Friday, September 26, 2014

• Meet City Council Candidate Israel Leija

So that the community can have a chance to better know the candidates for city council, I've asked them to chat about who they are. I recently sat down with Israel Leija at Marna O'Brien park. It was a lengthy conversation, so I'll be paraphrasing the questions and answers so they make more sense in print.

WR: How did you get to Wildomar?
IL: My wife grew up here... we met as kids at church. We met up again as adults, started dating and coming to visit her here. I've been part of Wildomar for ten years and have lived here for five years in The Farm area.

WR: Tell us about yourself, how long have you been married?
IL: Going on five years.

WR: Do you have any kids?
IL: Not yet, but we're expecting twins. That's part of my drive to get on the council. To show them a good example in a leadership role, they can say, "Hey that's my dad" and maybe they can follow in my footsteps. That's not my main drive, my main drive is to bring everybody together, to forget all about the lawsuits, just forget about everything, and basically make the whole community without a complaint in the world. It's going to be hard because not everybody agrees with everything.

WR: As someone that lives at The Farm, did you hear about the issues involving stops signs and speed bumps?
IL: Yes, as I was gathering signatures [to qualify for the ballot] people were telling me they were upset with the council members because they hadn't really done anything. I'm not against any of the current council members... I'd rather work with them than against them. If I get onto the council, I'd be happy to bring up issues of traffic and stop signs... I've run into others mentioning the stop signs by Stater Brothers [Catt Rd] and that many people ignore them. We might want speed bumps before and after... the signs were put there for a reason.

WR: What got you interested in wanting to represent Wildomar on the City Council?
IL: I wanted to get involved because I'd like to make an impact in the community... I know that Ben [Benoit], Marsha [Swanson] and Tim [Walker] are trying their best to do the same... and I know the funds are not there... and it's going to be the same situation with me if I get elected, but I'd like to fight [for the residents]. I'd be happy to represent Wildomar as a lobbyist to Sacramento, then I'll put my foot down, and I'll do that. Just as I'd be a lobbyist for the community if elected.
I find Wildomar to be like Heaven on Earth, and I'd like to see the community more friendly, make it where we could all be as a family... there's so much land here we could even bring in an old fashioned country fair. We could make it a fund raiser, to bring in revenues for the community.
I'd love to start a food pantry for those in need.

WR: Have you been following the various lawsuits against Wildomar?
IL: Yes, I had a meeting with Scott Farnam, he used to be with the council, and he gave me a lot of information on the lawsuits. Gary Andre was mentioned, but I had to agree with one of the things Andre said [during the Candidates Forum] about Autumnwood. 
We need some form of remedy [against the lawsuits] look how long it took to build the Shell station.
[I'm not here to do a point/counterpoint on the veracity of the candidate's opinions]

WR: What is your position on the proposed Walmart?
IL: I'm for it. A lot of people talk bad about Walmart... but as a customer, it's a great place to shop. I'm sure that everybody in this city goes to Walmart. Also the revenue from a Walmart will be good, not that it will save us, but it'll be good. If not Walmart then other box chains, a hotel... a bowling alley would be nice... it would bring in the youth and the elderly would gather at a bowling alley. I'm sure a bowling alley would get approved faster than a Walmart.

WR: Tell me about any hobbies you have.
IL: I'm a musician. I used to be in a Christian Band... I still play a little bit of piano and guitar for relaxation. I like being creative. Things like computer graphics, landscaping... whatever I can, that can benefit everyone. Something about me is that I'm organized and clean, I hate working around mess. When you're organized you're on top of things, and you know where everything's at. I like to keep my tools very organized, and make sure I've got the right tools ready and handy —to grab them, and start doing what I need to do.

WR: Name a current TV show you watch?
IL: My wife and I like to watch The Bridge. I like comedies, crime dramas, not so much into the Romantic Comedies... my wife likes The Notebook, but that's more for women [said with a chuckle].

WR: You're stuck at a place with 2 waiting rooms, one has MSNBC on the TV, the other has FOX News. Which room do you go into?
IL: I say FOX News. MSNBC just adds more, they seem to exaggerate where FOX News gets straight to the point.
This is a postcard that Israel made up to advertise his candidacy.

WR: What made you think, "You know, I'm going to do it... I'm going to get the paperwork to run for City Council," it's easy to talk about it, but it's hard to actually go, make an appointment and get the paperwork, and harder to then gather the signatures and turn them in... so, how did that happen? Was it like, "OK, I really want to do it," and your wife said... "Are you sure?"
IL: [With a mixture of laughter] That's exactly what she said. I wanted to run two years ago, but the filing period had ended before I could pull the papers. So this year I decided to run, and I set up an appointment with Debbie Lee way back in April or May, and set up the appointment for July.

WR: Are there any projects you'd like to see done, or things you've heard are planned that you'd like to prevent from happening?
IL: I'd like to see the Bundy Canyon improvement project done. I'd also like to see a Norm's Restaurant here. I'd like to see a community pool in the park... we have three pools in The Farm community. I'd like to see something like a community catalog that tells the residents about the coming events. 

WR: If you could speak directly to the Wildomar voters, and tell them why they should vote for you, what would you say to them?
IL: I'd like you to vote for me so I can represent you, so I can be your voice. Everybody has the right to speak their mind, but I could represent you as your leader... and I'll fight for you, whatever your cause is. Whether I have to work day and night, I know there is no salary involved [with being a council member]... I'll even make it my full time job if I have to, just so I can make my community a better place to live.

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Here is my take away from the chat I had with Israel Leija, coupled with what I saw at the candidates forum. He's a genuinely nice person, seems to have interest in Wildomar, seems to have positions that —though some aren't terribly realistic— are in line with what many people would want here. However, he is very green when it comes to the workings of Wildomar, and if he'd like to be on the council, I'd like to see him spend the next 4 to 6 years getting knee deep into the community he's looking to represent. 

I've been paying very close attention to city issues since Summer of last year [before that I only knew what the Press Enterprise reported... which was next to nothing]. In all candor, my observation is that Israel has less familiarity with our city than I had before I became active in the community... and I'm honest enough to tell you that I'd be in over my head if I were to suddenly be on the council at this point in my life.

The thing is, there are three incumbents in this race, none of which have worn out their welcomes, and all take their positions seriously. If you insist on voting for a new face, Israel would be a far better choice than Gary Andre. If Israel were to win one of the three seats, he'd definitely be in a whirlwind trying to figure it all out, but he seems reasonable enough that he'd listen to the city's legal council, not fight against the will of the community, and he'd quickly learn how limited the job of City Council Member really is, and I don't believe he'd try to thwart the will of the people by consorting with those known to plot against the forward progress of the city.

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