October 29, 2008 > City Council Candidates
City Council Candidates
In the next few years, I hope to see some of the projects we have been working on get off the ground. It will take vision, energy and commitment to lead Fremont. At this point, our major accomplishment is Pacific Commons. Area projects such as Centerville, Irvington and Niles have not been as successful. We need tangible results that will show that Fremont is moving in the right direction. I do not want to create wholesale change at one time since that would be too disruptive. However, we do need to make some improvements to become more business-friendly. We want to encourage new business to come to Fremont and also retain those that are already here.
I have been representing Fremont at the League of California Cities since my election to the city council. This organization did not have much of a voice in the past but has changed quite a bit in the last eight years. They have supported three propositions at the state level that have passed. The most recent was protection of some local revenue from state take-aways. Since the state is now attacking redevelopment money which has a significant effect on many cities - housing, jobs, etc. - the league is working on additional safeguards.
The proposed increase of the redevelopment cap will allow Fremont to accomplish some of the things we have wanted to do. Although this does affect the General Fund, it creates needed funds for the city. The majority of those funds - net of about $300-$400 million - will be used for the Irvington BART station. Although BART will make provision for a station in that area, we will have to build it. There is very little to show in the three redevelopment areas for past funds collected. Most of the money has gone for interchange improvements on I-880. Those should have been part of the state's responsibility, not local financing.
I believe the Center Theater can be the catalyst for that district. With recent plan design modifications of the Centerville Unified Site, commercial space has been reduced from about 100,000 square feet to approximately 30,000 square feet, little more than a strip mall. This has become primarily a residential site. This is not my definition of revitalization for the area and if this is all that that site can sustain, that shifts the focus to the Center Theater as the focus.
I have been part of the discussion regarding the A's since day one. Initially, I believed we were being used as leverage with Oakland. At the time, Fremont had two sites and Oakland had three. When the sites in Oakland were seen as untenable, things became serious. Our initial response was a welcome with open arms to show interest. Now as this becomes a more serious negotiation, we can view this development as a positive asset which must be weighed against serious concerns. Impact on public transportation, housing, traffic, schools and neighbors must be addressed. Currently the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is being prepared and I cannot make a sound decision until that is released. This can only be approved if it is in the best interests of Fremont. In discussions with members of the San Diego City Council which confronted a similar issue, I was advised that the number one issue is adequate public transportation. Without a solution, the project can be a disaster. Light rail, heavy rail and bus service converge at Petco Park in San Diego.
Originally I opposed the East-West Connector (Hwy 84). As discussion continued, I was convinced that we needed to do something to satisfy future demand. I live in that area and am impacted by traffic. There was agreement to implement this option with a scaled down version of the original concept similar to Paseo Padre Parkway but with an intent to restrict truck traffic. The noise level, road maintenance and exhaust levels can be reduced by banning truck traffic.
Pacific Commons filled a void of shopping opportunities at the time but was probably not designed in the best way. Although it retains shopping dollars in Fremont, Pacific Commons is not a pedestrian-friendly shopping experience so for most, they go to one or two stores, make their purchases, and leave. The vision for the Central Business District is to create lifestyle shopping which encourages people to spend time shopping in the area. This may also include a performing arts center. We cannot ignore the five original districts and newer areas such as the north section in the ultimate vision for Fremont and there will be some overlap of effort in this regard.
When I speak with other councilmembers from around the state, many are receiving little, if any compensation. However, the time requirement to address all the concerns that come up is considerable. I am not against raising the issue of compensation but understand that the economic circumstances are difficult. This could be discussed and any decision deferred for four or eight years so those making the decision would not benefit. Under our present form of government in Fremont, accountability for the operation of the city is indirect, held by the city council since they are responsible for hiring or firing the city manager. Most large cities have some form of direct accountability with a strong mayor and we may need to start looking at some version of that form of government. We need to be fiscally conservative in any event and make sure that whatever we choose, those responsible are accountable to the voters.
We are one community. Many people come to live in an area because of the quality of the school system. There needs to be more collaboration between the city and school system at the policy making level. I propose a working committee of not more than two members from each entity that would meet on a regular basis and discuss the issues and solutions to take action. Without something like this in place, we can talk all day but nothing is really accomplished.
In the next four years, Fremont will see BART tracks on their way to Warm Springs over Paseo Padre Parkway and under the Washington Blvd. overpass and hopefully, Santa Clara County. I see new policies for building and more control of development, improved neighborhoods and shopping centers. Developments should be walkable, built around transportation and fit the neighborhood character. Cities are built on families, homes and the investment necessary to build them.
