In Launching Council Bid, Gonzales Calls Cothran Jr Warren Puppet

Alfred Gonzales, who is one of two challengers who have surfaced against incumbent Fontana First District Councilman Phil Cothran Jr. in this year’s race, said his candidacy came about as a direct result of what he saw as an underhanded move to gerrymander Cothran’s strongest competitor out of the race.
Cothran is the son of Phil Cothran Sr., one of Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren’s firmest and most loyal political supporters. For a dozen years, Warren ruled Fontana with an iron first by virtue of her overpowering electioneering machine. In 2018, she used her political reach to establish young Cothran onto the council. That election was the first by-district council race in the city’s then-66-year history, and Warren’s team pulled out all the stops to ensure Cothran prevailed over three other candidates, including one-time School Board Member Shannon O’Brien.
Brewing for three years thereafter was an anticipated matchup between Cothran and, instead of Shannon O’Brien, her husband, Los Angeles Police Detective Jason O’Brien. With the redistricting of the city following the 2020 Census, however, Warren used her control of the council – including Cothran and two of her other allies – Fourth District Councilman John Roberts and Third District Councilman Peter Garcia – to redraw the city’s district map, carving out a small notch of District 1 and placing it into District 2, where Warren’s only rival on the board, Jesse Sandoval, resides. It was a skillful employment of political jiu-jitsu, one that was meant to insulate young Cothran and simultaneously pit two of her natural opponents – Jason O’Brien and Sandoval – against one another.
Meanwhile, Gonzales, a recently retired law enforcement officer and a resident of the First District, was looking on.
“I am a supporter of Jason O’Brien, who originally was going to run for the District 1 seat,” Gonzales told the Sentinel. “The mayor redrew the district lines and Jason’s home, in a strange change of the district lines, was suddenly no longer in the district. According to the new map, he now lives in District 2. While having a conversation about the subject, I decided there would be no better time to run than now.”
Gonzales said, “February of this year, I retired from a nearly 27-year career in law enforcement. I always felt that one day I would run for local office when ‘the time was right.’ During my career I worked closely with the councilman’s office to serve the community I worked in. Serving the public in a city council member capacity where I live would be an extension of what I have done for the last 27 years.”
Gonzales said he is fully committed to taking the battle to the younger Cothran and right into the heart of Warren’s political camp.
“I am transitioning to the next chapter in my life,” he said. “I have no ties to any large donors. I believe in my abilities to be an excellent public servant, and I am backing my words by self-funding approximately 90% of my own campaign.”
That last comment was aimed at Warren, who over the last decade has shown herself to be one of the most prolific political fundraisers not just in Fontana, but in all of San Bernardino County. She has achieved much of that with the assistance of Phil Cothran Sr, the councilman’s father. Phil Cothran Sr is currently serving as the chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee, where he has widened his fundraising activity, transitioning himself from being not just a queenmaker and kingmaker in Fontana but a kingmaker throughout the county. In the midst of all of that fundraising involving politicians, there has been a lot of talk about some unscrupulous activity, involving pay-to-play politics and slush funds.
Gonzales said he is going to take a no-nonsense approach to representing his constituents in District 1 and the city as a whole and not get caught up in the untoward political deals that surround his opponent and the political machine he and his father are a part of.
“I am 52 years old with a 27-year background in law enforcement,” Gonzales said. “Not only do I have practical experience with public safety, but I have also dealt with on a daily basis homeless issues, street vendors, quality of life issues, traffic enforcement, drug abuse as it pertained to family members dealing with addicted loved ones, the violence associated with drug sales and use, violent crime on a daily basis and more. I worked with a diverse community to help solve problems and address issues and concerns. I put together community watch groups and provided the citizens with information and the tools, contacts and resources needed to, on a certain level, police their own communities.”
Surveying the landscape, Gonzales intoned, “I’ve lived in and have been a homeowner in District 1 for 20 years.”
His primary competition in the race to represent District 1, Gonzales said, is a relatively inexperienced political lightweight who caters to the whim and will of his father and his political matriarch Warren.
“My opponent was elected to office at approximately 26 years of age with limited real life experience and no problem solving experience to draw from,” Gonzales said. “My opponent was a cadet for the police department that endorses him. I was the real thing, an actual police officer for 27 years.  I took away all the training and experience that came with it. While he was a cadet, I was already 12 years into my real law enforcement career.”
He has faced down challenges in his professional and personal life that give him depth and display his mettle and resilience, Gonzales said.
