Candidate for Mayor
1. What is your stance on the West Park proposal?
I am adamantly against the project as proposed. The quality of life and public safety impacts are too great in number to ever be successfully mitigated in our favor. As a city of 21,000 residents that relies on access to the east side of the county for emergency medical services, we cannot afford to be delayed in crossing Highway 33 by large, slow-moving trains. The same concern holds true in terms of access for fire and police services. For instance, if you reside on the east side of the city and your home is burning, emergency responders would not be able to reach you in the event a train is passing, and the same holds true for police and ambulance services. If you reside on the west side of the city and are being transported to a hospital, your trip could be delayed due to a slow moving train. We would require an overpass or an underpass in order to cross the tracks day or night which will cost millions. The developer has yet to pay for and produce an environmental report on the project, how then will he pay for and produce an overpass? In addition, the size of the industrial park is larger than the City of Patterson and City of Newman combined. Without any existing infrastructure in Crows Landing to support the project, the weight of the impacts on roads, water supply, and sewer will be borne by the two cities the project is sandwiched in between.
2. What are your thoughts on the current state of City Hall? On the lack of staff?
The changes in personnel are not uncommon for a municipal agency. We only need look to the City of Modesto or Stanislaus County for confirmation that agencies are in a state of flux with budget cuts, layoffs and retirements. Our current staff is doing a fantastic job on behalf of the community. I commend each and every one of them at every level of the organization for stepping up to the challenges we have faced. It is clear that we have a very talented and dedicated staff. Going forward the council will participate in the selection of a new city manager and city attorney. Any other staffing decisions would be in the purview of the city manager.
3. Where do stand on the future growth of the city? How big would you like to see Patterson grow in the next 20 years? 40 years?
California’s population is anticipated to increase by 10 million people over the next 20 years. It would stand to reason that some of the anticipated growth will occur in Stanislaus County. As Patterson is the largest city on the West Side of the county, we will indeed experience growth. I believe that it is our responsibility to prepare for the future of our community by laying out a roadmap of where that growth would occur. We are doing just that by updating our General Plan. It is a long term plan that will guide future councils in their decision making, and can and will be revised many times over the years. Much like the 1992 General Plan, it will be some years before we see population growth. In fact, based on the economic downturn and the lessons we have all learned from the housing market crash, the future will not be a repetition of how we had previously experienced growth.
4. What are your ideas about spurring the local economy?
We need to be welcoming toward businesses small and large to bring jobs, diverse services and entertainment to our community. To achieve that, we need to streamline the process for interested parties to set up business in our community. Specifically in terms of the licensing and permitting process. In addition, we need to continue to market our community to businesses that are poised for growth. In recent weeks Kohl's department store announced that they are interested in opening more stores in California. We should be pursuing companies such as Kohl's for the opportunity to site a store here. Our economic development efforts need to continue via our consultant, the Buxton Group, which has netted the community the interest of Walmart. The council should actively refresh our economic development strategy to match the needs and desire of Patterson residents. Data collected in the visioning workshops for our general plan would provide a strong foundation to build upon.
5. How would you go about bringing in a diversified base of businesses? (Something other than distribution centers?)
I would first go about examining our current and proposed zoning and land use laws to make sure that there are no stipulations or rigid conditions that would prevent an appropriate business from coming in. These include our height requirements, parcel sizes, floor-area ratios, business uses, zoning classifications, etc. Secondly, I would encourage talking to new businesses that recently came into Patterson and ask them what incentivized their reason to come to our city. This research will facilitate in the recruitment efforts for new businesses. Third, I would formulate a generalized and a focused list of business types, companies, industries and agencies that would work in Patterson and see what opportunities and constraints exist. A proactive outreach strategy to various business entities would have to take place in order to receive their constructive input. This vital input will beneficially steer efforts to recruit a diverse range of business types.
6. What are your opinions on the city’s current budgeting? What would you change?
As a council, we have already changed our approach to the budget. We have implemented a Budget Oversight Committee to take a line by line approach to our budgeting practices. The committee, of which I am a member, will be reviewing both revenues and expenses, and we will be exploring every opportunity for cost savings in an effort to bring them in balance. Another task the committee has been charged with is to create and execute a community survey that will assist the council in determining the priority in which the community views services and programs offered by the city.
7. How do you feel about the city’s use of reserves?
One of Patterson’s greatest strengths is our reserves, which is approximately $9.2 million. It has been my position that we not squander, or heavily rely upon them as a crutch in tough times. I do not look at it as a rainy day fund. When first approached with the budget we were presented with a $1.5 million deficit. Through discussion and hard work, staff and council reduced the deficit to $600,000. The mid-year budget is fast approaching, this will allow us to review the collected data against the projected data and evaluate what adjustments need to be made to lessen any impact to our reserves.
8. Where do the city’s water issues fall with you in terms of importance? How would you work to remedy those issues?
Water is one of our highest priorities. Currently, the Council has directed staff to search for grant funding to study alternative water solutions, which include a thorough review of surface water, groundwater and groundwater recharge opportunities. Additionally, the council should explore partnership opportunities with other agencies in terms of wastewater delivery to further support our non-potable water program. The ability to use non-potable water for landscaping, parks and future residential landscaping is something that we should pursue in order to preserve precious drinking water for our community.
