Five candidates for four seats on the Redwood City City Council participated in a candidate forum Wednesday night hosted by the League of Women Voters.
Below are the answers to the questions presented. Questions/topics are bolded so you can scroll down to see which ones interest you.
- Given the ongoing budget constraints, what are the priorities for funding in Redwood City?
- What is your position on the Cargill Salt flats proposal?
- How will Cargill affect the potential retail space downtown in that area?
- What will you be doing to promote/protect the entertainment programs so they flourish in these tough economic times?
- How do you plan to provide enough housing for the expected growth?
- How do we improve the rail and bus systems?
- What is your opinion of High-Speed Rail through the Peninsula?
- The Human Services Financial Assistance (HSFA) Funding from the General Fund will be eliminated within 3 years. What does each candidate plan to do on bridging the short fall?
Given the ongoing budget constraints, what are the priorities for funding in Redwood City?
Barbara Pierce: I would continue the efforts we’ve begun:
- Providing services efficiently: We’ve talked to our employees and with their support, they’ve accepted salary freezes for a couple of years. Employees have picked up portion of benefits and pension costs for long-term sustainability.
- Bring in more revenues: the hotel tax and business license fee
- Bring in new jobs to help improve the value of our community
Obviously we need to fund public safety services. We need to pay attention to quality of life services that make the community what it is: Parks & Rec, libraries, senior activities.
It’s hard to choose one thing or another. We need a balance: provide things in cost effective ways and envisioning for our future.
Alicia Aguirre: If we don’t have funding, we can’t have priorities. The main thing is growth in economic development. We need to attract more businesses and pass our two tax measures. When we bring in funding, we can attract more businesses.
We can rebuild senior centers, revtilaize more parks and invest in small business.
How to do that? We’ve been working with not only unions and by making sure we have good partnerships with the county and 20 cities within county, but we’ve re-organized departments and city staff.
There are state and federal budget issues, but we have to be creative.
Ian Bain: There are four big buckets: Police, fire, parks, and libraries.
It’s irresponsible to say we’ll choose libraries over fire. We can’t do that. We need all those things to make run and place to live.
I’m proud to say we’ve risen to this challenge. We’ve balanced our budget without programmatic cuts and lay-offs. We’ve worked with unions to get concessions.
But we can’t just continue to cut. We’ve got to support two ballot measures as a stop gap.
Longterm: We have to bring in revenue: sales tax, property tax, and attract businesses to this town. This works to improve property values.
We have to improve areas like Woodside and Middlefield, which are very visible corridors into community. We have to improve our appearance, and make RWC more welcoming. It raises property values, and shows neighboring communities and businesses. We’re a first class city, we shouldn’t settle for looking like second class city in major entrances.
Paul McCarthy: My top three issues are:
1. Public safety: we need public safety for safe and vibrant community
2. Infrastructure: we want to travel within community. The sewer lines going in and out need to work.
3. Quality of life: as a parent with young children I use parks a great deal. We also go downtown Friday nights for concerts. We value public safety.
We can fund those efficiently with taxes we have, but we also can bring businesses. For example: Costco: high end items that generate tax value.
We can generate additional tax revenue if we put in automobile dealerships to bring people from the Peninsula to RWC. I believe we can make city this work through sales and property tax.
Rosanne Foust: People want a safe community. They want their infrastructure to work and they want a great quality of life.
I think people forget that we make decisions in isolation. We ride on the same streets, use the same water, work in the same areas, so thinking collectively is important.
When I hear comments about how to find new revenue and build an economic base and alignment of revenue and resources, this council has been doing it. We’re one of the few cities that actually has a reserve for when we need it.
We’ve worked with our employee groups. How can you help us make this the city we want it to be?
I’m supportive of the business license tax and hotel tax. We went to businesses and hotels to get their approval. The business tax hasn’t been raised in 16 years, and we’re phasing it in a three-year period.
We are going to continue to work together and make this a great place to live and work.
What is your position on the Cargill Salt flats proposal?
Aguirre: I don’t have a position. This type of project is in beginning stages. It will take years before project is before us.