“In 2008, during the housing crises, my home lost half of its value and I was given options to let the bank foreclose, get a loan modification, remain upside down….” he said. “I was dealing with potential life changing events, as was everyone else. My opponent was 16 years old at the time, most likely completely unaware of the times. I felt the pain that many Fontana homeowners were feeling. My opponent just doesn’t have that life experience to actually connect with the voters.”
Gonzales said, “I do not sit on the board of any beauty pageants as my opponent states that he does.”
The challenges facing the city are the matters city residents are complaining about, Gonzales said. At the top of that list is the overbuilding of warehouses, he said.
Mayor Warren is known, by both her admirers and detractors as “Warehouse Warren,” a consequence of the City of Fontana’s policy of facilitating warehouse development within its 42.4-square mile confines. While many consider warehouse development to represent a legitimate means of expanding the local economy, increasingly, some elected officials, local residents and futurists are questioning whether warehouses constitute the highest and best use of the property available for development in the region. Many believe their numbers are out of balance in relation to other development that might exist in their place. Opponents of further warehouse creation cite the relatively poor pay and benefits provided to those who work in distribution facilities, the large diesel-powered semi-trucks that are part of those operations with their unhealthy exhaust emissions, together with the bane of traffic gridlock they create.
“The expansion of warehouses is always in the top two concerns that I hear people expressing concerns about,” Gonzales said. “New warehouse projects are making their way to the northern part of the district. If elected, where possible, I would support a moratorium on new warehouse projects. I will consistently vote against newly proposed warehouse projects. Warehouses often provide low paying jobs with little to no benefits. Most of the employees hired will not even live in the city of Fontana. As time goes on, the costs of technology comes down. Many warehouses will become automated and fewer jobs will be available. Some warehouses are getting a return on their investment when going automated within one-and-a-half to two years. When a facility goes automated, it doesn’t pay out as much in benefits, it makes no shift adjustment costs, it pays out less in workman’s compensation costs, and holiday pay and sick pay are discontinued.”
Gonzales referenced U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s tour of the TEC Equipment facility in Fontana yesterday, September 1. TEC Equipment is the largest certified electric Mack and Volvo semi-truck dealership in the United States, standing at the threshold of the push toward clean energy programs that are a part of the federally financed effort growing out of the Inflation Reduction Act as well as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill of 2021. Mayor Warren accompanied Granholm on the tour.
“How can Warren take photos with Secretary of Energy Granholm, celebrating TEC Equipment selling electric Mack and Volvo semi-trucks, but prior to that voted to allow additional warehouses that run trucks that pollute the air?” he asked. “The secretary addressed the heat that day and said it was because we power our homes and trucks with dirty power. Meanwhile Warren stands there knowing she pushes for exactly that.”
Gonzales said, “Public safety, property crimes, homelessness and quality of life issues are all of high importance to the Fontana community. The homeless problems along Foothill Blvd is something we need to be working on. An often overlooked problem in the southwest portion of District 1 occurs when inmates are released from the West Valley Detention Center. The released inmates often travel on foot north to Foothill Blvd, then east. Businesses along Foothill Blvd then have to deal with persons sleeping at their front door, defecating in public view, harassing of customers, theft of property.”
According to Gonzales, “Violent crime will never be at an acceptable rate unless it’s at zero. Property crimes are way too high. I would work with the police department to come up with a public service announcement campaign for the citizens of Fontana to teach them how to reduce their chances of becoming a victim of violent crime or of property crimes.”
Gonzales said he has no previous government experience beyond his law enforcement work.
“I have lived in Fontana for 20 years,” he said. “I attended El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera. I did not attend college. I am a retired police officer, with just short of 27 years on the Los Angeles Police Department. I am now a small business owner in Fontana. I run a private, personal training gym. I opened the business in January of 2018. I operated it the first three-and-a-half years in District 1, where I became familiar with the homeless and drug use problems in the district. I have been married for seven years and have no children or grandchildren.”
Gonzales said, “Fontana is made up of nearly 50 percent registered Democrats. The city council is made up of four registered Republicans and one Democrat. Almost half of the city’s registered voters are underrepresented. In order to address the issues that concern the majority of the citizens, we need to mobilize and get out and vote! Change is needed. But to make those changes we must tilt the majority in our favor. A vote for myself for city council and Shannon O’Brien for mayor will give us the majority we need to make change. Myself and Shannon along with the single Democrat already seated would give us the votes to pass what the majority of Fontana citizens want.”
Gonzales said, “I am not for defunding our police. I do not support the continuing expansion of warehouses. I am for cleaner air. I support our veterans and believe the city should work towards fixing what appears to be a broken relationship with them. I fully support a woman’s to right choose and to reproductive care. A woman should also have access to safe and legal abortions. I am for term limits. I am for budget transparency.”

Leave a Reply