Monica Alcaraz was born in raised in Highland Park. She attended Luther Burbank Middle and Franklin High School, and aside from a summer she spent working at a fish cannery in Alaska, she's lived in the neighborhood her entire life.
She's running for President of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, she said, because of her lifelong commitment to using her skills as an organizer and communicator to help other in her community.
Alacaraz currently works in the alternative energy field, and is an active member of the Aldama PTA and an At Large member of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council--a seat she was appointed to after volunteering to build the council a website, free of charge.
In the 1990s, she worked for the State of California's Welfare to Work program, making connections between employers and people who were hoping to get off the public assistance program.
A mother of two, a daughter at Aldama and son at Pasadena City College--Alcaraz said her strongest attribute is her willingness to take action.
"I'm action-oriented," Alcaraz said. "I don't want to be on this council if I'm not going to do anything."
Patch recently interviewed the presidential candidate to ask her thoughts about neighborhood council spending, her qualifications to run the council's often contentious meetings and how she compares to her opponent, Cathi Milligan.
On Neighborhood Council spending:
I think we do need to look at how we're spending money, but we do need to empower the people who come to us and show them a better way. I do think a lot of these kids are disadvantaged and I think experiences like going to competitions or whatever it is does bring a sense of pride. I went to Benjamin Franklin High School, but my son did not go to Franklin. Where we live at, I was very conscious of what could happen to him, because, growing up, there's been times where I had friends who didn't want to get into a gang, but what happens is that these other gangs beat them up, and there forced into it even if that's not what they want. I was very aware of that with my son. He went to Arroyo Seco Museum Science Magnet School and then he went to Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School. We need to show our kids that there are other things out there. To fund [requests] completely is not what we should do. We should empower them.
Speaking about a recent request by Franklin High School cheerleaders seeking $1,500 to help pay for a trip to competition in Las Vegas.
I went to them and I said, right now we're doing a fund-raising for the school through a candy sale. I broke it down for them and said, if you sell one item to every kid in the school, you guys will exceed what your goal is and you wouldn't even need help from the council. I think there should be limits, but we are there to help the community. You can say that "we're just helping cheerleaders." I wasn't so much in favor of the Macy's thing, but it really does bring pride.
On her ability to run HHPNC meetings:
I run the PTA meetings. I've always run meetings, and I've taken courses. I'm not a meeting person, understand. I like meetings to run smoothly, to run on time. I like people to get something out of the meetings. I don't like having meetings for meeting's sake, either. We were having meetings for candidates to show them how to run, and we had difficult people at that meeting, but people said they loved the way I handled it. I think people need to be heard, but there's a easy way or a nice way to kind of let them know you've heard what they said. That's kind of one of the things that bothers me about the board. There has to be a way to represent ourselves where we can say what we need to say without being disrespectful. Because everyone deserves respect.
On how she compares to her opponent:
I don't know her very well. That's not to say she hasn't done anything, I just don't know her. I will say this, I'm the type of person who is action-oriented. I don't want to be on this council If I'm not doing anything. I know the main responsibility of the president is to run the meetings and make sure they're running smoothly. But that's not me. I want to help with outreach. I've been very, very active with the election, putting information out there. I have not promoted myself for anything. My goal was to get people to be part of it. I think we've set a record in terms of candidates that are running and you can talk to any of the people that I've talked to, I've just been encouraging them. I think what I bring to the table is that I have an understanding that we need to work together, and that's what I go back to.
We as board members have a responsibility to make sure we are working as a unit. I noticed, that's not what happens at times. I think everyone has good intentions and they want to help Highland Park, but sometimes things get in the way. I don't really care what happened in the past, I just want to move forward and make things better for Highland Park. Because we have so much here.
Elections will be held on Sat. Oct 13, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Highland Park Adult Recreation Center