La Cañada Flintridge City Council candidate Terry Walker has the benefit of on-the-job experience.
Walker, 66, is completing a five-year council term, to which she was elected after serving four years on the city’s Public Works and Traffic Commission and three years on the Planning Commission.
“I don’t think it’s the issues that set the candidates apart,” Walker said in a recent breakfast interview at Panera Bread. “I think we all have the same priorities. I think we all have our heart in the right place. I think we love our community. I do think the big difference is experience … and I think the knowledge is cumulative.”
Walker is one of four people running for council, which will have three seats open. In the March 3 election, her opponents are incumbent Leonard Pieroni as well as city Public Works and Traffic Commission chair Keith Eich and former Planning Commission chair Rick Gunter. If Pieroni decides to halt his re-election campaign, having announced last week he is temporarily suspending it due to a health scare, three candidates would be actively vying for three seats — although Pieroni’s name will remain on the ballot.
Walker said she still has candidates’ mailers from a couple of decades ago, and it’s “always the same issues,” including public safety, fiscal responsibility and schools. She said those topics deserve to be at the top of everyone’s list, along with infrastructure.
“This is just the ongoing business of the council,” Walker said. “So I don’t look at those as a problem, I look at those as an ongoing concern that we can never let our guard down.”
In particular, she believes Sacramento’s directives and proposals — such as Senate Bill 50, which opponents fear would end single-family zoning— are a big issue for LCF and other cities.
She said she takes issue with “their feeling that one size fits all in making these mandates that take away from local control and they don’t fit every city the same.
“What’s good for La Cañada certainly isn’t good for Pasadena. … The difference in demographics, size and everything else and then placing these mandates on us without the financial ability to comply with some of them.”
Walker said council members have to be in touch with local representatives — such as state Sen. Anthony Portantino and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman — about SB 50 and noted that Portantino “stopped [the bill] last year in the Appropriations Committee. He’s still not a fan of it, so we’re fortunate to have him up there.” Walker noted that she has built working relationships with such leaders.
Last year, she was recognized by Friedman as the 43rd Assembly District woman of the year, and in 2008 she was selected by the LCF Chamber of Commerce as the city’s businesswoman of the year.
As for public safety, she said she doesn’t downplay the local uptick in residential burglaries.
“We do need to support our Sheriff’s Department however they need the help,” Walker said. “They have upped their patrols and are looking into the new Flock readers [license-plate reading cameras] at the entryway of the city. I think that will be helpful. We already have the two mobile license plate readers, which have been helpful.
“Just adding patrol cars won’t solve the problem, because we can’t be everywhere at once. What we have to do in speaking with the sheriffs … we have to let the bad guys know that if you come into La Cañada you’re going to get caught. And build that reputation so they will [say], ‘We don’t want to go up there.’”
She added the department has been successful in arresting burglary crews and gangs, but it inevitably seems that when crime decreases another group comes into LCF and the process starts over again.
“I think these readers are going to help, and I’m excited about them,” Walker said.
With regard to schools, she said it was not the City Council’s job to dictate policy but the school district’s.
“It’s our job to join forces with them and support them however we can in programming their policies,” Walker said. “We do that through the Joint Use Committee, which I’m on. Some people think it’s just playing fields — it’s not. It’s about the traffic around schools. … We did things like spend all last summer around Paradise Canyon [Elementary School].” She said the effort included town hall gatherings and meeting with neighbors and parents to try to design a safer area for the kids.
“That kind of dialogue goes on all the time and will continue to go on as these issues come up or as people get ideas and say, ‘This would improve safety.’ … We look at every one of those and work closely with the schools to do that,” Walker said.
She also plans to continue to work closely with the parents group LCF for Healthy Air about the controversial Devil’s Gate Dam project, also known as the Big Dig. The project’s goal has been to remove 1.7 million cubic yards of sediment behind the dam at Hahamongna Watershed Park to increase flood protection and restore habitat within the Arroyo Seco Watershed; so far, about 445,000 cubic yards have been hauled away. The project has raised concerns about local air quality, particularly the effect on children’s health.
“It’s kind of quieted down right now because there’s no hauling in the winter months, but it’s going to start up again and we’re going to have to keep on top of that,” Walker said. Sediment removal ended for the year on Nov. 15 and is due to resume in May.
As for her accomplishments in office, Walker said she is proud of her efforts in a variety of areas, including helping to stop the controversial 710 Freeway tunnel project.
“I remember when I was first elected I had a couple of people say to me, ‘This is your No. 1 priority,” Walker said. “This had been going on for decades. … We fought very hard to have language put into the bill that excluded/precluded any monies from going to the 710 Freeway. And it was a fight. But the real heroes in that story were the No 710 Action Committee. That was a full-time job for those people.”
She is also proud of the new City Hall, which was officially opened on March 19 — “Our whole council worked together and was committed to that project, and I think it shows” — as well as the continuing effort to bring sound walls to the 210 Freeway and involvement in the La Cañada Flintridge Sister Cities Association.
Walker moved to the city in 1981 with her husband, Woody — the couple have two adult children — and has been the practice manager and owner of La Cañada Pet Clinic with him since 2010. She finds that the city has changed a lot, but its character hasn’t.
“I think that is the magic of our town and that is the magic of governing our town … to move forward while keeping our core values and [keeping] La Cañada the La Cañada we love,” she said.
*Today The Outlook continues a weekly series of profiles of the four City Council candidates in the March 3 election. Keith Eich was profiled on Jan. 9 and Rick Gunter was profiled on Jan. 16.