By Leslie Parrilla, San Bernardino Sun
Posted: 10/02/14, 10:56 PM PDT |

FONTANA >> From building a Legoland museum to bringing solar and wind energy to the city, the list of ideas from candidates running for City Council and mayor ran the gamut at a public forum Thursday evening.

Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren faced challenger and former Rep. Joe Baca in front of a mostly full Council Chambers. Candidate Luis Vaquera was not present.

“I have a plan. … It’s inclusive of everyone in Fontana,” said Baca, 67, who is returning to local politics after losing two congressional bids in 2012 and 2014. The long-time Democrat represented parts of San Bernardino County in the House of Representatives. Baca started his political career in 1992 when he was first elected to the state Assembly.

Warren, the city’s first female and first African American mayor, who was elected in 2010 after serving on the council in 2002 and re-elected in 2004 and 2008, pointed to the Fontana of old and new, and her record in the city when asking for voters’ support.

“Years ago, this city had reputations that we all remember, but now this community has thrived,” Warren said. “We often refer to Fontana as the land of opportunity … because of the investment over the years that has occurred.”

Warren said she saw the city through difficult economic times and plans to focus on education, safety and economic development.

“As the economy had problems in 2008, I, as a leader at that time, as a council member worked hard as a team to make sure the impact was not devastating to this community,” Warren said. “We have invested in economics. We have invested in safety and we have invested in infrastructure.”

Warren wants to work closer with Chaffey College to offer more vocational careers for students not planning to attend a university.

She also wants to expand Fontana’s trucking and industrial business areas to be recognized as a national logistics capital.

Baca had specific ideas that focused on creating an identity for Fontana, building tourist attractions on unused and unincorporated land that would be annexed into the city.

“Fontana does not have the identity that it needs right now. … I’m going to work with NASCAR, bring a Legoland to attract tourists,” Baca said about a Legoland museum. “I would look at a national mechanical training school. We’ve got to think outside of the box.”

He wants to see a civic opera built, to prevent Fontana residents from leaving the city and spending money elsewhere.

“Why do we have to go to L.A. to see an opera?” Baca said.

Baca capitalized on his state and federal connections by saying he would reach out to former colleagues to create tax breaks for businesses in the city.

He neared the end of his comments in Spanish, appealing to the Latino community, saying that he wants Fontana to be inclusive and leaders to represent all areas and populations in the city.

In an earlier forum, City Council incumbents Michael Tahan, elected in 2010, and John Roberts, serving a sixth term, fielded questions alongside challengers Tressy Capps, Adrian Felix Gonzalez and Marco Perez. Candidate Hector Villanueva did not attend the forum.

Capps said she would work to prevent the federal government from inserting itself into local issues.

Perez wants to see a restaurant row built and entertainment venues in the city to prevent Rancho Cucamonga from siphoning off potential tax revenue. He also promoted bringing wind and solar power to Fontana, calling it “one of the windiest cities around.”

Gonzalez’s priorities are to fill Fontana’s vacant land.

“The number one most important thing for me is to get something built on it,” Gonzalez said.

Roberts and Tahan pointed to their records on the council as a reason to re-elect them.

“We have a ways to go and we have to keep expanding … and raise the bar for Fontana,” Tahan said.