, median household income, median home values – during the last eight years. This progress marks a significant change compared to the stagnant or declining indicators in the decades before 2012.

It can’t be overstated that the pandemic has created a serious economic setback this year. These setbacks can be overcome with thoughtful policymaking in the years to come. World class cities are created over time, but only with a core group of leaders that share a common vision of success.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.