“The whole thing has gotten out of hand,” Bagwell said, explaining the council requested a cost survey and not a dismantling of the department. Lopez-Reid said she has always been for keeping a city-run fire department, which brought laughs from the audience. “It’s never been about getting rid of the Fire Department, but addressing escalating costs,” she said. Former Mayor Kathy Salazar, who has sued the city on getting the initiative on a ballot, said, “It’s about the community and our right to make an important stance.” She is appealing a judge’s recent decision dismissing the case. The remainder of the seven candidates vying for the two council seats who were present were Robert Urteaga, Guiseppe “Joe” Veneziano and Leo Rodriguez. Johnny Verdugo was not present. The council candidates also addressed the development of Montebello Hills, the last piece of significant open space in the city. Both Lopez-Reid and Bagwell said the city has no say in the matter since the land is privately owned. Veneziano said the city needs to explore every avenue with developers whether the plans include housing or retail projects. They all said the city has been active in fighting graffiti, especially with the installation of cameras in key spots. However, Urteaga said the plan should include prevention and intervention and not only suppression. He suggested going into schools and educating children about graffiti. All the candidates on each of the panels said accountability to the public is key for any elected official. “It’s important to keep the public informed,” said city clerk candidate Annette Ramirez. “It’s the job of the city clerk to make sure that citizens have unbiased information.” Fellow city clerk candidate Larry Salazar agreed. “Right now people are apprehensive about coming in and asking for documents,” he said. Incumbent Robert J. King said his office has always been impartial and there has been no controversy out of the City Clerk’s Office during his 10 years on the job. He also dismissed the others’ comments about his role in not validating the fire department petition earlier this year. City treasurer candidates Norma M. Lopez and incumbent Gerri Guzman told the audience what type of financial investments they would make on behalf of the city. Guzman, who has been treasurer for eight years, said her knowledge of how the finance department works gives her an edge. Lopez, who’s been in banking for 20 years, said the first step in the process is to know the bank involved, including asset size, services offered and the rates it will be able to provide. David Manuel and David Vela, running for the school board, said the federal No Child Left Behind Act to make public schools accountable regarding student achievement needs to be revamped or taken off the books. Incumbent Marcella Calderon had a prior commitment and did not attend. [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! MONTEBELLO – Candidates for City Council, treasurer, city clerk and the school board spoke before potential voters Tuesday night about graffiti, the development of open space, the city versus the county fire department and accountability of public officials. About 120 people gathered at the League of Women Voters of Whittier candidates’ forum at The Quiet Cannon, where they submitted questions during three separate panels for city clerk and treasurer, the Montebello Unified School District board and the council. Moderated by league chapter President Margo Reeg, the candidates answered questions on a variety of subjects concerning residents. Council incumbents Norma Lopez-Reid and Robert “Bob” Bagwell both said putting an initiative before the voters on whether fire services should be under city or county control has been distorted.