My basic goal is to return to the ideas of planning. The council has been ignoring older neighborhoods and shopping centers, concentrating instead on new development. Anchor tenants in some of these are thrift and dollar stores which is bad for the neighborhood. We need to resurrect the concept of the Office of Neighborhoods to deal with neighborhood problems on a collective basis. This is not just a matter of hiring more cops. We need to plan for the future and build to that plan. Building standards should be ours that include green and energy efficient elements.
The original General Plan calls for a strong Central Business District and strong community commercial districts in the historic towns. Redevelopment did a good job in Niles but a second stage of development stalled when state budget problems created uncertainty. We have done a terrible job in Centerville. The main anchor in Centerville is Dale Hardware; we should be building to complement that business. Our historic districts should complement a downtown, available for small, local business and serve as an incubator.
Downtown has been frustrating. It was to be the only lifestyle center between Emeryville and Santana Row. When the A's project came along, they described Ballpark Village in exactly the same terms. There cannot be two "only" lifestyle centers. A problem for downtown is that there is not enough money in the budget to build a needed parking structure. The city is the largest property owner in that area and can make things happen. At one time there was a plan to sell city surplus property to help the downtown. I don't know what has happened to this idea.
We began a process of raising the redevelopment cap in 2002. State budget problems caused revenue uncertainty and we were asked by the county to put this on the back burner where it has been too long. I support the idea of raising the cap. Redevelopment has been able to do quite a bit of good since the industrial area began with a tax base of $15 million and is now in the billions. We helped build five interchanges on I-880 and we have done some things in the other areas but it appears to have stalled with projects that just don't work. The only agency that really gets hurt is the City of Fremont that loses its tax increment; others get a pass-through. It is worth our cost but we need to make sure staff is working efficiently. We should have a public plan of how the money will be used.
I am not in favor of council study sessions since they are held too early for many to watch in person or on television and can be used as a crutch for councilmembers who fail to do their homework on these subjects.
About a year and a half ago, the A's submitted an economic analysis. I looked at this and it was terrible. Then I received a copy of the site plan and looked at the concept in great detail. As a result, I think I know that project as well as anyone, better than the present council. What I see is a massive project put on land with one freeway interchange with no transit access. If someone suggests a train station, someone is going to have to spend $9 million on a train station beside additional rolling stock. A shuttle system will not work for that many people especially at the end of a game. The only way to get there is by car and adequate nearby parking is unavailable. Add a residential and commercial complex to that and the traffic is untenable. Existing businesses will suffer as well.
The residential component is next to a wildlife refuge and there is serious discussion of school resources. Proposed job creation is not necessarily high-paying in the retail industry. An analysis of the economic benefit of the stadium does not show a significant profit for the city. A proposal to the city council for a community specific plan is not in conformance with the General Plan. This proposal is full of problems. If the A's come, it should be to Fremont's benefit; so far nothing in that plan is to Fremont's benefit. The stadium really belongs near NUMMI and the Warm Springs BART station but that will not support the rest of their project.
State law allows council salaries to be upgraded at the rate of 5% per year. In Fremont, salaries have not been raised since 1996. If you look at the intervening years at that rate, the salary could be raised to about $2,500 per month. The mayor's salary can be set at any rate by the council; this does not have to wait for an election. Today, the mayors of Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro, Hayward, Union City and Newark make more money than the mayor of Fremont. Councilmembers make more as well. The Mayor of Berkeley, a city of 105,000, introduced me to his chief of staff - meaning he had a staff! I think the mayor's salary in Fremont should be, at a minimum, $60,000; maybe $80,000 would be appropriate. It should not be a job restricted to people who are independently wealthy, have a business able to run without them or are retired. This should be a job people aspire to because they want to help their community without losing a living wage. Each year at budget time, council and mayor salaries should be reviewed.
I go back and forth on the subject of a strong mayor form of government. In any case, I believe there should be a professional city administrator. I have seen cases where this type of government works well and others in which the wrong person is elected and corrupts the system. There needs to be a good working relationship between the mayor and city manager.
On the topic of a charter city, the number one problem I see is compulsory binding arbitration in public safety. In every city with compulsory binding arbitration, the initiative is put out by the employees and is attractive to voters. If this is passed, you lose control of 65 percent of your budget. There used to be other advantages but many of them have been eroded over time. I am not prepared to oppose a strong mayor form of government and am open to some changes in how we do business, but I worry about leaving things open with a charter.
