Shannon O’Brien is offering herself as the reformist candidate in this year’s Fontana mayoral race.
O’Brien, a former member of the Fontana Unified School Board, and Councilman Jesse Sandoval, who currently represents Fontana’s Council District 2, are challenging Mayor Acquanetta Warren, who was first elected mayor in 2010, was reelected in 2014 and 2018, and is again on the November 8 ballot.
Warren has been in office too long while advocating and putting into place policies that are detrimental to the residents of Fontana as a whole, O’Brien said.
“In certain respects, she lacks vision altogether,” O’Brien said of Warren. “In those places where she has vision, she is plain wrong. There are no term limits for the mayor in Fontana. If I am elected, I will seek to pass a term limit ordinance. The City of Fontana should not be any one person’s dynasty. There are many people with solid ideas, good proposals, who are not getting an opportunity to be heard. Other hard-working leaders deserve the opportunity to serve our city. Having the same mayor in place for going on 12 years now has led to not only complacency but corruption in Fontana’s municipal government. We need accountable leadership that will be responsive to the residents of the city and allow fresh ideas to flourish so we can tap into the enthusiasm of the people who are most concerned about what is taking place at City Hall.”O’Brien said she believed Warren and the council “are leading our city in the wrong direction with excessive construction of warehouses, poor zoning and other questionable land use decisions. Under Mayor Warren, it appears that the city’s strategy for economic development has been to construct tract homes and warehouses. I understand that people desire affordable housing, but it is lazy and shortsighted to just put houses all over the place, without offering opportunities for economic growth that will ensure that the residents and future homebuyers can comfortably pay their mortgages.”
O’Brien decried in particular the unbridled development of warehouses, which she said were imposing environmental havoc on the city’s neighborhoods populated by the city’s most impoverished residents who do not have the wherewithal to oppose City Hall.
“A disproportionate number of the residents where those warehouses are being built are brown and black,” O’Brien said. “The mayor knows that. She is not standing up for her own constituents. When it comes down to whether she is going to represent the people who elected her or the big money interests, she sides with the money every time.”
The justification Warren gives for allowing more and more warehouses to be built in the city – that they will provide employment to city residents – is downright false, O’Brien said. “The jobs available in warehouses do not provide a livable wage by which laborers there can support a family,” O’Brien said. “We also know that the warehouse industry is moving towards robots and automation that will replace human labor. Those warehouses do not represent lasting employment opportunities.”
O’Brien was equally critical of the Warren regime’s business/economic development strategy and priorities.
“The council is now planning to permit marijuana dispensaries that favor those who are part of the entrenched pay-to-play culture that pervades San Bernardino County,” she said. “Our city can do better than that.”
“I am committed to transparency in government,” O’Brien said. “If I am elected mayor, I will make every effort to ensure transparency at Fontana City Hall, with a special emphasis on how our monetary resources are put to work for us. Citizens deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent, and their input on where that money should go before it is allocated is something I will work for.”
O’Brien said Warren had entered into highly questionable political and professional relationships that the electorate in Fontana needed to take full stock of.
“Acquanetta Warren is both Black and a woman,” O’Brien said. “So am I, but the similarity ends right there. Many people are not aware that she is a conservative Republican and a delegate for the Republican Party.”
O’Brien said it was difficult to know whether Warren’s questionable political associations were an outgrowth of a wrongheaded political philosophy, a lapse in judgment or were intentionally entered into because of her calculation that they would advance her personally and politically.
“I have been trying to figure out why this woman does not respect American Democracy and the Constitution of the United States,” O’Brien said. “She cast her delegate votes for Donald Trump to be president. She laughed, ate and took selfies with him, while knowing that he is a lunatic who prompted right wing extremists’ groups, such as the Proud Boys, to try to overthrow our government.”
Warren’s poor judgment carried over into her unethical relationship with Fontana’s former city manager, Ken Hunt, which not only brought Warren’s integrity and basic honesty into question but cost the city’s taxpayers over $1 million, O’Brien said.
