Benjamin Lopez, known to his family and friends as Ben, said his candidacy for city council in Montclair is a logical outgrowth of his immersion in the city.
“As a lifetime Montclair resident, businessman, Little League coach and volunteer, I want to build upon the progress being made in Montclair and bring a new, fresh and younger approach to solving the needs of our great city,” Lopez said. “I have devoted over 20 years of involvement to my community and giving back to my fellow residents and neighbors. Our family has been a part of Montclair’s fabric even before Montclair was a city. This is the only city I have ever called home. I want my fellow residents and future generations to come to experience the many joys, benefits, programs and safety I have experienced living here. We are a small but mighty city.”
His suitability and qualifications to serve on the city council is evinced, Lopez said, by his previous contributions to the Montclair community.
“I have given back and served my fellow residents in various positions dating back to the 1990s, and I was still in my teens then,” he said. “I have served as secretary of the Montclair Youth Accountability Board, which helped give first-time offender youth a second chance at making things right. I was appointed by Councilwoman Carolyn Raft to serve on the Fire Department Citizens Advisory Commission, where I fought to provide increased fire protection, more firefighters and equipment for our residents. I was appointed by County Supervisor Curt Hagman to a two-year term on the Mosquito and Vector Control Board, where I helped protect our residents from emerging threats from West Nile and Zika outbreaks. For the past several seasons I have volunteered my time as a Little League coach to the youngest of Montclair’s youth, ages 3 to 5. Our family has been sponsors of Montclair youth sports and high school programs.”
Moreover, Lopez said, his professional function has given him a window on the way in which everyday life intersects with government at the local level.
“I am a small businessman providing document and notary assistance to families and individuals,” he said. “Additionally, I am an independent consultant where I serve as a business advocate, solar energy advocate and grant-writing advocate. I know firsthand the needs of working families struggling to make ends meet and the needs of the business community.”
He is easily distinguished from the others vying for city council, Lopez said.
“I am only one of two lifetime residents running for Montclair City Council, with over 20-plus years of involvement,” he said. “Get that, over 20 years of involvement and I am 42 today. I cared about my city when I was young. I am president of a small consulting and public service business. As a local business advocate and recruiter in the region, I am well aware of the needs of business owners, the need for jobs in the city and region, and the need for increased investment and development to Montclair. Through my involvement as a Little League coach I see firsthand the needs of struggling families and the importance of programs needed to help families and youth. I also see firsthand the needs of our seniors and veterans. That is why I strongly support our senior center programs, a medical clinic for all residents young and old, meals on wheels, education programs for youth, programs assistance for low-income families, programs to help our veterans and more.”
In sizing up the major issues facing the city, Lopez said, “The first legitimate object of government is to provide for the safety of its residents. My number one issue will be increasing public safety, both in our police and fire departments. Our police and fire staff are doing a great job, despite having to do more with less. But we cannot afford to barely get by by providing minimal levels of staffing, equipment and compensation for public safety. We must upgrade the equipment used, find additional sources of revenue to fully fund important safety functions of both departments, and offer increased pay so we draw the best and keep the best police and fire staff. Montclair can no longer be near or at the bottom in many categories of public safety in the county.”
Lopez continued, “We must continue to build on the success of revitalizing the Montclair Plaza, now called Montclair Place. This is a huge component of our city’s source of income and we must do all we can to make sure we help the mall’s owners attract long-term investment from businesses. The addition of a dine-in AMC Theater and several upscale and popular restaurants, along with a new entertainment venue at the mall will draw in much needed sales revenue from shoppers throughout the region. This will be key to help fund necessary city programs and departments.”
Lopez also emphasized that “We must maintain the current level of funding for critical programs that serve our seniors, our youth, our low-income families and more. I opposed President [Donald] Trump’s budget proposal to cut funding to the Meals on Wheels program in 2017, which would have affected hundreds of our seniors, families and veterans who rely on this critical program. As a Little League coach, I see firsthand how families struggle to pay for the necessary jerseys, sports equipment, and other participation needs for their children. I would fight hard to gain funding to help our youth programs. With the recent sad death of an 11-year old boy in a crosswalk, I strongly support the need for a fully funded crossing guard program so every crosswalk near every school has a crossing guard. These are just some of the issues I see as being critical to the people of Montclair.”
Lopez said that “As a consultant for a grant-writing firm, I know of various grants and sources of funding to government agencies that could help fund many of the needs the city lacks the resources for in its current budget. Our city should actively pursue more funding in the areas we need. We could also refinance debt incurred by the current city council and city to save money. With new homes being built in areas of the city, additional property tax revenues will be received that will also help fund our priorities. We should also invest in an active business recruitment plan that specifically draws new businesses to open up in Montclair. Doing so will mean more tax revenue and jobs for our residents and those in nearby communities.”
Reiterating that “I have over 20 years of community activism and volunteering in Montclair and the region” and referencing his service on the Montclair Youth Accountability Board, the Montclair Citizens Advisory Fire Commission and the vector control board, Lopez said the highlights of his volunteerism included “partnering with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in offering first-time nonviolent youth a way to offer restitution and work off time from their penalty by giving back to the community, addressing ways to provide increased fire protection for our residents, and broadening the vector control effort beyond Montclair’s city limits to ensure that the City of Upland gained better service to treat mosquito and vector threats by pushing for their inclusion into the district and was given a voting seat on the board. This resulted in fast service, higher quality of service to their residents and a savings to the county.”
The Lopez family is not new to Montclair politics. Lopez’s father, Tony Lopez, is an elected member of the Monte Vista Water District Board of Directors, where he represents the entire city of Montclair and the northern part of Chino and unincorporated areas between the two cities. While the younger Ben Lopez has been active since the 1990s and has found himself in tough election races in the city, the elder Tony Lopez won political office in 2003 by a razor-thin 85 vote victory. Tony Lopez has been re-elected ever since. Ben Lopez came close to winning an open seat on the Montclair City Council in 2014. This year’s election finds the three major players from 2014 in a rematch. Incumbents Bill Ruh and Trisha Martinez face Lopez and three other challengers, Juliet Orozco, Remoushell Henry and Omar Zamarripa. In 2014 Martinez ran and won as a non-incumbent. In a very close contest, Martinez edged out Lopez by approximately 323 votes to win the open seat she holds today.
The Lopez family name is established in Montclair,” Lopez added. “My family has been here before Montclair was incorporated as a city. I’ve worked hard building the reputation of the name. Today, nearly every resident in town knows of the service and commitment I have given back to Montclair. The voters have been good to our family. They are the ones I will represent to move Montclair to the next level of prosperity we anticipate our city will see. It is time for another young, fresh face with a fresh outlook for the future to be sitting on the city council. We need someone who can relate to the people. It is my hope the people elect me come November. I’ll work hard as hell for every vote. Coming close is not an option for me. Three hundred-and-twenty-three is a number I’ll never forget.”
A lifetime resident of Montclair, Lopez attended Cal Poly Pomona where he studied political science, with an emphasis on political campaigns and strategy, law and origins of political philosophy.
His candidacy has been endorsed by State Senator Mike Morrell, Second District County Supervisor Janice Rutherford, Fourth District County Supervisor Curt Hagman and Monte Vista Water Board Member Tony Lopez.