In the next four years, Fremont's economy will grow with additional retail and commercial activity and jobs. In turn, city services will rebuild including our police department and doing the other things which we presently cannot afford. Our biggest obligation is public safety and street maintenance and we have to improve that within the next four years. I see the A's as the biggest answer to that assuming that they have a package that is good for them and good for Fremont. We should see increased revenue simply from the opening of the A's ballpark. That is the small part. What is important is the resulting growth all over the area. A good example of that can be seen in San Diego where a depressed part of the city is now booming. In San Francisco, the area around the ballpark is booming. There are many examples.
Some say that a sports franchise will not make money. Even if it doesn't make a lot of revenue, it creates other business which does make money. It will bring restaurants, entertainment venues which, in turn, bring people. We suffer because our money leaves Fremont. This needs to be turned around. Five years ago, our leakage was $1 billion and now that has decreased to $1.5 million. That is bad but still a great improvement. Five years ago, I made the tie-breaking vote to bring Wal-Mart to Fremont and many were mad about that. But, five years ago 30,000 people a day were leaving Fremont to spend their money somewhere else. Wal-Mart brings in millions of dollars a year and keeps people in Fremont. This is an economic signal to others who might be interested in locating in our city. We have to keep growing our economy. My philosophy is to accept business that makes Fremont a better place and will satisfy shoppers.
Redevelopment has had great accomplishments. The underpass on Paseo Parkway and the overpass on Washington Boulevard have been constructed with redevelopment funds. The Mission/I-880 interchange was partially funded by redevelopment funds. The increased cap will bring funds for the Irvington BART station. Even though the General Fund loses some money to redevelopment, that money and more from other agencies is received by redevelopment. This will make the Irvington area boom and promote what is called "Smart Growth," transit-oriented residential and business, to that area. This is an example of growing an economy and the city.
The biggest challenge for Fremont over the next ten years is how it ultimately reconciles its old towns and the new town. We cannot ignore our older centers but we can't take our economic growth and divide it into five separate entities. Our situation is similar to what happened in Los Angeles many years ago. With the growth of that city, everything fed from that economic vitality. I believe that is the ultimate salvation of the five historic districts but with significant adjustments. When the day comes that Fremont is a good, solid, sustainable city, it will be strong with significant resources and those neighborhoods will thrive. Each of those areas could have a senior center, a community center and a performing center. There is no reason they cannot continue to be what they are and maintain their identity but it cannot be in the same economic structure.
Future growth cannot be a continuation of past growth. Isolated neighborhoods and small strip centers with inadequate public transportation is not in our best interest. One of the challenges we face is to reduce our carbon footprint. In order to move our city in the right direction, we will have green standards and LEED building standards along with different zoning. We cannot keep building the same type of things as in the past. We need so-called "Smart Growth" to accommodate public transportation. This doesn't necessarily mean that everything has to be high density but we need connections between areas. You can take advantage of the original five towns of Fremont and use light rail, for instance, as a connection to a central place, possibly a downtown. That is something that could be done in the future, maybe even including Pacific Commons, an A's ballpark and other areas. With the population of Fremont at approximately 215,000 and ultimately approaching 300,000 people, there will be a need to move people efficiently and public transportation works. Light rail is a good solution.
In regards to changes in pay and organization of the Fremont City Council, I would move cautiously. I have a lot of experience with cities and have seen a lot of things go right and go wrong. I believe changes are doable. A charter is not the solution it once was. I did bring this question to the council to see if there was any interest and there was very little response. Discussing the concepts of a strong mayor type of government and a different pay scale for councilmembers and the mayor is for the future. There will be a time for Fremont to move toward a full-time mayor. I don't know if that time is now but I certainly would not avoid such a discussion. Our first priority at this point is to become solvent. As a city, we are not solvent at this time. Then we can start talking about a full-time mayor. In order for me to advocate a strong mayor system, there would also have to be a provision for a strong city manager as well.
Fremont City Council
The main element of my campaign is balanced development. We have pushed the housing a little too much and need to focus on business development and protect our industrial land. As a technical support manager, I tell new employees, "You have to think on the customer's terms. Their success is our success." If we help business, there will be more jobs here and more income. This is where the whole cycle begins.
I would like to see some delayed projects move forward but would be cautious of the Unified Site in Centerville and downtown. People are so anxious there may be a knee-jerk reaction. With Centerville, we need to do it right rather than just fill it with housing. This is a chance to do something creative and may take time. I am a big fan of transit-oriented development but have studied what has been done around the BART stations in general and the record has been pretty bad.
As a transportation engineer, I was involved with the Highway 84 project years ago and asked myself what traffic problem we were trying to solve. It was hard to see what the connection was doing. I question whether it is necessary, but it sounds like there is enough impetus to make the East-West Connector happen.
