Salabaj Cites City Malaise In Making RC Council Run

Chris Salabaj, who grew up in Rancho Cucamonga but initiated his political career in the megalopolis of Los Angeles, has returned to his hometown, where he is now seeking a berth on the city council.
Salabaj, 44, is one of seven candidates vying for two open positions in this year’s race, running against incumbents Lynne Kennedy and Sam Spagnolo and challengers Clarence Olson, Amira Abdelmageed, Erick Jimenez and Curtis Pitts.
Salabaj says it is his perception that there are two major issues facing the city at present.
“One is the safety of our city and the other is the state of our recreational amenities,” he said. A number of residents have expressed to him the view that both public safety and the city’s public facilities are “not being supported as well as they should. People are saying our elected officials should be making decisions based on what is best for the people who live in the city and not special interests.”
Salabaj, who is professionally involved in sports coaching and education as well as being involved locally in sports programs, said those he associates with express the view that “the city is neglecting our sports and recreation facilities and we need them to focus on reviving those as part of the decision-making process.”
What the city is plagued by at this present time, Salabaj said, is “a lack of leadership.”
Of the current city council, Salabaj said, “I don’t have a beef with any of them personally.” Nevertheless, he said, four of them have “strong connections to the fire department.” While he said he considered the fire department to be a key component in the city’s public safety formula, “any time you have a majority that has sided with a certain group, it is a red flag.”
The consideration that three of council members are retired firefighters pulling hefty public pensions as a consequence of their firefighting careers, that a fourth council member has turned early to the firefighters’ union for campaign fund support, that three of the city’s highest paid employees in the last year were fire department employees and that the city is now paying its retired firefighters more in pensions than it is spending in funding operations of the entire fire department including current salaries, equipment, fuel, facilities and supplies, Salabaj said, has thrown the city’s priorities out of balance and “is of concern to me.”
As a consequence of the City of Rancho Cucamonga’s commitment to the “status quo,” including maintaining generous salaries and pensions for city employees, Salabaj said, “We are now seeing no visible improvement in the city. We are standing still. Nothing has changed. We have seen a growth in youth organizations that would require the city to expand its facilities. We need to improve what we have and build more. But the city has gone the other way. I am involved in AYSO [American Youth Soccer Organization]. The city came to us and told us they want us to maintain the fields. That tells me there has been an obvious misuse of city funds. People pay taxes because they expect those amenities to be taken care of. There hasn’t been any creativity in the current city council’s thought process. Everyone is stuck in the sand and not going anywhere. When I talk to the parents, they want new facilities.”
Salabaj said he is the right candidate at this point because he is prepared to assume the authority and make up for the shortcomings of the current political status quo.
“First of all, education and experience is never weighted in as far as selecting who our leaders for government are going to be,” he said. “I have gone as far as graduate school. I am a credentialed educator. When I took business classes in college, that made me reasonably aware of how to manage things. As an administrator, I have applied and sharpened those skills. Working with budgets and human resources is something that comes naturally to me. I have a good sense of what it takes fiscally to utilize what is available and get the best uses out of every penny we have in the city. I know what is in the city’s and the citizens’ interest and I think I can reflect what a majority of the city needs.”
Salabaj said he will represent Rancho Cucamonga’s residents first. Though he said he respects the city’s employees, he said the council needs to remember that those at City Hall are the servants of the citizens and that it is not the other way around.
“I am certainly on top of the issues, such as supporting law enforcement with what they need to keep us safe,” Salabaj said. “I am aware of a situation recently when calling for help from the sheriff’s department and the delay in that response. What I was told by the officer was ‘We are understaffed as a sheriff’s department.’ I have to ask, ‘Why is that?’ That should be our primary focus. We have five people on the city council and I would welcome the opportunity to be a voice in what is being done in the citizens’ collective name.”
Another thing that recommends him to the position of city council is his lifelong familiarity with Rancho Cucamonga, Salabaj said.
“Growing up and being part of the community for so long has given me a deep love of this city,” he said. “That is another thing that would qualify me more than other people,” he said.
Salabaj, who was born in Fontana, was raised in Rancho Cucamonga, where he attended Sacred Heart Parochial School in Etiwanda. He then attended Damian High School in La Verne. He attended Chaffey College and La Verne University, where he majored in business and physical education. He has a real estate brokers license and is an educator at Damian, in the capacity of computer resource specialist teaching all grade levels at his Alma Mater. He is also the varsity wrestling coach and freshman football coach at Damian.
Divorced, he is a single parent with three teen-age children.
My work schedule as a teacher and coach would let me be free enough so that I would have no problem dealing with the issues in the City of Rancho Cucamonga,” he said. “I see things that need to happen to make our city better. Those things are not going to happen if we keep the incumbents in. I don’t accept what they are giving us as the best they can. If they are giving the best, it is time for a change and for someone else to come in and do it. As a coach you have to have drive and a ‘never-say-die’ attitude. You have to organize and know what is likely to happen before it happens. If you are prepared for what is going to happen beforehand, you will have a safer community and a better place to live. There are so many benefits to be had to the community that plans ahead and looks down the road toward what is coming in the future,” he said.
In 2008, while living in Los Angeles, Salabaj ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn, seeking to represent San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway, Watts and Los Angeles.
“That was a crash course in politics for me,” Salabaj said. “I had never run before.”
He again ran for political office in 2010, when he ran for the California Assembly in the 55th District.
A Republican who has been active in various anti-gang task forces, youth intervention efforts, park and recreation programs, food banks and community clean-up events, Salabaj said his political ambition is driven by his belief that a community can be improved through commitment, activism, action and sensible governmental management.

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