Jo Ann Bollen is seeking election to the Yucca Valley Town Council in November, she said, “to ensure that everyone in Yucca Valley has equal representation by a council member who listens to their concerns and takes action. I would like to see more diversity on the Town Council. I am a voter registration and engagement activist who believes that to ensure real representation we need to encourage more citizens to participate in our democracy, including voting and running for office.”
Her understanding and appreciation of the dynamics of representative government qualifies her to serve on the town council, she said.
“As one who is committed to open and transparent government that is accountable to its taxpayers, I believe I can add real value to the town council,” Bollen said. “I will bring an open mind, listen to all points of view, even when I disagree, do the homework, be a fact checker, and be informed on the issues that are being discussed and that are important to our citizens. I will not be afraid to ask for help. I know everyone doesn’t know everything. I want to be a team player so that we can accomplish more for our town, while at the same time not be a push-over and to speak up for myself and for my constituents.”
This will be Yucca Valley’s first election under the electoral ward system it has recently adopted. Bollen is challenging long-time council member Merl Abel. Her addition to the council would impact the character of the council and community, she said.
“I’m not as entrenched in Yucca Valley’s political network and history as the other members, but I think fresh voices are good for government,” she said. “Change is good, particularly as the town grows.”
Bollen said modernizing the town’s public facilities, utilities and groundwork was a major issue. She said boosting the economy, increasing the level of public safety service, and ensuring adequate housing stock for the town’s increasing population were other primary challenges in Yucca Valley.
“Major issues are improving infrastructure, the lack of well-paying jobs, not enough police presence, increasing affordable housing, and the lack of facilities for the homeless, such as showers, a laundry and shelter,” she said.
She said the city can meet those challenges by modernizing utilities and communications facilities and means, as well as by revamping existing but underutilized structures and resources.
“Improving tech infrastructure (power and internet) would attract more small and medium size businesses that provide living wages with good benefits,” Bollen said. “It will also help people who work from home have access to more powerful and reliable internet.” She advocated “taking a close look at abandoned buildings and re-purposing them to address the increasing need for more affordable housing as well as providing a homeless shelter with an existing empty store. We need to take a closer look at vacation rentals and explore how they impact the displacement of year-round renters when a property is converted.”
Bollen said the city can defray the cost of instituting the solutions she is advocating through the application of money collected as a consequence of the 2016 passage of Measure Y, which imposes a half-cent sales tax within the town limits; the city’s transitory occupancy tax imposed on motels and rental units; and revenue bonds.
Bollen said she has no direct experience in government as an elected official or employee, but touted this as a potential benefit to the city’s residents, who in this election will be given a choice over charting a new direction or remaining connected to the staid policies of the inveterate establishment.
“I am new to government, which is not necessarily a bad thing,” she said. “New candidates can bring new ideas and fresh outlooks.”
Bollen who previously lived in South Lake Tahoe, where she owned and operated a photo lab and wedding photography business, has long been familiar with Yucca Valley as three of her brothers have lived in the area for more than two decades. She was more recently living in La Quinta and retired to Yucca Valley in 2017, partially to be nearer her brothers.
A graduate of San Pedro High School in Los Angeles, she attended Los Angeles Harbor College.
Now an active retiree and former business owner, she most recently founded a non-partisan voter registration and engagement group, Vote Morongo Basin. Vote Morongo Basin registers voters, trains people to register voters, offers free mobile voter registration for those who can’t travel or use the internet, and schedules rides on election day for voters who can’t get to the polls.