I believe the transportation measures necessary for the A's project are cost prohibitive. The A's have estimated 11,000 car trips will be generated on game day - five lanes of freeway traffic at full capacity for one full hour. I don't think we have the roads to handle that. A ballpark is not an economic generator.
We don't have enough data on what would happen if we don't raise the redevelopment cap. It depends on the amount of money received each way and the priorities for that money. We are trying to raise money for our police department and even though I am an advocate of an Irvington BART station, this has to be weighed against money for public safety requirements.
Fremont is approaching build-out. A big question will be budgetary with a growing staff and payroll. Where are we going to get the tax money for this? In the past the solution has been to grow out of these problems but we have already developed most of our land. We get into a never ending cycle of raising taxes for growth and then when we have growth, raising taxes for more growth which leads to more growth and so on. We have the potential to be a big town like Oakland or San Jose - more of an urban city. A different option is to limit growth and retain the "viewshed" of the hills. Proponents of these ideas tend to neutralize each other.
We have never embraced our strengths and created a vision or definition of who we are. The tendency has been to hobble along from one project to another, collecting development fees. Fremont is known as a quiet bedroom community where nothing much happens. That can be used as a strength as opposed to the bright lights and bustle of an urbanized area. We are a family town with good schools, a high rate of ownership and high income.
Downtown represents a huge, expensive and unrealistic project that shows we are not comfortable with who we are. Fremont has five historic districts. We should embrace our township character. I am opposed to the A's development and the inclusion of a Santana Row nightlife area, coating to the candy to help people swallow this. The economic benefit of the A's in Oakland is not that much and if we build the development here, we will reach a point of no return for the direction of Fremont toward a San Jose type of city. This will over commit us to infrastructure support and undermine our current district-oriented community.
In the short term, we need to address the budget. This is the biggest challenge - maintaining services as the state continues to cut funding. Projects such as the Niles plaza and Centerville Unified Site are moving forward. The Center Theater group is working on an endowment plan and should be presenting an exciting plan to the city very soon. Patterson Ranch development and the A's proposal will also be coming to the council within a relatively short timeframe.
I would support the A's development for its economic development and enhancement potential but only if it is good for Fremont. The A's can revitalize the area and bring business to the city, not only in the ballpark village area, but to existing hotels, restaurants and other businesses. It will bring new jobs for Fremont residents and generate new tax revenue for police, fire, schools, parks and road improvements. However, it is very important that issues such as traffic, public safety and schools are mitigated to our satisfaction. I will insist that the developers, not the city, provide appropriate levels of safety.
Planning Commission recently had a report on land use. One of the things that became clear is that industrial use has changed and expanded to jobs and manufacturing that were not in existence ten years ago. We need to have a balance of land use and must be careful because once land is rezoned, it is very difficult if not impossible to change it back to the original use.
At this point, from what I understand, I support the increase of the redevelopment agency cap. Any new councilmember will have to familiarize themselves with all the facts to make a good decision.
A recent retail market analysis of Fremont indicated that there is significant leakage of shopping dollars from our city. That is because there is a mismatch between what residents want and what we have. We need to attract businesses that will keep our residents and their dollars here. The downtown area can attract business that may not be appropriate in district shopping areas.
Schools and the city have been operating on parallel paths without adequate communication. It is a win-win to work together since one of our strengths and attractions as a city is a high quality educational system. I plan to work with school board members to ensure improved communication.
My first focus is on the economy. I want to create more well-paying jobs in Fremont. My first priority will be the construction of a pedestrian-friendly downtown - trees, landscaping, mixed-use development with shopping, restaurants and play areas for children. This model has worked in Europe and Copenhagen. When people are drawn to such areas, they spend money and help the economy. We should also support the arts community including the Center Theater in Centerville and convention center.
Massive tree plantation, landscaping and recycled water will make Fremont a green city. We need a extensive public transportation system such as light rail, powered by electricity and solar energy. Transportation should service schools, shopping, Central Park, places of worship and especially the senior community. For massive alternative energy projects which will result in cheaper power and job creation, Fremont will have to involve regional partners such as Milpitas, Union City, Newark and Hayward.
The city should not be seen as an elite network. I support the idea of a full time council and mayor held accountable for city operations. Some decisions such as building restrictions in Mission Ranch and Glenmoor areas have been delayed and manipulated due to future political considerations. There is no regard for our city, decisions are delayed and staff is confused. In this case, the people spoke clearly and the council should follow their will and make a decision.
I am pro business, pro jobs, pro development and pro green. Development is welcome to the City of Fremont but under the conditions of not spoiling the environment, increasing the traffic burden and providing affordable housing for low income people. I want to keep my grandkids here even if they work for minimum wage.
