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Candidates Talk Business Attraction Strategies

The city council candidates hashed out answers to some non-conventional questions at a forum Wednesday night.

Another city council candidates forum was hosted Wednesday night at by the Latino Community Council and Sustainable Redwood City.

The four candidates answered a series of questions ranging from addressing the city's diversity to attracting more businesses. was not able to attend, but provided an opening statement.

Questions:

  • How can the council create more harmony between cultures in Redwood City?
  • How would you approach funding for various urgent needs for Redwod City considering the reluctance to increase taxes, such as parks south of Woodside Road, flood mitigation in the in Friendly Acres neighborhood and a levy to hold back rising sea levels?
  • What real and tangible plans do you have to attract more business to our downtown?
  • Close to 40 percent of Redwood City residents are Latino. What strategies do you have to encourage more participation and more civically involved?
  • How can we improve the relationship between Caltrans and RWC and our streets are cleaner and more representable?
  • The city has decreased financial support of the Health and Human services agency with an eye towards eliminating it. Why was the choice made to cut these funds?
  • With so many dogs being at parks off their leash, is there a need for a dog park?

 

How can the council create more harmony between cultures in Redwood City?

All the candidates praised the growing diversity of Redwood City, evident in the many events that the city has held from to the , Aguirre said. Pierce and Foust added that it was also about making people comfortable and giving them opportunities to feel like they can make a difference. McCarthy tied this to safety and highlighted that the city should reach out to immigrant communities to show them that a life of crime is not a viable option. The gang task force pushes these communities towards a path of success. 

 

How would you approach funding for various urgent needs for Redwod City considering the reluctance to increase taxes, such as parks south of Woodside Road, flood mitigation in the in Friendly Acres neighborhood and a levy to hold back rising sea levels?

All candidates mentioned the strain on the city’s budget that has led to limited funding such as this, but praised the . Pierce mentioned that developers who build housing all have to pay a fee to contribute to park land, an example of public-private partnerships. Foust added that the city has worked with several of its bargaining units, which in pensions and benefits.

McCarthy is the only one of the five candidates who does not support the because much of his focus is on making it more appealing for businesses to settle in Redwood City. He said an increased fee would “encumber the businesses in Redwood City.” However, Aguirre mentioned that these taxes are essential to obtaining more revenue for exactly these types of projects. These specific taxes would bring in $1.5 million in revenue annually.

 

What real and tangible plans do you have to attract more business to our downtown?

Foust highlighted the new economic development consultant who works in the city manager’s office who has interviewed over 80 businesses about why they’re in Redwood City and why they want to stay, in addition to meeting with large tech companies and employers. will roll out this report in a city council study session in the next month and a half. 

McCarthy agreed with Foust that a way that the council can help is by visiting businesses individually and talking to them and thanking them for being in Redwood City. McCarthy mentioned again that he believed raising the business license fee could deter potential businesses from settling in town. He mentioned that first and foremost, ensuring safe neighborhoods would be a natural attraction to Redwood City.

Aguirre mentioned that bringing in housing would be a natural draw for more retail and foot traffic. With new projects like and , this will bring more business to Redwood City.

Pierce mentioned that she attends various conferences, like those of the Responsible Hospitality Institute, then takes this information and shares it with city staff so they can take a more holistic approach on how to bring in more day, evening, and late night business.

 

Close to 40 percent of Redwood City residents are Latino. What strategies do you have to encourage more participation and more civically involved?

All candidates said it was about making them feel welcome, while McCarthy pointed to specific events that his church, , hosted. Aguirre agreed and added that people in leadership positions need to be a role model to empower others to get involved as well. Pierce said the home community also needs to be more welcoming of other ethnic minorities. Foust added that everyone needs to get out of their comfort zone and approach people of different backgrounds.

 

How can we improve the relationship between Caltrans and RWC and our streets are cleaner and more representable?

Aguirre noted that Caltrans is a state agency, but the city has taken over the patch of land near U-Haul on Woodside Road to clean it up. Pierce added that there is a silver lining in the state being broke in that it does seek city partnerships to take care of certain areas.

Foust said if we look to our communities, many of them wanted to help. The offered to do street sweepings. McCarthy added that the entrances into the city need to be a priority.

 

If you could pick any business in the world, which company would you invite?

Pierce, Foust and Aguirre talked in a general sense about the type of business they’d like to attract: one that pays its employees well, is a good partner to the community and trains its workforce. Pierce mentioned that was a good tenant in that it understands the needs of the community and has a direct impact. Aguirre mentioned that a business that could employ the local workforce, such as the , would be another beneficial factor. Foust said she could have picked Google or Zynga, but she said businesses are about building community.

McCarthy was the only one who identified a specific company: FoxTron, an electronics manufacturer. He said a business like this could employ a diverse workforce, from those in the tech industry to employees who could work in the janitorial or kitchen space.

 

The city has with an eye towards eliminating it. Why was the choice made to cut these funds?

Foust and Aguirre were part of the 5-2 majority that made this decision, with the rationale that “core services” are police, fire, parks and libraries. They said it was one of the toughest decisions that they’ve had to make, but in tough economic times, some services are going to be cut. Though McCarthy was not part of the council decision, he agreed that the city has a primary responsibility to provide primary services. Health and Human services could potentially be passed off to the county.

Pierce, however, part of the dissenting minority, said that public safety and community well-being needs to be looked at more holistically and that this was a “core service.” She said that any problem that they didn’t know how to deal with gets passed off as a “police problem.”

 

With so many dogs being at parks off their leash, is there a need for a dog park?

McCarthy noted the park that is in Redwood Shores and said that decision is something the community should have a say in. But Aguirre pointed out that the Shores Park doesn’t serve the residents in mainland Redwood City, and that if this was something the community wanted, this needed to be balanced with the amount of park acreage for people as well.

Pierce clarified that the city does allow dogs in parks, but they need to be on a leash. So the first problem is getting people to obey the rules, whether that’s implementing a fine or another monitoring system. She said that if the city could partner with a community group that was really advocating for a dog park, this could reduce some of the financial cost on the Parks & Rec department. Foust gave the example of a donor who gave money specifically for bird baths, and that this could serve as a precedent for someone wishing to donate the land and money for a dog park.

 

With the proposed increased business tax, required replacement of outside tables and chairs for the second time in two years, a possible payment for valet service, should more be done to retain businesses?

The candidates were not aware of the required replacement of outside tables and chairs, and the councilmembers said they would verify that. In terms of the valet service, the candidates agreed this was something the businesses would have to vote on, and ultimately, fund themselves. However, McCarthy said if valet service would be implemented, where the parking spots would be located would also have to be considered. He said he didn’t want parking spots to be taken away from the general public.

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