Robert Kelly and Jorge Lopez are vying to replace Bob Magee, the current Lake Elsinore mayor pro tem, in the city council race for District 5 which encompasses the city’s historic downtown zone to the area southeast of Lake Elsinore.
Magee was originally elected to office in 2003 and has been reelected in 2008, 2012, and again in 2018.
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?
Kelly: As a five-year resident to District 5, I have not seen the change I have anticipated. I want my wife to feel safe when pumping gas as well as going to the local supermarkets.
Lopez: When my family and I emigrated to the U.S., a lot of people helped us and showed us kindness and compassion. It seemed like our culture was built on taking care of each other. In church, I volunteered to help our community. When I turned 18 years old, I joined the U.S. Marine Corps as a way to further serve the people of my adopted country. Recently, my wife and I became foster parents to provide a safe haven to children awaiting reunification with their parents. Since then, we have adopted two wonderful little girls. District 5 is made up of the oldest and newest parts of the city. The city of Lake Elsinore is one of the fastest growing cities in our region and it has a very diverse population. It needs a representative that can move the city forward while ensuring no one is left behind.
Magee: I want to continue the progress we have made making our community safer. I originally ran for office after a walk-by shooting occurred on my street in broad daylight in front of my son. It took 40 minutes for a deputy to arrive and secure the scene. The shooters ran loose in our neighborhood and escaped out into the lake bottom and were not apprehended until the next day … when they arrived at school. At that time our city population had tripled in just 10 years while our law enforcement staffing had not increased at all. Public safety must continue to be our No. 1 priority, and I have worked to significantly increase the size of our force and crime has gone down. We have also built three fire stations since I was elected, emergency response times for our public safety professionals is now less than four minutes. While we have made substantial progress, we can always do better, and I want to build on the momentum we have created and continue to move our community forward.
In the upcoming term, what are your top three goals to address or accomplish for the city and/or your district?
Kelly: 1. Homeless, crime and drug use (public safety) 2. Roads and landscape 3. Economic development (Help bring businesses back to our city).
Lopez: 1. I would like to establish a public university that will focus on high-tech and medical careers that will have a hospital to train and offer health services to our communities. Because it will be publicly funded, I will work to make sure the health care costs are minimal, if not free, to the public. 2. I will work to build/replace our aging and outdated infrastructure to accommodate charging stations, solar panels and other renewable energies. 3. It has become obvious that everyone needs a fast and reliable connection to the internet and I will work to integrate 5G technology to the city of Lake Elsinore to provide it to everyone in the city.
Magee: Increase our financial commitment to public safety (i.e., police, fire and animal control services) in order to further reduce emergency response times. Reduce homelessness to virtual zero. Continue to improve our transportation infrastructure by completing the I-15/Railroad Canyon Road Interchange, beginning construction on the I/15/Main Street Interchange and continue to repave and protect our existing roadway system within the entire city.
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?
Kelly: I bring an open mind and a business attitude and someone who thinks outside the box. I feel communication with existing businesses and residents is mandatory. I am not your average politician rather a blue collar, hard-working business owner.
Lopez: I bring the experiences of an immigrant, Marine Corps veteran, essential worker and parent of young children to the council. I am one of the people. I may also be the only Hispanic council member in a city where Hispanics are the majority.
Magee: I bring a unique combination of both public and private sector experience to the council. I have worked in municipal government, I have designed and permitted recycling facilities, commercial and industrial projects and managed mining and composting operations while in the private sector, and I have even been a partner in my own development company. So, I understand how to look at an issue from a number of different viewpoints which allows me to creatively seek solutions and work in collaboration with my colleagues.
What are the two biggest issues facing the city of Lake Elsinore in the next four years that you hope to address?
Kelly: Fiscal sustainability. Homelessness.
Lopez: We will always be working to improve, expand and renew our infrastructure, attract better paying jobs and strengthen our fire fighting forces, but I also believe the two biggest issues facing the city of Lake Elsinore is affordable housing and helping our homeless population keep a home.
Magee: Our two biggest issues moving forward will continue to be rising public safety costs and the challenges of our homeless population given the current legislative climate. Our public safety costs have risen annually at a rate of 8%. While our annual revenue has only increased at a rate of 4%. It is an unsustainable trajectory and we must work to manage the increase in costs while seeking creative revenue solutions. The strain placed on our system by the homeless population includes pollution of our open spaces, strain on resources including public safety, public works and code enforcement and the negative perception this population creates on our overall quality of life. We need to continue with our philosophy of a “hand up not a handout” and work to help those who want out of the cycle of hopelessness. That includes counseling, transitional housing, job training and behavioral health services. And for those who do not want to move along through these programs they must either agree to make a lifestyle change or we must move them to an institutionalized setting.
What qualifications or personality/intellectual traits do you have that make you appropriate or the right person for the job?
Kelly: I am a successful business owner who uses biblical values to help guide me in all my decisions. This has helped me develop a culture of honor, integrity and servanthood in the workplace and change the culture of the construction industry one project at a time.
Lopez: In me, the people will not find a politician. They will find a voice to represent their needs in the council, a partner who will work with them to find a solution to their needs and a servant who will ask to be held accountable. I know the plight of the newly immigrated population, the invisible pains of a veteran and their loved ones, the struggles of families with young children and the insecurities our business people face because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I hold bachelor’s degrees in computer information science and film, television and new media from San Diego State University, which I received while working full time. I have been fortunate in finding a hand up at every stage in my life. Should I have the honor of being elected to the city of Lake Elsinore, I hope to be a hand up to all who want and need it. They can find me on Facebook Jorge Lopez for Lake Elsinore and at my website: http://www.JorgeLopezForLakeElsinore.com.
Magee: I have the ability to listen. I believe that a city council member must be able to listen to all of their constituents and work to find them answers, solutions and direction. Campaigning is about talking, being an elected official is about listening and responding. It is my job to listen, report and reply. While I certainly can’t make everybody happy, I have always worked to identify pathways for success to help each person that has sought me out for assistance. I want to continue to do this work, because I still believe that government can do great things and that we are here to help people with problems that are larger than themselves.
Editor’s Note: In the original version of this story, Valley News reported that Magee would be running for reelection for the first time. That is incorrect. He was originally elected to office in 2003 and reelected in 2008, 2012, and 2016.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at email@example.com.