9. Do you approve of the way the current council has been running things, and if not, what would you change?
Yes. We have had an unprecedented amount of business before us, and yet we have produced many positive accomplishments over the years which include the following:
· Grainger +/-200-275 jobs
· Affinia Group Inc. +/- 200 jobs
· Approval of Walmart +/-300-375 jobs plus retail sales tax
· Patterson Plaza - 19.9 acres of Commercial/Retail Space (CVS, Taco Bell, Walmart)
· Mahaffey Plaza – 24 acres of Commercial/Retail Space (Walgreens)
· Patterson Logistics - 77 acres of industrial land
· Joint-use gym at Walnut Grove School
· Community Stadium at Patterson High School
· M Street improvement and signalization of Highway 33
· Senior center
· Skate park for our youth
· Water and wewer line upgrades made in the "Old Town"
· Non-potable water system
· Sperry/American Eagle sewer line bypass (smell) repairs are currently underway.
· Corporation yard
· Las Palmas Pedestrian Path
· Westside Transfer Facility – Bus Stop in South Park
· Centrifuge project – bio-solids handling equipment at wastewater treatment Plant.
10. What qualities or experience should be looked for in hiring a new city manager?
The City Council has developed a recruitment brochure that articulates the qualities and experience we desire in our next city manager. The candidate filing period will close on Oct. 29, 2010. From there, we will review the top candidates that meet our criteria and begin the final selection process. Some of the qualities we seek are as follows:
· Strong economic and redevelopment agency background with a focus on retail, commercial and industrial development.
· Background in finance.
· Marketing and communication skills, internally and externally.
· Proactive in their approach to council policy.
· Well-versed in local governance, a minimum of 5 to 8 years of applicable city management experience.
11. Do you favor a two or four year term for the mayor? Why?
I am in favor of a four-year term. In order for a mayor to be effective, the term should be equal to that of council counterparts. The mayor no sooner gets started and finds that he/she needs to gear up for another election cycle. The focus should be on serving the community; it takes time to get things done.
12. What is the most pressing issue facing the city? Why?
The recruitment of a new city manager is the most pressing issue facing the council. In order for the city to move forward with budgetary, organizational and future business, we must actively recruit an individual to oversee all city functions.
13. What are your goals for the city’s downtown, and how will you go about achieving those goals?
We need to re-write the book on downtown redevelopment. One example of how the citizens of Patterson can play a powerful role in assisting the council in focusing our energy on a vital need is by voting yes on Proposition 22. This will send not only a message to our elected officials in Sacramento that they have a job to do, but will remind them that their constituents deserve to keep their tax monies local. Over $300,000 dollars of our funding has been “loaned” by force to the state in an effort to balance California’s budget. As taxpayers, we need to let them know that by seizing our funds we become limited in what we can do to stimulate our local economy, and we cannot afford for them to fix their budget problems with our funds. Simply, get the state out of our coffers, and we can get to work.
14. How important will keeping agriculture a priority in the community be for you? Should there be the same, more, or less consideration given in the future for agriculture?
Our community was founded on agriculture. With our agricultural heritage it will always be a big part of who we are. We must work with and support our local farmers. Additionally, we need to make sure we are not creating policies that make it more costly for them to farm, or harder to farm. We must also realize, should farmers decide to cease their farming operations, then we should respect and discuss options they may have for their land and how that might impact or benefit the city.
15. How would you go about mitigating the impacts to agriculture?
I am very supportive of our farmers and of our farming community, but we must be careful when we consider mitigating impacts to agriculture. Currently, no city in Stanislaus County has ag mitigation. Do we want to be competitive with the other cities when we are creating jobs for our community? Ag mitigation is basically a land tax. Why would we want to onerously tax incoming businesses that want to create jobs? We need a diversity of jobs, not just ag-related jobs to maintain a healthy economy.
16. What is your opinion of how the council has been operating as a whole?
he last two years have been difficult at best. The 2008 election had a profound impact on council relationships, and that is most unfortunate. However, the duties of office have always been clear, and the obligation to serve the community as a whole remains a focus for me despite the contention of the last election. It is important to remember that we will not always agree on every subject, and that each issue brought before us will be addressed from different perspectives, that is the process that we are engaged in, and it is a healthy one.
17. In your opinion, has the council been guilty of micro managing?
No. In order to micro manage; individual council members would have had to insert themselves actively into the day to day functions of City Hall. At no time has any member of council conducted themselves in that manner, nor should they.
18. In what ways would you go about enhancing teamwork among the council members?
We need to acknowledge that we all come from different backgrounds, with different life experiences. It is important that we each embrace the idea that each one of us has something to offer. In terms of the elected body interacting with each other, we need to strive to find the common thread that binds us together and work toward making decisions that encompass all viewpoints with a clear focus on the outcome of decisions that face us, and above all else remember that the sole outcome should be in the best interests of the community. When conflict arises, as it will on any team, we need to discuss the differences, and work toward the solution together until we succeed.
19. Do you think the community currently trusts the city’s leaders?
There may be those that feel that the Del Puerto Health Care District subject could have went better, and feel that they no longer trust their elected leaders. However, I counter with the undeniable fact that the City Council, as an elected body, has a primary responsibility to enact law. It is not appropriate for us to enforce “some” laws and “ignore” others no matter who is involved. I stated from the beginning that the health district needed to file for a zoning amendment, which is the proper, legal process for them to facilitate their desire to move to Keystone Pacific Business Park. I personally encouraged district officials, representatives from Keystone and our staff to follow that legal process. Unfortunately, those that had all the power to make that happen chose to go another direction. Two sheets of paper to fill out, and two meetings would have achieved the goals of the health district.
20. How would you go about maintaining or building that trust further?
I have always been consistent in my respect for the law, and the responsibilities of office. I encourage the citizens of Patterson to engage in the process by participating in Council meetings, writing or calling your elected officials about issues that they are passionate about. Communication is a key component of trust, and one that I have embraced and will continue to embrace.