I see Fremont as a great place to live. There are positive signs for the city including Pacific Commons, A's Ballpark, BART extension. If I am elected, I will try to encourage these developments and expanding the businesses and activities in the city. We need to increase the variety of services for residents so they don't feel compelled to go to other areas for recreation and dining. Fremont should become more of a destination.
Working with other councilmembers and the mayor, I would talk to developers and coordinate projects that would be in synch with the current lifestyle of residents. There is concern with traffic, crowding, housing but these can be solved with open discussion.
The historic districts are essential to the city. A central downtown can be a destination for residents and others from out of the area, but the historic districts should remain and be developed with unique businesses, restaurants, museums and theaters. Each would have a trademark that everyone could identify with. The Center Theater is one such trademark. I have spoken with newer Fremont residents and they are not even aware of the historic districts and what is available in them. We need to raise the awareness of these places.
I support redevelopment because it will bring positive growth. The challenges are more congestion but in the long run the changes will be positive. Using redevelopment money for the districts will help revitalize those areas. The Center Theater is an example of this which might feature live entertainment. This could put Fremont on the map as a place for entertainment.
I am all for the A's. The city council and mayor should have more input on that. I am, however, concerned with the traffic impact of that development. It would definitely be a positive development in the long run. The East-West Connector is still open to question in my mind. I am also concerned about the relationship between the school board and city council. There should be a lot more communication between them using town hall type meetings with a councilmember, a school board member and parents.
After studying the current budget, I think I can interject ways for the city to come up with additional revenue. One would be a wireless internet service similar to the one used in Mountain View powered by Google. It would generate income because whenever you pop up the webpage, you are going to see advertisements. Once the system is paid for, it can generate some decent income. I have already had conversations with Cisco and Google about this already and it is a good fit especially if we get the A's stadium. I am a whole-hearted supporter of this project.
Another idea would be a convention center in conjunction with the A's stadium. That would bring in a lot of revenue to the city. I do not believe we would have to put out any money because a large company like Google might come in to build it. This could be a great place for the Fremont Symphony or a permanent museum exhibit.
My other revenue generator would be a solar program for the residents of Fremont. I have spoken with the Solyndra people about this. The city would subsidize and own the system. If a homeowner signed up, a solar array would be put on their house which would power the house at a low cost. Any additional power generated would be sold back to PG&E. This has never been done before and I believe it is a good system.
Although the downtown appears to be a good idea, Fremont is too large to have just one downtown. All five historic areas need to have their own downtown. Each of the districts could be similar to Old Town Pleasanton or Downtown Mountain View; we would draw in people from the neighborhoods. We need balance in development just as the historic district shopping centers need to be surrounded by residential zones.
Fremont should be known as a city that resolved its faults, becomes practical and resisted exploitation. There are those in the city administration that are highly skilled and can take advantage of amateurs on the council. Councilmembers need to listen to the people. Some on the council are elected and believe this is like a Burger King franchise and do it their way. This is a very serious business and affects the lives, quality of life and well-being of everyone in the city. Change is necessary when failure is present.
We are beginning to become "Oakland-ized" since the bizarre decision by the Chief of Police that not only would he not answer burglar alarms and made it clear that he could not patrol his city. I believe this was an intentional ploy to get more money. I am the only candidate that spoke against Measure L. I am also against MM which I consider pandering for pennies. There must be accurate financial accountability in Fremont which I believe is missing.
Dysfunctional city management is a tremendous burden for any municipality. Business will not flourish in this environment. We do not have a sense of stability and crime is rising. We need to change the culture of the city, specifically the police culture and procedures in Fremont. We need a new Chief of Police. While I shy away from bringing in consultants, I do not shy away from "fixers."
One of the main reasons I jumped in was that I did not think the council was taking a long term look at things. You need to not only look at what is happening now, but how changes will play out in 10, 20 or 30 years. We are the fourth largest city in the Bay Area and we need to start acting like it. Our population is changing and the needs of our population are changing as well.
I want to start promoting Fremont as an enjoyable city, a high quality of life and a great school system. With our geographical location, we can be the hub of green technology, emerging industries such as nanotech, biotech and high tech. The council and the staff need to be more proactive in recruiting these folks because these businesses come with high quality jobs paying a living wage with benefits. We need to develop the right atmosphere so you can live and work here. With Ohlone College, we have amazing opportunities to form partnerships between the high tech community and the college.
I have an opportunity to travel throughout the state talking with business leaders and the number one issue for them is finding a quality workforce. They are looking for opportunities to align themselves with educational institutions so they can create pathways into their companies and help shape the curriculum. Right now, millions are being spent to retrain those coming from schools. The council and staff have been too passive. We should be looking at incentives and when we hear they are looking for a location, go to them and ask what we need to do to get them to come to Fremont. Questions should be asked of businesses that have left to find out why. Could we have done something different to keep them here?
