Outsiders explore ousting longtime incumbents — Lakewood Council
Todd Rogers and Steve Croft have served on City Council a combined 38 years.
February 16, 2022
By: Brian Maquena
Lakewood’s two longtime councilmen just may have an election fight on their hands.
The city clerk began accepting on Feb. 14 nominations for City Council candidates for districts 1, 2, and 5. All would-be councilmembers must receive 20 signatures from registered voters nominating them as a candidate, said City Clerk Jo Mayberry. The nomination period ends March 11.
So far only four potential candidates have taken out nomination paperwork from the city clerk’s office: Todd Rogers and Steve Croft, who have sat on City Council since 2001 and 2005, respectively; Laura Sanchez-Ramirez, a board member for the Bellflower Unified School District since 2005; and, Michelle Hamlin, a public-school teacher turned homeschooler and realtor.
Longtime incumbents: Todd Rogers & Steve Croft
“I am now excited to seek re-election to the City Council representing our newly created District 1,” wrote Rogers on his Facebook page on Feb. 11.
Having served as a councilman 21 years, Rogers is the Council’s longest-serving member. A retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s captain, Rogers is widely seen as being tough against crime, evidenced by his stern approach against looters during the summer 2020 riots that hit Lakewood.
However, the Lakewood Populist has also reported on how Rogers as mayor refused to condemn from the Council dais one of the worst racist attacks in Lakewood’s history: a black-on-Hispanic mob attack, during which a spectator shouted anti-Mexican slurs, near the Lakewood Mall on June 26, 2020.
While Rogers in mid-2020 and early 2021 condemned anti-Asian and anti-black attacks within one week—both of which occurred about 2,000 miles outside of Lakewood—he declined to condemn the anti-Hispanic attack for 10 months. Even then, the condemnation only came after repeated public demands by the Lakewood Populist.
Read more about Rogers’ response, including an eyebrow raising statement by Rogers, in the Latinos find inequality in Lakewood article.
At 16 years, another term would give Vice Mayor Croft 20 years on the Council.
Croft is the chair of the Council’s water resource committee. During Council meetings, he has shown himself a capable administrator in managing the city’s water-related matters.
However, the Lakewood Populist has thoroughly documented how Croft pushed for a gerrymandered election map that eventually was adopted via his vote and those of Councilman Ariel Pe and the unelected political appointee, Councilwoman Vicki Stuckey.
Of all the three proposed district election maps, only one guaranteed that at least one district of Lakewood would be without a councilmember through 2024. This was the election map supported by Croft. It was also the one election map that ensured Croft and Stuckey would not face off against each other, while providing Stuckey her own district should she run in 2024.
The main loser of Croft’s election map was a huge swath of central Lakewood largely between Palo Verde Avenue and the 605 Freeway. These voters won’t get to vote till 2024 and will be the one district without a councilmember as a result of Croft’s map.
Read more about Croft’s actions and arguments as to why he voted for such a map, as well as the Lakewood Populist’s examination of Croft’s statements, in the Longtime Councilmen come out swinging and the Vice Mayor safeguards himself & appointee articles.
New blood: Public school teacher and board member
Growing up in the Long Beach area, Michelle Hamlin and her husband decided to move to Lakewood after hearing good things about it from friends. Like many, Hamlin has considered moving out of state but upon consideration decided to stay in California.
“I’m delighted here. I love this place!” Hamlin told Mayberry and the assistant city clerk on Wednesday when picking up the nomination paperwork for City Council.
A former public-school teacher, Hamlin decided to transition into becoming a realtor so she could homeschool her children. While knocking on doors as a realtor, Hamlin said Lakewood residents made her feel welcomed, offering her water and a seat during the summertime heat.
“That’s the gem of Lakewood: Neighbors helping neighbors!”
Hamlin considered running for the Long Beach Unified School District, school board District 5 seat, before deciding to run for City Council.
Hamlin faces a difficult campaign since she lives in Rogers’ district 1, located in the southwest portion of the city. As of Wednesday evening, Rogers’ social media posts announcing his reelection campaign had 74 likes and 52 comments on Facebook, while a similar Instagram post had 48 likes and 10 comments.
A religious person, Hamlin said she felt called to help her community. She has also publicly spoken out during Council meetings against City Hall’s mask mandates. On Wednesday, one city staffer insisted on Hamlin wearing a face mask as she took out the nomination-filing paperwork.
Sanchez-Ramirez has served as a board member for the Bellflower Unified School District since 2005. According to her biography on the district’s website, she is a certified oral maxillofacial surgical assistant.
Sanchez-Ramirez has also been active in the community, serving as a Girl Scouts Leader, as well as on the Pathways Volunteer Hospice Board of Directors and is a PTA member. She has also served on the Friends of the Lakewood Libraries Scholarship Committee.
The Lakewood Populist hopes to speak with Sanchez-Ramirez soon.
Sanchez-Ramirez would be facing Vice Mayor Croft in district 2, located in the northwest portion of Lakewood, should she complete and turn in the nomination paperwork.
East Lakewood candidates?
So far no potential candidates have taken out nomination paperwork for East Lakewood, which has never had one of its residents on the Council.
Located east of the 605 Freeway or San Gabriel River, depending on how you look at it, East Lakewood has the city’s worst homeless encampments (including one where a little girl got chased down a block), murder rates, and congested housing.
Some of the area’s streets are so narrow and are bordered by so many apartments—which somehow got authorization from the city in previous years (including during Rogers’ and Croft’s tenures)—that it is difficult to safely drive down the street.
There are also known drug areas, including at least one drug house that featured so much violence that neighbors dared not speak out due to fear.
While the city recently erected improved signage at a crosswalk where two young Chinese students got killed in a vehicle-on-pedestrian accident, there is still another intersection where a man has had his house crashed into five times over the last 50 years. Over the decades, the man and others have demanded that the city install a street light, stop sign, ANYTHING, but to no avail.
The still-dangerous intersection is located at 207th Street and Norwalk Boulevard. Near Artesia High School and Palms Elementary School, the intersection is much used by high school and elementary school children.
Cassandra Chase is a former Council candidate from the area, but she has yet to take out nomination paperwork from the city clerk’s office, Mayberry said. Chase currently serves on the Measure L Citizens Oversight Committee.
The Lakewood Populist hopes to soon speak with Chase.
If no one or only one person is nominated to run for District 5 in East Lakewood, a councilmember will be appointed to District 5.
Want to run for City Council?
Would-be candidates must collect 20 signatures from registered voters in their district: District 1, District 2 or District 5.
Each registered voter must use the exact names on their voter’s registration forms when nominating a Council candidate. And, each voter can only nominate one Council candidate. So a person living in District 1 could not sign a nomination form for both Rogers and Hamlin, but only for one of them.
For more information on how to get on the ballot, contact Mayberry at email@example.com to schedule an appointment for picking up the nomination-filing paperwork.
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