There are issues with traffic, water, with environmental issues, sea level rise. We’ve seen the plans and things we need to look at. We will continue to look at the community: what does the community want here? We’re a long way from taking a position…years.
Bain: I’m not taking a position on this. It’s problematic for city council members to do. We are following a process that culminates in an environmental impact report that will analyze water, traffic, sea level rise, and a number of concerns we all share.
If the city council approves it, I will take it to the voters. Ultimately the voters will have a say
McCarthy: I took a tour of the Saltworks project and saw what developers have in mind and it was impressive. But it’s so far down the road: it’s just in the planning stages.
I work in the traffic industry, and traffic at the Woodside exit on 101 is awful. Traffic is a significant hurdle. Creating freeway projects takes years and years.
Issues concerning water, use of and removal of waste water
My issues are for the current businesses that are down on Seaport Blvd. We have scrap metal and dry agrigant businesses and that employs numerous people. How will it impact those jobs? I’d hate to see RWC lose that critical part of our industry.
They’ve got residents within earshot of that industry.
It’s just in the early stages of planning.
Foust: I’m recused from this project, and I can’t comment at all.
Pierce: Having a position is problematic since as a council member, we’d have to give the property owner a fair hearing.
I don’t have a position on the Saltworks, since we have a commitment to an open and transparent process. We want a thorough and clear EIR evaluation. We’ve been pursuing this very clearly.
We’ve had two scoping sessions, which are the pre-sessions before EIR.
We highly encourage community involvement. There will be a spirited debate because there is no one side.
When we have full information, I look forward to involving the community.
Should the council make a decision, the community should make a decision too.
How will Cargill affect the potential retail space downtown in that area?
Bain: They might be creating a different downtown in the Salt flats. In the proposal, that’s not a major focus in that area.
McCarthy: With the wonderful development in downtown, I’d hate to see the focus move away from Redwood City.
They’re not trying to create a downtown on the Salt flats.
It’s such an early point in the process. Things can change dramatically in 25 years, not overnight.
RWC will be a different place 25 years from now.
Pierce: We have to ensure that we have a successful port and have diversity of economy. We’re not setting up a competition with downtown businesses
It’s early in the process, and we have to preserve the port and downtown businesses.
Aguirre: I don’t have a concern for businesses, because we don’t know if there will be businesses in the project.
There’s no point in taking a side on this project.
What will you be doing to promote/protect the entertainment programs so they flourish in these tough economic times?
McCarthy: I’ve taken great advantage of these programs. I take the kids down and we walk into town. We come to movies when appropriate. It creates a sense of community for downtown.
We need to get support from businesses and sponsorships because these shows aren’t free… the equipment, sound, bands.
We need to bring corporate sponsor, to a greater extent to offset some costs.
We provide fantastic community events and they need to not impact us dramatically financially.
Foust: Couple ideas: How does community think we should fund these events?
Should we go to the business community?
The economic development folks are going and meeting with top employers and emerging tax companies and downtown business.
Why are they in RWC? Why do they support our community? What do they need?
We’re known as “Software City,” and we have six new leases for new start-ups downtown. They want their name out there, so can they help us?
Pierce: I’m pleased to say that over 16 weeks of concerts with the assistance through strong minded community members, we’ve collected $15,000.
How do they do reserve seating? Because that’s been a big revenue source. We have to bring in stakeholders.
Aguirre: Downtown concerts and events have benefitted our community. We don't know what is going to happen with redevelopment funding. An opportunity for corporate sponsorship. We have the civic culture commission and other arts and cultural commissions. Bringing in community support is key. Whether it is passing the bucket, or getting the businesses we have involved.
Bain: I hope we can continue the concerts. They are partially funded by redevelopment, which is tied up in the courts now. We will pay the state to keep RDA. But if that money goes away we will have to maintain our services in other ways. We've done economic analysis that shows when we have events downtown, people spend their money. I'm not as convinced as others that we can do it through corporate sponsorships. So though I'm less optimistic than others, I would really like to see them continue.
What does each candidate plan to do on bridging the housing short fall?