The A's could be an exciting development, but we have to look at the type of jobs they will bring and make sure we do not become a minimum wage mecca. Although we do need better retail and more dining options, we also must preserve zoning of industrial land. These are the areas we will need to recruit the industries I spoke of earlier.
Bob Wieckowski (Inc)
The BART extension will need a lot of attention. One of the things I would like to do as a member of the CMA (Congestion Management Agency) is to see if I can squeeze money from our regional partners to help with engineering and planning of the Irvington BART station. This can close a time gap between opening of the Warm Springs station and an Irvington station. Increasing the cap of the Redevelopment Agency will make a big difference and reenergize that agency. Redevelopment money, so far, has been used primarily for interstate interchanges. A significant portion can be used for the Irvington BART station which will spur the economic growth in that area. I would also love to consider another BART station at Shinn.
One of my pet projects is the Sabercat Creek which received $1.2 million grant. Geologists say this area is more archeologically significant than the La Brea Tar Pits. A legacy I would like to see is the day when people can get off the Irvington BART station, walk up Saber Cat Creek to Mission Peak and over to Del Valle - a recreational camping experience.
Something will be done at the Centerville Unified Site and we will finally begin seeing action on Capitol Avenue. We have hired another consultant and there is some excitement after receiving a recent retail study which highlighted economic sectors of our population. A significant population is "digerati" and young professionals whose needs are not being serviced. They have disposable income, like to go out to restaurants and brew pubs. I would like to help moderate the discussion of how neighborhoods can integrate high density housing and single family dwellings.
The city council and mayor is a policy making body that works with the city manager and staff to get things done. My style of management is similar to David Packard that you hire the very best people, give them the tools to do the job and get out their way and let them do it. There will be little interference. I am trying to open the city to allow people to be heard, soliciting their input for changes that need to be done. To date, Milpitas has been a closed club and I would like to see communications opened up bringing new vitality and vision. I am a public service person, not a politician.
We have land available to bring good companies into Milpitas if it isn't used for high density housing such as the Fairfield project which is ridiculous. There should also be coordination with Fremont on our northern border as well. High density affordable housing needs to concentrate near public transportation to encourage and relieve traffic congestion. If we are successful, people can live and work in Milpitas relieving congestion on our streets such as Calaveras Boulevard and Highway 237. We need to solicit companies in biotech and green tech industries. There are some biotech firms in South San Francisco for instance that will run out of room and look elsewhere for additional operational space. In the green tech area, I would be proactive and talk with venture capital people, find out about the new and promising companies in that field and talk to them about the opportunities in our city.
My perspective is of someone who has acceptance in many different ethnic communities. We need more representation and true interaction with these citizens of Milpitas. I can also bring a broad appreciation of the practices other cities and counties and even countries that might be of benefit to Milpitas. I believe that the Milpitas, Fremont, Newark, Union City area is a community and each is dependent on the others irregardless of city or county borders.
It does not make sense to me that the mayor's term is two years. This would only make sense if the title was passed to a sitting councilmember every two years. Otherwise, a four year term is a better system allowing the mayor to get things done without constantly running for reelection.
Sacramento has used smoke and mirrors to balance their budget and constantly looks to the cities for money. We have smoke and mirrors in Milpitas too. To balance the budget the last two years, properties have been sold to the redevelopment agency for cash. This cannot continue even though there are still plans to do that in the future. We have to get down to basics of a community that has a tax base of property taxes and business tax by bringing in high level companies with high level employment. We need to build our community to encourage people to relocate here. Let's also give people a reason to come to Milpitas and do business here. We can create a system, similar to a European style, that allows people to park their cars on the outskirts of town and take public transportation to their destinations. Also, additional high income housing will attract those of significant means to live in the city, spend money here and serve on council or commissions.
When discussing schools, we can think of this as kids' policies. There should not be any barrier. When talking about having special meetings to bring these entities together, regular meetings should have been happening all along. We need to find ways to better support education. Plans are around to add thousands of new homes in Milpitas. There should be plans for how the kids in these homes will be served in the educational system. We need a second high school in Milpitas.
For the first time we are going to get serious about the "greening" of the community. I have a lot of ideas to be more environmentally friendly. One concerns our city fleet that is based on internal combustion using gasoline. We have to get away from that. We have set a goal that within the next four years all of our fleet will use alternative fuel whether it be natural gas, electric or whatever. Most of the trips outside public safety could easily be run on electric vehicle like Tesla is building in San Jose just outside Milpitas.
