By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor
GARDENA — Gardena Mayor Pro Tem Rodney Tanaka and Councilmember Art Kaskanian on Tuesday said the city is moving in the right direction as they seek re-election in the primary municipal election on June 7.
Three are vying for two seats on the council. The incumbents face a challenge from Wanda Love, executive director of the Gardena Valley Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Tasha Cerda and City Clerk Mina Semenza are running unopposed.
Gardena will also be voting for a new treasurer among three candidates: Louis Enriquez, Kathleen Evans and Guy Mato. The post is currently held by J. Ingrid Tsukiyama, who has decided not to seek re-election.
Tanaka said that Gardena is the “gem of the South Bay,” with a new aquatic and senior community center due to open in the summer of 2024 and plans for a community center on Rosecrans Avenue in what is now a Chase Bank building.
“If you look at the South Bay, we are what nobody wanted us to be. Now everybody wants to be Gardena, now everybody looks at us and wonders how we do things,” Tanaka said.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, City Manager Clint Osorio announced a budget surplus of $32 million or 45 percent of expenditures. A new multipurpose building is also being built at Mas Fukai Park, with an estimated completion date of December 2024.
“In five years we crushed it, we absolutely crushed it,” said Tanaka. “We survived and we pushed through. We were looking at millions of dollars in debt. With our city manager, mayor, council, we made sure that we were solid. And we are.
“If you look at the five years, at the accomplishments this council has done as a team, not as individuals, we have done tremendous things for the city.”
First elected in March 2017, Tanaka is a retired police lieutenant and a retired pastor at Union Rescue Mission. He has been a leader with Gardena Elks Lodge and Kiwanis International.
Kaskanian, who was also elected in March 2017, served as mayor pro tem for one year ending April 2020 and is currently vice chair of the city’s Finance Committee. A successful Gardena businessman, he served as chairman of the city’s Planning and Environmental Quality Commission and is a member of the Gardena Police Foundation.
“As a councilman I brought $1.75 million to the general funds. During COVID, when everyone was closed, businesses have insurance for lost revenue. I directed the city manager to go after the casinos, card clubs. As a matter of fact it was the case and we were able to secure $1.75 million to the general funds,” Kaskanian said.
The councilmember also said that he personally purchased 3,000 rolls of toilet paper to distribute to seniors when supplies were limited during the early days of the pandemic. A resident since 1989, he said the diversity of Gardena is it’s greatest strength.
“The diversity we have in the city, Asian community, African American community, Hispanic community, they all blended together, that makes Gardena special,” he said.