Hernandez Looking To Parlay Concern & Involvement Into Chino Hills Council Berth

Debra Hernandez said she believes she is prepared to assume a position on the Chino Hills City Council based upon her past community participation, most conspicuously as a member of the city’s public works commission. Her commission work, she emphasized, is just one expression of her passion for the city.
“I have been very involved consistently over a number of years now in different aspects of the city,” she said. “I think that shows a dedication and commitment to the city. We have a wonderful slate of candidates, but I don’t know that all of them have been as involved as I have. I feel that by my commitment and the service, I have earned [the privilege of advancing to the city council]. I can point to any number of organizations I have been actively involved in. The reason I am running is I want to give back to the city.  I believe I can make a difference and have a positive impact.”
Hernandez said her early and consistent efforts to prevent Southern California Edison from erecting 197-foot high electrical cable-bearing towers across the Chino Hills landscape was an illustration of her dedication to the city.  Those towers were approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in 2009 as part of the Tehachapi Renewable Energy Project, which is to  consist of what is planned as being the world’s largest wind energy farm in Kern County and the means of transporting the electricity generated there to the Los Angeles Basin. “I co-founded C.A.R.E., which has now transitioned into Hope For The Hills, which is carrying on that fight,” she said. “I think the Tehachapi project is the largest and most damaging challenge facing us. Very few people were thinking of it in those terms in 2007. Most people at that time could not envision the impact it was going to have. But those of us involved in C.A.R.E. did see that eventual impact. I believe the folks of Chino Hills want that type of leadership, someone with that vision, to lead our city forward.”
Hernandez exhibited an open perspective on city government’s capacity to both benefit and harm its citizens. On one hand, she pointed out, she had participated in the process of government as a member of a key municipal panel.
“I have been very involved in a lot of community aspects, including as a member of the public works commission,” she said. “I was appointed by [councilman] Bill Kruger.”
It is Kruger, who resigned in September for personal reasons that have not been made clear,  whom Hernandez and the three others in the race – Ray Marquez, Jesse Singh and Rossana Mitchell – are vying to replace.
“It is critical that our quality of life be maintained and that we have a city government open to the needs and wishes of its residents,” Hernandez said. “I believe I have demonstrated that through my commitment and energy on the public works commission.”
Conversely, Hernandez said, the city of Chino Hills has not always lived up to the ideal of serving its residents and has in some instances abused its authority in dealing with certain individuals, she said. If elected to the city council, she promised to be a bulwark against municipal government bullying its constituents.
“I think we also have a challenge with how we are addressing issues that create a conflict between city government and residents,” she said. “I am concerned that we have ended up in litigation with three different families and sent two residents to jail. I believe we need to find a way of resolving these issues without becoming litigious with folks who live in our city.”
Hernandez’ reference in one instance was to Charles and Lisa Price, the proprietors of the no-kill animal shelter Priceless Pets, against whom the city attorney’s office filed misdemeanor charges relating to the couple keeping 27 dogs on their 13-acre dog rescue operation at 2810 English Road in contravention of an ordinance prohibiting more than nine animals from being hosted on a property, no matter its size.
Hernandez pointed out that the city had selectively prosecuted the Prices, who were convicted and fined $269.20 each, while other property owners with animals exceeding the city’s limit have not been cited and have gone unprosecuted.
“The city took a long time to look at the equestrian overly [i.e., that area of Chino Hills where more intensive agricultural uses are to be tolerated],” she said. “Why did we pinpoint one family with dogs, one family with an inappropriate number of animals when there are dozens or maybe even hundreds of others?”
Another of her references was to the circumstance involving the Moe family, against whose property on the east side of Peyton Drive south of Eucalyptus Avenue, the city has waged an on-again, off-again eminent domain condemnation effort to seize their property as right-of-way for the Peyton Drive expansion.
Hernandez noted that the Moes and the city appeared to have come to a settlement only to have “the city hand them documents that they had not agreed to.”
Hernandez’s third reference was to a lawsuit filed against the city of Chino Hills by Michael and Kimberly Denton, residents of a home on Hunters Gate Circle purchased from Gloria Vitagliano in 1999, who were cited by the city’s code enforcement division because the furthest extension of their backyard including a pool and spa was encroaching on city-owned open space.  The city, which was apparently unaware of the encroachment, allowed the intrusion to stand for more than a decade before seeking to have the Denton’s remove their pool and spa.
“Why did we go after a homeowner that encroached on property set on land for public views 12 years after it was built?” Hernandez asked. “Why this one? There are others.  Is it we can’t work out a solution or that we won’t work out a solution?”
Hernandez said the city in many such cases overreaches itself. “I am not pleased with how we react sometimes,” she said. “It seems we have dug in our heels many times when we should not have. We should not go after residents when we have other options. Our city is our residents. We have to honor them.”
She can be distinguished from the other candidates in the same way she can be distinguished from politicians in general, Hernandez said. She said she would not use yard signs in her “grassroots” campaign because she considers them to be “visual blight.” And she said she “certainly believes in term limits. You won’t see Debra Hernandez serving five or six terms. I think eight years on the council is sufficient. There are lots of other avenues to contribute to the city. I believe we need to keep the council fresh, with new and innovative ideas. I could probably live with someone serving 12 years, but I think three terms should be the maximum. That sets me apart from the others. We need to have term limits as part of the city charter. I don’t think you are going to hear any of the other candidates say that.”
Hernandez is employed as the facilities manager at Toyota Motors in Torrance.
“I think Chino Hills is the neatest place on earth,” she said. “I make a 100-mile round trip every day because I want to live here.”
Hernandez graduated from Monrovia High School and attended Pasadena City College, where she studied business law and economics. She has lived in Chino Hills since 1995. She is married with one daughter.

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