We also need to come up with stronger green building standards for those who are developing in Milpitas. We have done some voluntary things in that regard but need to do more. Outside of public safety, we work a traditional 8-hour day, five days a week. There is no reason why we can't expand the hours of city hall at the same time we reduce the number of commute trips for our employees. That could have a tremendous effect.
Hopefully BART will be coming through and that will involve a different type of planning. We will see development in that area transit plan that is a little different that people have seen before. It will be denser, taller and doesn't look like a single family home. This is the type of housing that makes sense and is environmentally friendly. We have held firm on not developing the hillsides and that will not change.
We are faced with budget constraints that may change the way we do business. The city has done some of that already. The workforce has been frozen so we have weathered the financial storm pretty well and doing more with less is going to continue.
Industrial land is under pressure two different ways - conversion and use. We have in our industrial parks allowed non-revenue generating uses - churches, for example. Many surrounding cities do not allow that and we have seen an influx of this type of use. We have to stop that because we lose money and also it restricts others in the area who may want to expand. We need to enact an ordinance that will no longer allow this to happen. Many of the industrial parks in Milpitas are outmoded - they do not meet the needs of today's industry which is more of an office environment, software development, quality control. Milpitas needs to work with the owners of the industrial parks to upgrade their property and attract revenue generating businesses.
My number one issue is economic development. Milpitas is a low tax city which means we have to be a high revenue city. Without maintaining high revenues, it will not work. I will sit down with the owners of large, medium and small companies and ask what we need to do to keep them here. I will then sit across from landlords and owners of property that have been vacant for three years and ask them what we need to do to fill the buildings. We have to be more interactive with our business community.
We need to take ownership of economic development in Milpitas. I am committed to this issue. The importance of this must be raised to the highest level. Our reputation for customer service is very good, but our staff needs to understand that economic development is everyone's job at City Hall. An Economic Development Director was hired and we need to make sure the resources for success are available. We will need to be aggressive, maintain low taxes and be business friendly including the possibility of business incentives. Redevelopment money may be used as an incentive as well. This is a tough competitive environment but we have some big players here such as Cisco and we have to continue to run with this message.
Milpitas City Council
Debbie Giordano (Inc)
Milpitas will see a new library, senior center and senior housing complex that were planned and are in progress. More transit-oriented development and apartment units will be built. We will continue to welcome new business and work to retain existing businesses in Milpitas. A good housing and job balance will be in the forefront. Use of industrial land will probably remain at present levels. It is all market driven so as we attract and retain that base, land zoned for that purpose will stay as industrial. High density is going vertical. This is what makes sense for developers.
I am in favor of changing the mayoral position to a four year term. It takes a while to adjust to the position and see changes start to take shape.
A $19 million reserve will help us through these difficult economic times. We have cut back nine percent of the work force at city hall through attrition and combining jobs. This has had a dramatic effect on the budget. Salary cuts and hiring an in-house city attorney have also helped to decrease costs. We are probably one of the best run cities around. We are even beginning to pre-fund retiree medical costs.
We need to keep the bridge between schools and the city and do the best we can to communicate effectively.
I plan to put a lot of emphasis on continuing the mid-town development of Milpitas. I will also work to eliminate odor from the Alviso treatment plant. There is quite a bit of technology that can be applied to take care of that responsibility. We need to make sure that our community is well in tune and involved with our government so the city can represent their needs and wants. One reason that the mayor is elected for only two years is the lack of confidence the citizens have in their government. There is not enough connection with the population of Milpitas. We should have monthly public forums to have a free exchange of ideas and issues between government and the people. Our city should be a family-oriented city.
We need to encourage small business development and retain those that are already here. I can use my experience around the world to bring more companies and jobs to Milpitas. We are missing a comprehensive traffic plan for the city. With the development going on here, we must make sure we are prepared to deal with any resulting congestion. A solution may be to turn some roads into one-way streets.
Residential development should slow down; the focus needs to be on business development. I am in favor of protecting industrial land from residential development because at this time we have no balance. I would follow the example of San Jose that was able to attract Tesla with favorable tax treatment, support and land use requirements. We need to do advance planning for the future economy of Milpitas. Although money may be tight, some solutions to Milpitas issues are a matter of prioritization.
Our school system needs to be in tune with development. We only have one high school and with the residential growth both current and planned, that is inadequate.
Governments, including Milpitas, will be facing significant financial challenges in the near future. My goal for Milpitas is to create a harmonious, financially sound group that delivers services to the people. I stress the word "harmonious" since it has been a polarized council with 3-2 votes on many issues. This has not been good for the city. I am hoping that with my election, I can bring the group together.
