By Jim Tortolano
It’s said that behind every successful man, there’s a woman. For Carlos Manzo, the recently elected member of the Westminster City Council for District 2, that woman is his wife, Lisa.
“My inspiration is my wife,” said Manzo, who will be 49 years old in March. “She was tasked with the hardest job in our family, being there for our family.” As a stay-at-home wife and mother, she became involved in their children’s school and in the neighborhood in Westminster.
“We started the neighborhood watch. We are invested in the neighborhood, keeping it up and keeping it safe,” said Manzo. She’s the one who inspired me to do more.”
Manzo and his wife have three adult sons and an adult daughter, and four grandchildren. He’s lived in Westminster since 1989.
The new councilmember is an electrical supervisor for a Santa Ana firm, but he wears many hats there, solving problems and managing people. Those are skills he feels can serve him well on the city council.
In discussing the issues confronting Westminster, he lists civic finances near the top.
“We are a full-service community and we need to depend on sales tax and transaction tax,” he said. “We are a low property tax city, and we haven’t been able to really take advantage or collect as much [sales and transaction tax revenue] as we should have. We need to find new ways, new revenue avenues to inject into our city.”
Last year, the city council voted against putting a measure on the ballot extending Measure SS (passed in 2016 and in place for six years) that levied a one-cent sales tax within the city. Westminster has struggled financially and the tax helped give the city a monetary boost. “It saved us from going into bankruptcy.”
“I supported the idea of letting the people choose for themselves,” said Manzo. “It’s an important issue and they should be given a chance to choose.” Putting the matter before voters in a special election before the midterms in 2022 is “going to cost us a lot of money” Even if voters approved an extension in the 2022 elections, revenue would not start flowing until April 2023. “We won’t have enough money to provide services. We can’t afford it.”
Manzo added, “The last thing we need is a bunch of layoffs. It seems like the city is always one step behind other cities. I see that during the last few years, during the economic boom we were in, Orange County cities were doing a lot of redevelopment, a lot of beautification that just wasn’t happening here. We just don’t have the revenue.”
Some community leaders have expressed the idea that Westminster faces a cultural division between the half of the population that is Asian (primarily Vietnamese) and the other half.
“I think I do see that,” he said. “There’s a feeling out there that it’s one-sided and not all are included. It’s an issue of unity and it starts with the city council. We all have to come together and somehow be an example of unity. Only then we can show people we are together.” He suggested the city should organize community events featuring the various cultures. “The only way we really start is by talking to each other.”
On other issues facing the city, he made these comments…
- Steve Sheldon’s plan for the Civic Center site: While he did not initially oppose the proposal to build condos there in exchange for a new city hall, Manzo – who served eight years on the city planning commission – has since taken a different viewpoint. “The community feels it has been left out of the process. It only brings negative feelings out.” He doesn’t feel the public is against the project, but “I think the way Steve Sheldon has been handling it, leaving people out, has created a bad atmosphere.” He wants a specific plan for the Civic Center.
- Plans to create a new downtown along Westminster Boulevard: “I think that’s a beautiful idea,” said Manzo. “One of the things I don’t like about our city is that we don’t have a downtown.
- Renovation of Westminster Mall: “I’m glad they started with a specific plan as a first step,” he said, noting that some property purchases there are an encouraging sign.
- Hiring a new city manager: “Our interim city manager, Sherry Johnson, has saved us. She’s done an awesome job. I’m so proud of everyone here.” As for who the permanent city manager should be, Manzo wants someone with “a lot of experience, very seasoned.”
As for himself, Manzo says, “I’m just trying to make a difference. I’m hopeful we can have some positive change.” With Lisa by his side, of course.