O’Brien pointed out that in early 2019 Hunt and Warren were on what appeared to be excellent terms, such that Hunt, who had at that point been serving in the capacity of Fontana city manager for just under 20 years, was so well-thought of by Warren and the council that he had achieved the status of the second highest paid city manager in the state, with a contract that was set to run to 2022. But seemingly overnight there was an inexplicable falling out between Warren and Hunt which led to Hunt’s abrupt termination in July 2019. Warren has steadfastly refused to provide an explanation of what occurred to cause a radical breach in her relationship with the city manager she up until that time was so laudatory of. One report held that Hunt had confronted Warren about an incident of bribetaking she had been involved in.
Whatever the actuality was, it is not likely to ever be disclosed, per a confidentiality clause that Warren insisted be inserted into Hunt’s lucrative termination agreement with the city, which kept him technically on the city’s payroll from July 6, 2019, to January 31, 2020 while paying him $1,127,378 in wages and benefits though he was locked out of his office and did not return to City Hall that entire time.
“Fontana seemingly violated the Brown Act, California’s open government law, when it approved a settlement agreement with former City Manager Ken Hunt in 2019 and it now refuses to release any records showing why elected officials paid him more than $1.1 million to leave his post three years early,” O’Brien said. “Mr. Hunt’s departure originally was framed by Mayor Warren as a retirement, but the city manager’s employment agreement is clear that Hunt would receive no severance if he resigned early. Even if the city council had voted to terminate his contract without cause, his severance package required only 12 months of pay, yet Fontana paid him for 18 months through a settlement agreement.”
O’Brien said, “Mayor Warren is hiding something, and the way she used taxpayer money to buy the former city manager’s silence is a dead giveaway that she cannot be trusted.”
O’Brien said she was committed to being transparent with taxpayer dollars. That transparency should apply, she said, to the $1.1 million severance package provided to Hunt, including the reason the city manager was able to walk off with that kind of money for not working. “The City of Fontana does not have the right to spend our money, especially that amount of money, without explanation,” O’Brien said. “It’s a ridiculous amount, and if I am elected, I plan to get to the bottom of it.”
Government needs to be respectful of those it governs, and exercise compassion in the managing of their public affairs, O’Brien said.
O’Brien was raised in Carson, where, she said, “My father, Dennis, was a well respected coach who founded a nationally renowned track club, and my mother, Jerrie, was very active in a church ministry and choir. Carson allowed me to have a very strong sense of community. I enjoyed the safety and support of community, and am running for mayor to ensure that the families of Fontana enjoy the same idyllic neighborhoods.”
O’Brien attended and graduated from Howard University, where she met her husband, Jason. Shannon briefly attended law school and the couple might have remained in Washington, D.C. Jason, however, was offered a position with the Los Angeles Police Department, and they relocated to California, where she then completed a master of public administration degree from the Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Long Beach.
After the O’Briens’ son, Jason, Jr., was born, they co-founded the Children’s Resources nonprofit organization to help families support their children socially and academically. Today, Jason is a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department and Shannon is the chief executive officer of Children’s Resources.
“I am proud of the fact that Children’s Resources is considered a major community partner with schools throughout San Bernardino, Riverside and Los Angeles counties,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien served on the Fontana Unified School District Board of Education in 2013 and 2014. She also served on the executive committee of the San Bernardino County School Boards Association and was a founding board member of the Inland Empire Association of Black School Educators. She recently served on the 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr. Planning Committee with Ephesians New Testament Church and is a member of the Black Chamber of Commerce Inland Empire.
“I am excited about leading my fellow Fontana neighbors,” O’Brien said. “I’ve been very active in our community. I think Fontana is a wonderful city that is being failed by its current political leadership. I am running because we need term limits, transparent leadership and fiscal accountability. It will be interesting to see if the voters are in agreement with me.”
Shannon O’Brien is offering herself as the reformist candidate in this year’s Fontana mayoral race.