Candidate for City CouncilDebNovelli@comcast.net
1. What is your stance on the West Park proposal?
Overall, I believe that Gerry Kamilos’ plan to develop approximately 4,800 +/- acres is the wrong plan for our County and our West Side. His plan would have negative impacts on Patterson and the rest of the West Side. Kamilos’ plan is built around creating an inland port for the Port of Oakland. I believe this is a poor use of the land. The air base should be used for economic development but not as a parking lot for the Port of Oakland. I believe our County Supervisors should limit development to just the air base and have responsible growth that yields jobs for the West Side. Given the right type of land use planning and recruiting the right business that the same objective can be achieved without destroying agriculture and negatively affecting neighboring cities.
2. What are your thoughts on the current state of City Hall? On the lack of staff?
I applaud the current staff for taking on extra responsibilities during this challenging time. Interim City Manager Bryan Whitemyer is resigning to become the city manager of Hughson, an advancement in his career. As a council member, I believe it is important to assist staff in keeping their morale up so they can continue operating during these times of change. The council has the important duty of hiring a new city manager. I look forward to providing support. I will encourage open communication between staff and council, so we can better serve our community together.
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?
The current Council has mapped out our general plan, which is up for final approval. It is important that citizens of Patterson determine how Patterson grows. While I am in favor of growth, we have to make sure our infrastructure can support future growth. In addition, I believe we need to fill our empty homes first before we take on more residential growth: Thereby, increasing the value of our homes. My vision for Patterson is for us to live in a town where we can work, shop and enjoy family friendly activities and entertainment. I am more concerned about the total design and function of our city: Our quality of life, public safety versus focusing on a number. It is important to have goals to keep us on track, however, I believe it is more important that our population does not explode uncontrollably and diminish the quality of Patterson.
4. What are your ideas about spurring the local economy?
Having owned the Patterson Hometown Shopper, and promoting local business for eight years this is a question deal with daily. It is important to support our local businesses and promote new business by creating an environment designed to empower our community. By focusing on common goals and sharing resources such as ideas, skills and information, we can achieve both individual and collective successes. Furthermore, it is not easy to start a business in Patterson. I have worked with new businesses on their use permits. We must review the methods that staff implements when a business seeks to come to our town. We want to make sure they are efficient, clearly written and presented business friendly. Walmart may soon be coming to Patterson. It is an exciting time for our community. I believe Patterson’s success will be dependent upon our ability to balance the old and new. We need to work toward a redevelopment plan for downtown Patterson, while making our city attractive to additional retail and commercial growth. This encompasses a strong foundation. I would also like to see more family-friendly activities, such as a movie theater or a bowling alley. It will take not just City Council but our citizens and leaders to work as a community to forge us ahead.
5. How would you go about bringing in a diversified base of businesses? (Something other than distribution centers?)
In addition to our Economic Strategic Commission, I would like to see a citizen group that can interact with potential businesses and open doors. We need to address our zoning requirements so they do not prevent a greater diversity of businesses other than distribution. We need to focus on relationships internally and externally via agencies and associations such as CALED (California Association for Local Economic Development), real estate professionals and economic development stakeholders. I would like to have a professional presentation package, including a video of Patterson available on the Web. We need to effectively market Patterson to remain competitive and attract a diversified base of businesses to Patterson. We need to adapt the philosophy of not what you can do for us but what we can do for you.
6. What are your opinions on the city’s current budgeting? What would you change?
This is an area that I look forward to helping with. I do believe there are ways to trim the fat. We must balance the budget! We need to remain financially strong to move forward. We must have effective and efficient management at City Hall, to assist with our economic decisions, including hiring a new finance director. As the budget committee is doing now, we must go line by line and ask, is this necessary? Is there a more cost effective solution?
7. How do you feel about the city’s use of reserves?
Our goal must be to strengthen Patterson not weaken it. Cities are facing bankruptcy by using their reserves. Our reserves need to remain our reserves. We need to be cautious about using our reserves so we do put ourselves in financial jeopardy.
8. Where do the city’s water issues fall with you in terms of importance? How would you work to remedy those issues?
The city’s water issues must always remain vitally important. We must protect and expand our water supply. Our town has begun installation of the purple pipe, non-potable water, (not drinkable water) for watering our landscaping. This effort to conserve our potable or drinking water will take time to complete. In the meantime, we should be discussing with the City of Modesto the prospects of getting water from them for non-potable use to allow us to manage this important resource more effectively. We need to continue to work with our Water Agencies. It is also important to look at our own water resources such as existing wells and possible development of more.
10. Do you approve of the way the current council has been running things, and if not, what would you change?
I believe it is important for candidates seeking a seat in Council to evaluate what was done right and what would you improve on. This Council has made some important decisions that have affected our Community positively. For example, bringing in Grainger, Affinia Group, Walmart and building the new skate park. On the other hand, I am against using our reserves to balance the City budget. It is important to look at not only what they have accomplished as a whole but also where each Council member stands on the issues.
