Fourteen former El Cerrito mayors have endorsed me, since I will bring fresh ideas to the city council and I understand to prioritize how we spend our city’s limited funds.
Record high property values, retail sales, and utility bills have increased city revenues by 38 percent over the past three years and city spending unfortunately kept pace. It is in 2008, when the city will have to comply with state laws in regards to generous retirement benefits that the chickens will come home to roost.
I have the experience we need to protect our community, invest in our city infrastructure, and promote development projects that are harmonious with neighborhoods. I serve on the El Cerrito Financial Advisory Board where I help review the budget and other fiscal matters of the city. I consistently question and probe the economic issues to protect taxpayer monies. I am also a homeowner, and I am a graduate of public schools. I have an MBA in management, and I am a scientist with a Ph.D. from Yale. Two years ago I helped start a local business with $32 million in venture capital funding that is developing treatments for cystic fibrosis, asthma, and eczema.
The unprecedented rise in tax revenues should have been used to: (1) Fix our failing streets before spending money on pet projects; (2) Reduce our alarming crime rate; (3) Protect our public spaces, and; (4) Finalize a plan to build and fund a new library and senior center.
An accessible and cooperative government
The goal of the city council should be to make sure that basic services are provided and to encourage individuals and businesses to invest in our city. I would be the representative of the people of El Cerrito and a representative of our existing businesses. I would facilitate decisions that are harmonious with our community and neighboring communities. I would avoid creating parking problems, blocking views, and building high-density housing on or nearby environmentally sensitive areas.
An honest budget
El Cerrito should be a city that residents and businesses can trust. I want to lift the fog and let the people know how their money is being spent and how any new taxes would be spent. The residents recently rejected a new Lighting and Landscaping tax (LLAD tax) because many recognized the city’s shell game of saying the tax was for public spaces, although the tax would not be used to provide additional lighting and landscaping services. This year the council voted to cut funding to the LLAD. I understand that residents want to see the parks maintained, and they want adequate lighting for their safety.
I believe the city should maintain a budget that provides a pay-as-you-go approach. The current plan of deficit spending through bond measures saddles the city with future interest payments, doubles the cost of every project, and potentially limits future services.
We need to reduce the crime rate. El Cerrito, neighboring communities, the state parole board, and the school district should be encouraged to work together to reduce crime as well as providing more opportunities. I would balance policing with community development and education. It is a well-known fact that a city that does little to reduce petty crimes becomes a haven for serious offenses.
The city should make it a priority to provide paramedic services at all fire stations, including the station on San Pablo Avenue. Fast response times save lives when a life-threatening emergency. Unfortunately, during the last four years 17 of the 32 firefighters left El Cerrito, which is the highest attrition rate in California.
In the event of an emergency such as a chemical leak, a crime spree, or a fire, the city should maintain a voluntary emergency contact list to notify residents of eminent dangers. An automated notification system would be a cost-effective solution to prevent loss of life and reduce crime.
By working together we can prioritize our projects, control our spending, and increase city revenues through continuous community improvement. For many residents and businesses electronic notification and online forms will makes El Cerrito an easier place to live and do business at a lower cost. I would also encourage a better use of our boards and commissions. When appropriate, boards and commissions should offer their recommendations as part of the staff report to the council. For example, the Economic Development Board was not consulted on the Cerrito Theater that cost the city $7.4 million to build and at least $150,000 annually to pay for the debt.
I would also work to improve the El Cerrito recycling program. The council recently voted to increase taxes to pay for recycling to levels higher than the rate of inflation. Currently, residents pay double for curbside recycling, once for an unused sorting facility in Richmond and once for sorting at the drop-off center. Potential savings could be used to fund a new drop-off center.
El Cerrito parks, creeks, trees and exceptional bay views are resources that add value to our community. I would work to improve the safety and restore the natural splendor to our open spaces by guiding the city towards a plan to replace Monterey pines and eucalyptus trees in our parks with native species. The city should not obstruct views with industrial-sized streetlights in residential areas,
Honoring the El Cerrito tradition
I promise to comply with El Cerrito’s time honored traditions and relinquish office after two terms. For decades every El Cerrito Mayor and Councilmember has voluntarily stepped down after two terms. Term limits cultivate new ideas and spawn fresh perspectives, so I will make it my duty to train potential successors to run for local office.
I have a track record of working cooperatively with dedicated staff, council members, and the residents. I have been participating in developing a ten-year plan for infrastructure catch-up. I want to continue planning for a new library and senior center and find ways to fund these projects. I know these can be done with current revenues if expenditures are properly managed. I will continue to ensure high quality services consistent with responsible spending.
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