For years Baru Sanchez distrusted City Hall.
Believing that things are now changing for the better, he plans to run for office.
“I heard stories of council candidates who were harassed, their lives threatened and their cars vandalized in past elections,” says Sanchez, 25. “Like many people, I was concerned for my personal safety.”
But a recent shake-up of city government in the aftermath of a corruption scandal has given Sanchez hope that Cudahy politics is improving. He wants to be part of that transformation.
“It’s time to make a change, to bring new ideas,” says Sanchez. “My platform consists of three points: Accountability, transparency and change.”
There are three seats up for grabs in the next municipal suffrage on March 5, 2013, which are a consolidation of general and special elections. Two members of City Council were ousted this summer after a corruption sting by the FBI.
Sanchez is a member of United4Cudahy, a group of residents that have been pressing and lobbying for more openness at City Hall since a corruption scandal broke out early summer. He is the second member of the group to publicly announce his intentions to join City Council in recent weeks. The other member is Christopher Garcia. Sanchez says he and Garcia will run separate campaigns.
Sanchez’s interest in politics started years ago while attending Cal State University Long Beach, where he joined the Hispanic Student Business Association.
He wanted to get more involved in Cudahy, where he lives since the early 2000’s. However, reports of corruption, intimidation and attacks against City Hall outsiders kept him away. “That was very discouraging,” Baru says.
During recent elections, candidates to City Council reportedly received death threats and their cars were vandalized. In one instance a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the house of one candidate.
And in interviews with federal investigators, at least one local city official said that municipal elections were rigged.
Then in June of this year, three former city officials, including the mayor, a councilman and the head of Code Enforcement, were indicted on corruption charges. They have pleaded guilty and now await sentencing.
That was the tipping point for Sanchez. He now speaks often at City Council meetings.
“Today I would like to focus on transparency,” said Sanchez at the last meeting Nov. 6. He said he favors a forensic audit of city finances, term limits, translating City Council meetings into Spanish, and avoiding conflict of interests in city positions.
Sanchez is a certified public accountant who specializes in auditing private companies and city governments.
He would like to see the city expand its revenue sources by creating new commercial developments. Education is another issued important for Sanchez.
“We need more city-funded after-school programs to help our children excel in school,” he says. “Only 17% of our youths graduate from high school and just 10% from college. Those statistics are alarming. We need to create more opportunities for our youths to succeed.”
Sanchez expect to file his candidacy paper soon. In Cudahy, the filing period for candidates for City Council starts Nov. 13 and ends Dec. 11.