Change in Election Cycle Gives Gardena Officeholders Extra Year

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Mayor Tasha Cerda and Mayor Pro Tem Rodney Tanaka at this year’s Day of Remembrance program at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

GARDENA — An ordinance of the Gardena City Council has moved the date of the city’s general municipal election from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March of odd-numbered years to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March of even-numbered years beginning in 2020.

As a result of this change, which went into effect at the beginning of this year, current elected city officeholders will have their terms extended by 12 months.

Mayor Tasha Cerda, Mayor Pro Tem Rodney Tanaka and Councilmember Art Kaskanian, who were elected in 2017, will face re-election in 2022, as will City Treasurer Ingrid Tsukiyama and City Clerk Mina Semenza. Councilmembers Dan Medina and Mark Henderson will now serve until 2020.

“Basically we had three different options so that we could come in line with the rest of the voting,” Tanaka explained. “ … Because we don’t have to have our own election [on a separate date], it saves us about $10,000 to $15,000 and then it brings us in line with the major elections. The mayor, myself and Councilman Kaskanian actually gained another year in office. Instead of four years, we’re doing five. Councilman Medina and Councilman Henderson get another year …

“After a big election, for municipal voting the turnout was very small because people are like, ‘Okay, I voted. I’ve already done my duty.’ And then ours comes as a small municipality and then … a lot of them don’t vote. So the percentage is really small now. The year that we got elected, the numbers went up a little bit, but not really substantial. So we’re hoping that what’s going to happen is it actually will increase voter participation.”

Reflecting on his time in office so far, Tanaka, a former Gardena police lieutenant, said, “It’s been a whirlwind. My first four months was the toughest, trying to acclimate myself to the position, trying to be everywhere and trying to please everybody. But once I kind of got used to the routine and the things that I needed to really focus on, I’m enjoying it … and hopefully I’m making a lot of good decisions.”

Tanaka and Medina instituted the practice of honoring a veteran at each council meeting, with the honoree chosen by each councilmember and the mayor on a rotating basis.

“That’s something we’ve never done, and I think it’s really a good thing to honor our veterans,” Tanaka said.

Another accomplishment is a one-year moratorium on fireworks. “Some people love it and some people hate it … We’re trying to see what kind of an impact that will have on our city, whether or not it’s a good idea or a bad idea. But the moratorium will give us a little bit of an idea how fireworks actually impact our city. And we understand that the illegal fireworks are actually the worst, but we’re hoping that with the elimination of the legal ones, it doesn’t enable or get people to think, ‘Well, they’ve got fireworks, so we’re going to use the illegal ones too’ …

“Some of the nonprofit groups that were using fireworks as fundraisers, they were kind of unhappy, but the mayor told them that we will try to help them figure out how to do other fundraisers besides fireworks. So we’re trying to help those that didn’t like the decision, but yet I think a majority of people actually are in favor of that decision.”

Tanaka outlined some his plans for the rest of his term: “We’re trying to build up businesses and tax bases within our city because with all the things that are going on around us — the new stadium [in Inglewood], Space X, the Ring company [Amazon’s home security startup] is coming to Hawthorne. So we’re going to be surrounded by a lot of things.

“Techie people are coming south, so we’re hoping that we’re going to be the city that people come to because we’re affordable and yet we have really modern and up-to-date housing … We’re hoping that people will come to us and want to live here and then work in the other cities … We can’t rely on card clubs forever [for tax revenue], so we have to prepare now to see what we’re going to do.”

Tanaka was interviewed while attending Nisei Memorial VFW Post 1961’s Memorial Day service at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute on May 27. “We got invited as councilpeople, but my dad was a member of the 522nd [Field Artillery Battalion] … My dad was a part of this post and he died a long time ago … so I tried to come here to light a candle for him.”

For questions about the new election schedule, the Office of the Clerk can be reached at (310) 217-9565. Spanish, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean translations of the announcement can be found online at www.cityofgardena.org/election-information/.

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