Candidate for Mayormolina4mayor2010@live.com
1. What is your stance on the West Park proposal?
Whether or not West Park is viable, we can only mitigate its impact on Patterson by having a seat at the table when decisions are made.
We obviously need to preserve our historic downtown and forestall rail and vehicle traffic overwhelming our town.
The best way to do that is to work with the county, developers and the community to ensure that Patterson is protected rather than pursuing litigation that we cannot afford in an era of limited government resources.
I am the president of the Stanislaus County Board of Education and the only elected Latino official to serve at the county level in Stanislaus County. The County Board of Education works with 26 different school districts. We have to build strong relationships, communicate well and provide leadership to support the education goals of 106,000 students.
Those same qualities are needed in Patterson’s mayor so that hiring lawyers is the last resort, not the first option. In 2008-2009, the mayor and council spent $362,452 on litigation, $222,452 more than was budgeted. We can’t afford to continue with that style of leadership.
2. What are your thoughts on the current state of City Hall? On the lack of staff?
With the recent resignations of the city manager, the assistant city manager, the city attorney, the community services director and the finance director, a message has been sent. You might argue the merits of an individual case but when Patterson’s leadership team is decimated by resignations, we have a problem.
Within our form of city government -- the weak mayor form of mayor–council government -- the mayor and council have to be able to work cooperatively with the city manager and their team.
My experience as the president of the Stanislaus County Board of Education for the last four years is what is needed in Patterson. The County Board of Education has executive and budget authority, but we work with County Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon as partners in successfully overseeing a $40 million a year budget and 900 employees.
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?
Patterson is a great place to live and work. We will start growing again as the recession ends.
That’s why a general plan is important. As someone who served on Patterson’s planning commission for four years, the general plan won’t be an exact blueprint of future needs but it should be a road map balancing the needs of the community, agriculture and business.
To achieve a useful general plan I would propose that we work hard to make sure that everybody is heard and the plan reflects a community consensus about Patterson’s future.
We need leadership that is committed to being open and transparent so that the general plan can grow organically and be an expression of the values of Patterson citizens.
4. What are your ideas about spurring the local economy?
Patterson needs a mayor that can be the focal point for bringing a diversified base of business to Patterson. Put simply, we need more jobs.
We can learn from cities like Pleasanton and model our outreach to companies on successful efforts.
We also need to work on developing a workforce that is attractive to business. We need a long-term plan to create a “college-going culture” among our youth that will provide them with the skills needed for tomorrow’s workforce. The expansion of Modesto Junior College is an example of the ways in which we can work with education to create a better tomorrow in Patterson.
5. How would you go about bringing in a diversified base of businesses (something other than distribution centers?)
Patterson is a geographically desirable location for distribution centers, but we need to work to bring in companies and retail that diversify our economic profile.
Currently, the largest employer within the city limits is the school district. We need to balance the presence of distribution centers and superstores like Walmart with a concerted effort to bring businesses to Patterson that offer a variety of jobs with good pay.
6. What are your opinions on the city’s current budgeting? What would you change?
The budgeting process as laid out in the city’s annual budget is detailed and workable. However, it requires that the mayor and council work with the city staff throughout the budget process to understand the challenges. That requires respect and hard work on both sides.
At the County Board of Education, we put together an annual budget that is almost four times the size of the City of Patterson. We have been able to do that every year because of a great executive team and a board that understands its role, not as a micro-manager, but as the final authority in a shared process.
7. How do you feel about the city’s use of reserves?
To balance the 2009-2010 budget, the mayor and council took $925,274 from reserves. While the city’s reserves are ample at $8.9 million, this isn’t the way budgets should be balanced, especially when there are so many questionable expenditures. There were $362,452 in litigation costs in 2008-2009 and hiring general plan consultants cost $1.2 million dollars. Having to use our reserves to pay for consultants and lawyers just isn’t responsible.
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 and will be a crucial issue in the Central Valley. We need to work with the water districts, especially in drawing a general plan, so that we realize today what our future limitations for growth will be.
9. Do you approve of the way the current council has been running things, and if not, what would you change?
We need leadership that fosters teamwork among council members and an end to the string of 3-2 votes that is the legacy of this mayor and council. That requires strong leadership that works to build respect and teamwork among all the members of the council.
I have been successful in doing that at county level, which is why Tom Changnon, county superintendent of schools, endorses me: “As President of the board, Luis’ leadership style is appreciated by his colleagues. He is able to make difficult decisions while keeping individual concerns in mind. Luis models civility and integrity. It is a pleasure working with him.”
Those are the skills and qualities I would bring to being mayor of Patterson.
10. What qualities or experience should be looked for in hiring a new city manager?
We need competence, communication skills and a proven history of executive leadership in our next city manager. They have an enormous task ahead of them in re-building the city staff.
11. Do you favor a two- or four-year term for the mayor? Why?
I would favor a four-year term for the mayor. The two-year term was instituted in 1982 as a way of limiting the power of the mayor. If our city government is working correctly, as a weak-mayor form of mayor-council government, then a four-year term is preferable.
12. What is the most pressing issue facing the city? Why?
I am running for mayor on a platform that has three priorities: jobs, public safety and expanding services for our youth. They are intertwined.
We can’t help to build a diversified economy in Patterson with good jobs and wages unless we first provide public safety and an educated work force through expanded services for youth.
13. What are your goals for the city’s downtown, and how will you go about achieving those goals?
Downtown Patterson is a special place that deserves our best efforts as a city to preserve and enhance.
I am concerned that Walmart, while providing a needed retail outlet, will also negatively impact small businesses in the downtown. We can’t expect to add 158,000 square feet of retail without there being a negative effect on businesses and stores that are here now.
I would like to maximize the use of redevelopment funds to help small businesses in the downtown by working with them to create a business plan.
I would like Patterson’s future development to make sure that we are a walkable and bike-able city so that we move toward a more sustainable future.
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?
When growth comes again, preserving our prime agricultural land will have a higher and higher priority.
15. How would you go about mitigating the impacts to agriculture?
We need to explore the ways other communities have balanced the interests of agriculture, development and the environment.
For instance, the City of Chico in 1982 created a Green Line that preserved prime agricultural land from future development. The Green Line brought together growers, developers and environmentalists to build a coalition of support that has shaped a consensus for a generation about balancing the needs of agriculture, development and the environment.
I am a leader that can bring people together to listen and learn. We can balance the interests of diverse communities, not through confrontation, but through consensus building.
16. What is your opinion of how the council has been operating as a whole?
Elections are about the future. The past is the string of 3-2 votes we’ve seen from this council. I want to be a mayor who brings people together and works with a council and city staff that is focused on serving Patterson, not their own agendas.
17. In your opinion, has the council been guilty of micro-managing?
If the recent resignations of the city manager, the assistant city manager, the city attorney, the community services director and the finance director are an indicator, we are headed in the wrong direction.
We need a mayor and council that can work with the city staff with a shared sense of purpose and a respect for one another.
18. In what ways would you go about enhancing teamwork among the council members?
I want to be a mayor that provides strong leadership, not as a bully, but as someone who fosters communication, is always willing to listen and is clear about my own priorities.
19. Do you think the community currently trusts the city’s leaders?
There will be a definitive answer on Nov. 2.
20. How would you go about maintaining or building that trust further?
If I am honored to be elected as mayor, I will institute regular neighborhood meetings so that we work at bringing people together, gathering their good ideas and encouraging more people to have a voice.
One thing I have learned as I have walked all the precincts of Patterson meeting with voters is that they are concerned about our future as a city. It is time for a new direction.