11. What qualities or experience should be looked for in hiring a new city manager?
I believe our new city manager should be an effective leader not just a manager. They should possess good listening skills. Some questions are do they share the same goals as the council and the community to move forward? What is there opinion on Public Safety? Does this person have strong diplomatic skills? After all, this job requires building a team amongst many decision makers. Will they be accessible? What is their experience in allocating resources? In their previous employment, did they have a budget balanced? What is their opinion in using our reserves? Is this person able to have the pulse of the community? Are they willing to get involved? This is not a just a desk job, our new city manager must be actively involved in our community.
12. Do you favor a two- or four-year term for the mayor? Why?
The debate between a two-year term and a four-year term brings out many good points. A two-year term would seem to hold incumbents more accountable to the voters. However, more time may be required for policies and programs to take effect and yield results. What if the mayor is not doing a good job? Political campaigns are not easy, requiring much time, money and energy. Building our community should be the main focus of our mayor not constantly campaigning. With that said, I do believe more time is required and I do support a four-year term for mayor.
12. What is the most pressing issue facing the city? Why?
Stanislaus County is dead last — 100th — in employment and real estate rankings, according to the Brookings Institution. The county's 17.2 percent jobless rate in June was the worst among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. The county also ranked 100th — again at the bottom of the list — with its 59.6 percent drop in home prices from the peak of the market nearly five years ago. We need to attract more businesses to Patterson to create employment opportunities. Coupled with that, crime and gang-related crimes have risen in Patterson. I discussed with Tori Hughes, our police chief, a campaign to strengthen our Neighborhood Watch programs. I believe it is important on many levels to support our public safety in Patterson. We need to attract more businesses to Patterson to create employment opportunities and support our law enforcement.
13. What are your goals for the city’s downtown and how will you go about achieving those goals?
According to the Small Business Administration, small business generates 65 percent of new jobs. Our downtown core is extremely important to me. We need to ensure it remains a vital part to our Community. I feel that physical improvements need to be among the first changes to be made in order to facilitate interest in the downtown and incentivize new businesses to locate there. The City has had money in an account for redevelopment, yet the state came in and took it. A vote Yes on Prop 22 will not allow them to do this again. With that said, we will need to build up again our money specifically allocated for redevelopment. We should appoint a committee of citizens and local business owners along with our city manager and council to plan for our downtown’s future. I have strongly supported our local businesses for over eight years through publishing the Patterson Hometown Shopper and Patterson Hometown Calendar. I would also like to see a movie theater downtown.
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?
The roots of our community and county are agriculture. Many of our citizens depend on it to make a living. It is important to assist them in making sure they are not pushed out. For example, at a City Council meeting discussing the general plan I heard one farmer state that he was eager to sell his land, because of the profit margin involved in selling. Yet another farmer wanted to keep his land as it has been in the family for generations and they were very proud of that. I will support the Farm Ordinance, which gives farmers the right to farm should they choose to.
15. How would you go about mitigating the impacts to agriculture?
I do not believe ag mitigation is needed to support our local farmers. They are already facing so many issues. We need to help sustain our farmers so they can profitably farm. It would not be prudent to have government step in on the local level and burden our community with yet another tax. By adding an ag mitigation tax, we are adding cost to future businesses that would consider locating to Patterson. Implementing another tax is not the answer is these economic times. By imposing the tax we would be the only city in Stanislaus County to do so, thereby limiting future growth and employment opportunities in agriculture and other businesses.
16. What is your opinion of how the council has been operating as a whole?
Our City Council has had to consider many difficult issues: the Health Care District, West Park, and staff changes at City Hall, while moving forward job generating projects like such as Affinia Group and Grainger and possibly Walmart. I believe it is important to look at what they did right and continue the trend of moving forward. I support balancing our budget without using our reserves.
17. In your opinion, has the council been guilty of micro-managing?
I feel the City Council has managed the city without micro managing. If you look at the issues that they were faced with, they had to spend a lot of time mitigating each one. I do not believe making sure an issue is handled properly is micro managing.
18. In what ways would you go about enhancing teamwork among the council members?
I have connected people to each other via teamwork: In my business and community service relationships and through my positive attitude and public relations skills. I have seen firsthand the positive outcomes of teamwork. I have connected the businesses of Patterson to the people. I have also brought people together for common goals in the community work I do. I believe this is an attribute I possess and look forward to sharing it with council. We are the leaders of this community and teamwork is essential if we are to grow. We need to transcend that sentiment to the people so they can connect to their municipal government.
19. Do you think the community currently trusts the city’s leaders?
Yes, I think overall our community does trust our City leaders. I also believe that our community wants more communication from our leaders. Our leaders, including staff, need to make sure the public is thoroughly informed of the issues that face our community.
20. How would you go about maintaining or building that trust further?
I would encourage people to get involved. Come to the city meetings and let City Hall know what is on their mind. I will encourage as much transparency as possible at council meetings and at City Hall. I would make sure the citizens of Patterson know that they are free to meet with, talk to, email or any other form of communication, with our staff and our City Council because we are there to serve the citizens of Patterson. The sky is the limit when we bring all our talents and experiences together.