Irmalinda Osuna said she is seeking a position on the Upland City Council “because recent events impacting my community have made me realize that the city council is out of touch with the needs and sensitivity of my district. I recently led a campaign to save our local park. Through a three-week campaign where we organized, communicated with and activated the community, I discovered residents felt under-served and neglected. We saved our park and it was then that people urged me to run as they yearned for new leadership. Saving the park helped me realize that I have the ability and passion to engage with the community.”
This is the first election in which Upland’s council contests are being conducted by-district. Throughout the city’s 112 year history, members of the council were elected at large by all of the voters registered in the city. The city has now been quartered into four districts that are roughly described as northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast quadrants, districts 1, 2, 3 and 4, respectively. The mayor is still to be elected at-large by all of the city’s residents eligible to vote. Henceforth, a single council member who lives within one of the city’s respective districts will represent that district. Only residents within each respective district can vote for their district council member and they will not be eligible to vote for council members outside their own district, though all residents registered to vote will be able to vote for the mayor and city treasurer.
In this year’s election, Osuna is running against incumbent councilman Gino Filippi, elected at-large in 2010 and reelected in 2014. Also vying in the Third District is Ricky Felix, who ran unsuccessfully in the at-large Upland council race in 2016.
Osuna has lived in District 3 for fifteen years, where she raised two boys who went to local schools. She cites her community involvement, educational background and professional experience as qualifications to serve as a councilwoman.
“I was involved in the community, first as a PTA board member, and I volunteered as a band mom for the Upland High School marching band, all while working a full-time job,” said Osuna. “I earned a bachelor of science degree in organizational management at the University of LaVerne. I am also certified in project management with the Project Management Institute. I worked twenty years for a multi-national tech company. Throughout my tenure with the company I learned, from high caliber management professionals, tools and methodologies on how to assess needs, engage with stakeholders, how to conduct stakeholder workshops/training, effective stakeholder communications and how to keep stakeholders informed and engaged in project implementations. These same tools and methods can be applied in the public sector, especially in local policy decision making.”
She is distinguished from her competitors for the District 3 council position, Osuna said, by the consideration that “My professional background gives me the skills to bring the community together, including many of the voices who have been left out of the process, to solve challenges as a community. I have demonstrated my commitment to the district as well as my skills with our successful campaign to save Cabrillo Park. I am also the only female candidate, so I can view issues and community engagement from the point of view of a busy, concerned mother.”
Osuna said, “I have two sons in college and like many residents struggle with cost of living while paying for their tuitions. I am not taking any corporate donations for my campaign. It is grassroots-oriented and I think all city council campaigns should apply the same principle. I have fresh perspectives on how we can modernize, how we engage and how we can communicate with citizens. I’ve volunteered and have donated my time doing outreach, both locally in Upland as a PTA board member and band mom for the Upland Highland Regiment Band and in my profession as a volunteer with the Project Management Institute California Inland Empire Chapter.”
Osuna said she considered “a lack of transparency and trust in the current city council, a lack of community engagement, homelessness, crumbling infrastructure, the lack of road repairs, poorly maintained yards and aging homes” to be the major issues facing the city.
Osuna said the city already had, or could create, the means to redress those issues. “With regards to transparency and trust, we need new leaders that will work independently and without any outside influences and start engaging with their constituents,” she said. “The new districts will enable that as each council member will work within their targeted area. Additionally, it’s imperative that each elected councilmember do as much community outreach and advocacy as possible,” she said, saying such focus on issues of consequence to the city’s residents was more important than attending “ribbon-cutting ceremonies.”
With regard to homelessness, Osuna said, “We need to invest in a grant writer to make sure we don’t leave money on the table from available state and federal grants. Overall, I would assess the scope of the problem and information about Upland’s current Community Response Team Program and determine what the gaps are in terms of funds and resources. It’s important to increase collaboration with all levels of government, local non-profits and churches, and run a rigorous campaign to recruit volunteers. Our city also needs to partner with Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga and establish a tri-city program to provide mental health services. This approach is more efficient and cost effective. I would also help build community/police partnerships to ensure our neighborhoods are patrolled and taking into account that all people should be treated with dignity and respect. We also need to address the root causes locally to prevent this from happening in the first place such as affordable housing, good paying jobs and mental health resources.”
The city’s crumbling infrastructure, poorly maintained roads and yards and dilapidating housing stock could in part be overcome, she said, by “investing in a grant writer to capitalize on available grants, by prioritizing improvements in older communities over newer areas, and involving citizens in the decision-making process and collecting as much feedback to ensure capital improvements are designated in the areas that need it the most. We should improve data gathering so we can reference what areas need repairs the most and implement a process that is more customer-service oriented.”
The city can reduce its costs and therefore the burden on taxpayers, Osuna said, “by requiring staff to increase efficiency using current technology and thus reduce operational cost, introducing participatory budgeting so citizens are involved in the budget decision making and thus set the priorities that align with citizens’ needs, and considering reducing the number of consultants in evaluating what costs should be offloaded from the city budget. Do we really need to have city employees handle [the city’s franchised tax hauler] Burrtec’s residential billing? Do we need to pay to maintain a local fire station [in the aftermath of the county’s takeover of the city’s fire protection service]?”
She said the city could increase revenue by “revitalizing Downtown Upland to draw in more consumers. We could make it a social hub with a local movie theater, nightlife venues, cafés, bookstores, etc. We could promote a ‘shop Upland’ campaign. We could promote local entrepreneurship among youth and local residents by hiring our youth into available positions. And we can keep spending in Upland by promoting local hiring. My platform also includes an emphasis on supporting entrepreneurship and small businesses to build local ownership, increase city revenue and local economic activity.”
She said community outreach is an important means to the end of a vibrant community. “We have many Upland residents that have time to volunteer and care about local issues, especially homelessness,” she said. “We need to do a better job of engaging and recruiting local volunteers because City Hall and councilmembers cannot do this alone.”
Osuna emphasized her experience relating to government.
“In my previous role as a project manager for Hewlett Packard, I led various data migration projects within the finance division and specifically for the US public sector unit. Our role was to ensure the project plan followed the Federal Acquisition Regulations System. This was very complex and we coordinated with internal acquisitions experts to ensure we met federal requirements for the procurement and management of contractors. Currently, I work for the State of California as a government contract analyst and part of my role is to audit task orders and invoices to verify they comply with California’s Division of Procurement and Contracts and all federal and state procurement and labor laws.”
Osuna said, “The role of the city council is also to do community outreach and that requires speaking in public forums. I am a Toastmasters alumnus and also have done academia outreach on behalf of the Project Management Institute California Inland Valley Chapter where we promote project management as a profession for university students.”
Osuna is not an Upland High School graduate, but her two sons, now aged 21 and 18, are. She has a bachelor of science degree in organizational management from the University of La Verne. She has been married for 22 years.
Further information about Osuna is available on the League of Women Voters platform called “Voters Edge,” at http://votersedge.org/ca/en/ballot/election/area/73/contests/contest/18588/date/143428?election_authority_id=36