Foust: The Precise plan addresses that. Downtown has been planned for more infill housing along the transit corridor.The precise plan doesn't tell the developer how many units to build. It gives them parameters such as height guidelines. ABAG has said the Bay Area needs to build 700,000 units of housing by 2035. How do we manage that, along the transit corridor?
We like the grand corridor initiative. We look at affordable housing. We want to be creative, and come up with housing that our community wants. It is challenging. It is challenging for a variety of other reasons. CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) reform is challenging too.
Pierce: I think we've done a lot of planning in the past couple of years. The community has been engaged in the general plan and downtown precise plan. It gives vision. It is like remodeling. It allows the developers to look at density, setbacks from the street, etc. And it is linked the housing to transportation.
One of the other pieces that links that is how many vehicles residents need. And transit oriented housing limits that. You really enable people to stay in this area. Makes it a little bit more affordable. We've done the planning that we need to implement. Some developers have said we're interested and we'll follow your guidelines. So there will be a quality project and a community that will want to live in.
Aguirre: 333 Main Street is a good example. It will come to planning, or its on its way. Also the Depot Circle: there is a lot of excitement around that. RWC has worked hard to get moderate and affordable housing. We have done well with swapping property. Cañada housing is an example. We've been able to swap land with the city of Woodside to get affordable housing. We are a city that has pursued and ensured we have chance for opportunity.
I think our focus with downtown precise plan has been transportation. It's difficult. We're so limited with infill development what we can do with CEQA.
Bain: CEQA was passed with good intention, but has bad unintended consequences. We had to redo our plan due to a lawsuit filed in its name. Unfortunately, the economy tanked. So funding for projects dried up.
As a result of that lawsuit, we got a better plan. And once the economy recovers, there will be better projects in that area. The city owns some property on block 1 and 2. Block 2 is a parking lot. There is also a lot behind Pizza and Pipes. We got some good applications for projects in those areas. Measure I funding makes that possible. We have control over what those projects look like. If you come back to those areas in a few years, you will not realize that.
McCarthy: We can't put up a lot of bigger housing projects near here because there isn't space like there is in other areas, so most of that is in the Central Valley, and that is most affordable. Most of those who live downtown now are younger families who don't mind living in apartments.
What if we convinced seniors to live there? They'd be near entertainment, food. Get them moved into downtown development. We could have a vibrant community of kids who graduated who live downtown, to get seniors down there too. They will spend money. They are a resource. I have countless amounts of research at my job and have them volunteer. They have immense amounts of knowledge to share and are a fabulous resource. I'd like to create those kinds of living environments for seniors.
How do we improve the rail and bus systems?
Pierce: You've got to have more transit with more ridership. Strategic investments, where to have what kinds of services. Smaller businesses is where much of the employment is.
I think the other things we can do, with the downtown plan, is people close to the rail line. The Baby Bullet [on Caltrain] has drawn people to work here. Commuting from SF to RWC, thanks to the baby bullet. Working with the transit agency to keep that. Should High Speed Rail come, it should be positive. Also working with alternate on Dumbarton rail to get people from Eastbay to downtown is key.
Aguirre: We can't ask for more services if we dont have the ridership. We do have other services like shuttles and ferries to look at too. Transportation, when I think of it, I think of all the options we have.
What we can do the water ways? If we don't have ridership, it is tough to make it a wise investment.
Bain: We have two shuttles that we operate. I was a skeptic at first. But I came around. I support electrification of Caltrain. I hope it can be combined with HSR. I support it if it doesn't further divide our community. The train tracks are a barrier in town. The elevated structure would do more harm than good. I don't want to pay for the same thing twice.
McCarthy: Caltrain is a huge asset for us. Building the city around the Sequoia transit hub is a great idea. I know we don't have control over the agencies, but we can influence how they run. When they created baby bullet, SF is now a very simple place to go. Its a matter of time, not distance. That's why we rely on our cars. When transit proves itself more efficient, I think it will blossom here. Electrification makes it cleaner, more efficient. I support Caltrain, and support development around the transit center.
Foust: Samtrans runs busses, and JPA that runs trains through the that counties. We work collaboratively with our partners. We are a self-help county when it comes to transit. We've joined with the topic of HSR to see about how we can work together on the issues, such as saving Caltrain. Electrification can increase it, and a blended system is possible. If HSR comes, it stays in existing right of way. I love transportation.. it is very exciting.