Financially, the reserve goal has been 15 percent which is commendable. I believe they currently have 17 percent put aside. Milpitas has a great management team, the employee groups are good and I think the citizens are basically satisfied. The state will probably continue to have difficult challenges and there will plenty of challenges at all government levels - we live in interesting times.
In general, Industrial land should be protected. A mistake was made when land west of I-880 was rezoned. I am inclined to make an exception in the area of religious organizations. Their activities usually do not conflict with the hours and operations of industrial businesses. My vote would depend on the specifics. We need to strike a balance between growth and the environment as well. For the most part, industrial land should be preserved. Integrated communities that use nearby facilities, transportation and services to serve the neighborhood make sense.
Our system of a two year mayor is fine. This is a result of the need for frequent accountability of the mayor which offsets the inconvenience of frequent campaigns. We probably have the strangest set of term limits anywhere. You can serve a maximum of four terms but only three in any one office. At some point there may be enough confidence to support a change.
City Council has created problems with the budget by borrowing and use of the Redevelopment Agency. We have built more than we can afford. This will be a difficult problem to solve for those who are on the council for the next four years. In these times of economic stress, a compromise may be necessary on employee pay; all of these options will have to be explored. Above all, support for education should be preserved. This is the best gift for the next generation especially in this competitive world. The city needs to relate to and support the educational system because this is a very important part of our community. At the present time, communication and support is not good.
We have allowed development without regard to schools, community services and infrastructure. It is time for us to slow down. At this time there are apartments, condos and townhouses that have not been sold or occupied.
The disparity between a council term of four years and the mayoral term of two years doesn't seem to be a problem. Those in the position of mayor always seem to be reelected so it doesn't appear to make any difference.
San Leandro City Council
I think we are at crossroads in San Leandro. The next council will be deciding on three major projects. First is the revitalization of downtown and the downtown redevelopment strategy; the second is the marina shoreline and third, Kaiser will be constructing a five-story hospital and surrounding development. This could increase our employee population by 10 percent. Other areas of importance are economic development and neighborhood support. As a neighborhood leader and homeowners association president for the last 12 years, I come from a neighborhood perspective. With a recent increase in crime, I will work for more crime prevention and emergency preparedness.
In San Leandro we have had a pretty good reserve that has helped us through the state take-aways. As these continue, the development projects I mentioned are crucial to bring more sales tax to the city which supports city services more than anything else.
San Leandro is pretty well built out so we have a transit-oriented development strategy, one by the downtown BART station with market rate, affordable housing and retail. The other is in the Bayfair area. We need to have a plan and vision that integrates and balances infill development and accommodates the additional need for services, infrastructure and school capacity with existing neighborhoods. All of these stakeholders need to be at the table.
The city has been working with the school board on joint projects and together, we have developed a number of joint playfields including Bancroft Middle School and John Muir for recreational use. We are currently implementing a $109 million school bond adding a ninth grade campus to the high school in which the city is participating since a senior center is being added on the opposite side.
Our industrial land is ideal for a green type incubator. We can offer an ideal location and competitive land prices. There are possible partnerships with other areas that are working to attract businesses. Partnerships between cities are possible. Berkeley, Oakland and Richmond are talking with us about forming a green technology beltway.
My number one goal is to have a safer city with an increase of police officers and community readiness skills such as neighborhood watch. We have a lot of people who come home from work, go into their homes and don't come out and get to know their neighbors. This will empower our neighborhoods to look out for each other.
Within the next four years, we should see the completion of a senior center, a Kaiser center and transit-oriented development near the BART station. When the winner of this race is installed on the council, decisions will be necessary on the final touches of these developments.
I would like to work with the school board to think about joint use project where kids can go between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. as a recreational center so that after school, students have an option. I have spoken with Chabot College about their satellite program adjacent to John Muir Middle School with classrooms not in use during the hours I mentioned. We could work together to see if that facility might be helpful and what type of programs could be instituted.
As a councilmember of District 2 that has San Leandro High School in its district, I would automatically be on the joint committee that works with the school board. I believe they need to meet more often on a regular basis to discuss goals and target objectives. Transit-oriented development near the San Leandro BART station has raised some concerns with existing residents of the area especially about safety and overcrowding of schools. This is the type of issue that needs to be discussed at regular meetings of the joint committee.
Use of our industrial land needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. I don't really see this land converted to residential use. San Leandro has built a wonderful town that for every neighborhood there is a park and school and amenities. It was planned that way so every time we change that zoning, it loses a bit of its charm. Some cities are like that and don't function as well because they are not well thought out. Mixed use can be effective in some areas.