Newly Re-Elected Councilmen Focus on Unfinished Business

With comfortable mandates to back them up, Dr. Steven Huang and Steve Talt both identified their goals for the next five years as they serve their second and final terms on San Marino’s City Council.
In interviews a few days after winning re-election recently, Huang and Talt expressed a desire to solve a handful of ongoing riddles and set up the council’s junior members for the future. The to-do list includes finding an answer for aging property like the Stoneman Center — as well as the Recreation Department that occupies it — and establishing continuity among the city’s department heads.
“I appreciate the voters for giving us another chance, and I think it shows that we were doing the right thing for the last four years,” said Huang, who is wrapping up his first round as mayor. “I’m very happy with the result and I’ll continue doing the same thing I’ve been doing for four years.”
Huang had 1,571 votes and Talt had 1,649 in last week’s election, in which no one else qualified to be on the ballot with them. One resident, Andrew Ko, did become qualified as a write-in candidate after the filing deadline, but only 49 write-in ballots were turned. The two senior members of the City Council will serve through 2024 because of the city’s plan to transition its election cycle to the even-year schedule run by the county.
Within that time, Huang and Talt each are expected to serve as mayor for a year. Assuming the informal pattern holds, Talt — who served his first hitch as mayor last year — will likely serve again in 2023, with Huang following again in 2024. Although mayors will set their own agendas for the City Council for their respective terms, Talt said he hoped to continue addressing some ongoing business in the meantime.
“I think most certainly I would like to find a resolution to the Stoneman issue and a resolution to the Recreation issue,” he said in a phone interview. “I started a lot of that process while I was mayor, and given all of the steps you have to go through to get anything done in any bureaucracy, it took longer than anticipated.”
Huang, too, said he hoped to arrive at a conclusion for the Stoneman Center, which the city purchased from the local school district years ago and still requires numerous code and safety updates. He added that he’d also like to explore work on the San Marino Center.
“People have been complaining that it’s outdated, but that will require some planning,” Huang said.
With the dust appearing to settle from a period of turnover in various city departments and policy overhauls from what was then a largely new council, Talt said he’d like to nail down some long-term continuity in the city’s administration. He observed that the diversity of background and thought among city officials makes for livelier discussions and more considered solutions for city isues.
“Sometimes when you bring people in from the outside, they’re going to bring a new thought to the table, and how they did it someplace else,” he said. “While I constantly remind staff that somewhere else is not San Marino, it’s nevertheless important to gather as much information as possible to know whether we’re doing something as efficiently as possible.”
Huang noted that preservation was a key issue when he first ran for the office in 2015, and although that hasn’t faded, the number of other issues that he’s had to help solve has prepared him for a diversified second term.
“Back then I was thinking about how to preserve San Marino and how to prevent ‘mansionization,’” Huang said. “It’s been kind of like running a company with all the uncertainties. We’ve been lucky, because we’ve had to make a lot of decisions and it’s so-far-so-good. We’ve been blessed.”
Talt concurred that his goal in continuing to mold San Marino will be finding that sweet spot of modernizing the way the city operates while maintaining the tranquil and slow-to-change way of life that draws families to move here. He added he will “continue battling Sacramento” as state lawmakers continue to consider laws governing local zoning and planning codes.
“It’s what I was elected to do,” he said. “I wanted to bring focus back on what was important to the San Marino resident. I think that we started a lot of things in motion to get there. We’ll continue to tinker with that and a lot of things we’ve started. The one thing I wanted to make sure was that we modernize City Hall and yet not change the way we positively interact with the community.”

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