FRESH FACES; SAN FERNANDO COUNCIL MEMBERS DIVERSE.
Long gone are the days when City Councilman-elect Richard Ramos, 30, as a youngster would slide down the chutes of Goodwill drop-off containers to rummage for clothes and shoes for his family.
Hard work led to better times when his immigrant parents opened up a jewelry stand at the San Fernando swap meet. It was there, at the age of 10, that Ramos began selling toys alongside his family on weekends.
``All our lives we were always taught about hard work and the Puritan ethic - that if you work hard you'll succeed,'' said Ramos, a third-grade teacher at Morningside School in San Fernando.
Though the hard times are behind him, the lessons remain and it's these which Ramos hopes to put to work when he and newly elected Councilwomen Cindy Montanez, 25, and Beverly Di Tomaso, 65, take office next week.
With three of the five City Council members being replaced, the city will embark on the next century with a council that has a markedly different composition.
Montanez, a University of California, Los Angeles, student who, as a freshman took part in a hunger strike that drew international attention, is one of the youngest candidates ever elected to the council. Di Tomaso, a receptionist for Guide Dogs of America, brings 20 years of community activism to the table.
Optimistic about change
Outgoing Councilwoman Joanne Baltierrez is optimistic about the council's newest members, who will replace engineer Raul Godinez II, business owner Doude Wysbeek and Baltierrez, executive director of the League of Women Voters in Los Angeles.
``I know change sometimes is difficult, but sometimes it's the best thing,'' said Baltierrez. ``I see them having to start at ground level and create a structure for themselves, but I think they'll be able to work together.''
The three join Mayor Jose Hernandez, a Chicano studies professor at Cal State University, Northridge, and Silverio Robledo, vice president for community development at Wells Fargo Bank.
Montanez said the 14-day hunger strike with eight others to create a Chicano studies center at UCLA taught her valuable lessons that she can apply when she takes office.
Organization, mediation, dealing with conflicting ideas, compromising, listening to different points of view and writing proposals - all of these skills played a role in the strike, said Montanez.
``For me it was a great learning process. Physically the strike didn't matter because in the end I was happy that I learned so much and that we actually accomplished what was in the best interest of the students,'' said Montanez, whose activist spirit actually emerged at age 12 when she volunteered 300 hours to help the Archdiocese of Los Angeles prepare for the 1987 papal visit.
``That's when I saw that it didn't matter that I didn't get paid. What mattered was the experience and that I was meeting so many people,'' said Montanez. ``That's when I decided that community-based service is what I wanted to do.''
From there Montanez got involved as a volunteer at Special Olympics' events, spent Thanksgivings wrapping food baskets for the social services agency MEND in Pacoima, mentored youth in prison, and served as a board member for a shelter for battered women and children.
20 years as activist
If commitment is measured by time alone, Di Tomaso wins hands down for the nearly 20 years she has spent as a community activist in San Fernando. But more telling has been her willingness to single-handedly take on controversial issues.
``I think it's in the blood,'' said Di Tomaso. ``I believe I have a strong sense of fairness and justice and that's always led me to do whatever activist work I have taken on.''
In one such instance, Di Tomaso spearheaded the effort to prevent the city from swapping a piece of civic center property with the county in the mid-1980s.
``It was an extremely valuable piece of property. It was outrageous that the council would consider swapping it,'' said Di Tomaso, who also advocated to create Proposition L, which stipulates the property can't be sold or exchanged without a ballot measure.
The proposition drew criticism because of the thousands of dollars it costs to put a measure on the ballot.
Through the years, Di Tomaso has also weighed in on such issues as the city's financial stake in Mission Community Hospital, which was saved from financial ruin by city-issued bonds.
That Di Tomaso's first priority is to review the city's budget should not be a surprise. After all, for more than 10 years Di Tomaso has reviewed a printout of city-issued checks to check for any excessive expenses.
``I think the revitalization of the downtown corridor is equally just as important,'' said Di Tomaso. ``It's crucial we make important decisions in the near future and that's something I'll want to direct my attention to.''
Ramos, in keeping with his family's background in business, also wants to focus his efforts on the city's revitalization plans, but with an emphasis on protecting small-business owners.
``In order for them to survive among retail giants, small businesses need to provide a service that these big corporations don't,'' said Ramos, whose parents eventually opened a jewelry store in the San Fernando mall where he learned to become a master jeweler.
Montanez's first goal is to meet with civic groups and residents to develop a plan that she can embark upon for her next four years in office.
``I want to serve the people in the best way possible to improve the quality of life - for me that basically is making the community a safe, clean area,'' said Montanez, who also supports the city's revitalization plans.
And the fire that drives her is the chance to take the lessons she learned from her parents, who emigrated from Mexico, to a new level.
``As far as economical resources we haven't been wealthy in any way, but my parents have always been very giving and the little bit that we have we've always tried to share with family or people that are in need,'' said Montanez.
``That's what I like - anything that I can do to make people's lives better.''
PHOTO The three newly elected members of the San Fernando City Council are Beverly Di Tomaso, left, Cindy Montanez and Richard Ramos.
John McCoy/Daily News
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Mar 15, 1999|
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