What is your opinion of High-Speed Rail through the Peninsula?
Aguirre: I am so excited about the option of having HSR on the peninsula. I like electrification. What a great way to move up and down the state without our cars. I think it would be the best option for us. I want RWC to be a major stop. I'm a proponent as far as looking at the existing Caltrain tracks, and not building HSR in isolation: the . I don't want to divide communities. We want to bring a good thing to this community.
Bain: I have mixed feelings. I voted for it, but the devil is in the details. Like how many tracks does it run on? I like it on 2 tracks, not 4. There's less emminent domain that way, and reduced costs.
I'm in favor of HSR done right, but very skeptical about a station in RWC. Some want a midpeninsula stop, but Palo Alto and Menlo Park don't want it. With the costs and impacts of a station, I became increasingly concerned about the impact. There's a very, very, very high cost to parking spaces downtown.
McCarthy: It is unsustainable. It will suck money from the state 'til it is shut down. If you are gonna get a train at 80-100 miles, you need an elevated track, and you don't know how many grade separations you will need. We had one on Jefferson a while ago.. Are we gonna do that up and down the Peninsula? I think if we electrify caltrain corridor, it will work very well. Boston-NYC works well. Great alternative with existing infrastructure.
Foust: When HSRA came into being, they didn't realize how to run a project of this magnitude. There were probably 10 staffers. It's now changing its focus. If you go talk to airports, they don't like the short-haul flights. They clog the skies. Money is an issue.
The business plan for HSR will come out Nov. 1, and it will allow the discussion to take place about how feasible it is. Caltrain has a 40% farebox recovery. No transit agency can pay for itself. We have to find a way. BART has a higher rate, for example. We have to get electrification and see if it can exist on a blended system with Caltran.
Pierce: I think having sat on airport roundtable, there are great impacts to short flights. Airports are excited about it. Especially with cost of fuel going up. We want to see the new biz plan. Thre is no one easy way to go up and down the Peninsula. We will have to work on the details. There's enough shared interest along the corridor. I know we'll put a lot of effort on that it comes to RWC, we'll pay a lot of attention on it.
The Human Services Financial Assistance (HSFA) Funding from the General Fund will be . How do you plan to support this housing?
Bain: This is a tough question. I voted against phasing it out. Addressing problems now prevents the problems down the road. I think we are now in the position of whether we want to support these as a city, so we're going to have to find alternate sources of funding. Everyone goes to businesses. For example, does that but they like to fund K-12 education programs. I don't have an answer, but I do think we have something to look at replacement or we will have other problems on our hands.
McCarthy: This should be at the county level too. When people are released from jail, they are released in RWC. How many of the people who need housing have come from RWC? Or did they migrate down the peninsula, or did they walk out of macguire and end up here? With our limited resources, we need to look at the county option.
Foust: It's one of toughest budget decisions I made. I would have loved to have not voted to not phase out those services, but the city is responsible for a pie chart. Public safety, parks and rec, its libraries. We need to bring in more revenue. The county is the last resort. They have funding that is getting cut here. It is a difficult choice. I don't want to decide between public safety and this kind of program. We have to make choices with the funds that we have. But residents expect a certain level of service, but we need more money
Pierce: I voted against cutting it because I think it is something that I think the city should do. The HSFA funding leveraged resources to make an impact on the Peninsula. If you dont spend that money up front, you are spending it in the schools or police again. We do need to keep partnering with non profits. If we are going to have a new jail, and realignment, we will have more folks that are paroled. There will be need for more services. Need to find another source of revenue that won't be in the General Fund.
Aguirre: As a city we have our core services, we looked at those. Many questions are asking about funding, and we just dont have it. That is why we have concessions and cuts. The only thing we can do is talk to people as we have and say we can't keep doing this. Are we looking at other ways?
As a community member, it's our responsibility to take care of all the groups. We can't do all we want because we have to fund other things. The county doesn't have money. It's a challenge. I dont think we have all the answers, and we can't keep asking corporate to fund everything.