by Deb Keller
Council candidates’ views on the city budget, salaries, parks, recreational marijuana and their favorite places in Old Mountain View were aired in the OMVNA Candidate Forum on October 4 at Landels School.
Incumbents Jac Siegel, Margaret Abe-Koga, and Ronit Bryant were joined by challengers Aaron Jabarri, Dan Waylonis, and Greg David.
The candidates fielded questions submitted by the audience, which were drawn at random. OMVNA Chair Laura Lewis served as moderator and also drew candidate names at random to
Aaron Jabbari left after two questions, excusing himself for his birthday.
Not surprisingly, a question on the city budget came up: According to the San Jose Mercury, in 2009, 33 Mountain View city employees earned more than $200,000, and 290 (about half of total employees) earned more than $100,000. Do you believe the present level of pay and benefits are consistent with the best interests of Mountain View residents?
“I’m not an HR professional, so I can’t say necessarily whether folks making $200,000 or even those making $100,000 are high, low or otherwise,” noted Greg David. “What I can say is that I feel these should not be just benchmarked against other municipalities” but rather benchmarked against the private sector.
Dan Waylonis added that “It’s important to take a look at where the city money is going, looking at the $4.5 million that was paid for overtime, and look at alternatives.” Waylonis felt that there is an opportunity to use third-party contractors to do some of the work that more expensive city employees do.
More Parks for Old Mountain View?
Another question pertained to more parks. In the current General Plan, Mountain View has a 42-acre park deficit. Given this deficit, do you think more parks should be added in Old Mountain View?
Jac Siegel felt that parks are vital to communities, and brought up the particulars of a 1.2-acre parcel of a black walnut grove at Calderon and Velarde that was available in 2006. According to Siegel, he brought the parcel to the attention of Council and tried to convince Council to purchase the land. Council voted 4-3 against. The parcel, which also is the site of the second oldest house in Mountain View, is now slated for 19 units of co-housing, reported on in the June OMVNA newsletter.
“In looking back, I wish this is something Council could have done,” said Siegel. “I’m upset that new development in Old Mountain View doesn’t have the park space to go with it…. When you build more housing and density, you need the services that go along with it. You need to worry about the parking, the traffic, you need the parks.”
Ronit Bryant also felt that more parks were important, although she did not mention more parks for Old Mountain View. Ronit voted against acquiring the parcel at Calderon and Velarde in 2006. Instead, Mayor Bryant spoke of her work on the Parks and Recreation Committee that gave us a way to distribute parks equitably.
Rentals versus home ownership
Question: Do you think the city has too many renters compared to homeowners. Yes, no, or unsure?
Ronit Bryant said that when she first moved to Mountain View she worried that apartments meant a more transient, less involved citizenry, but now her experience makes her think otherwise. A significant percentage of rentals helps us achieve a population with diversity.
Dan Waylonis pointed out that there’s 57% rentals compared to a national average of 33%. According to Dan, the city gets less revenue from rentals because the property doesn’t turn over and hence properties are undervalued due to the effect of Prop 13. “This really hits the city’s bottom line, since about 30% of our revenues are generated by property taxes,” Dan said.
Jac Siegel echoed this sentiment, noting that Mountain View has almost double the rate of rentals compared to any other city around us. “That’s good and bad,” Jac thought. “We’ve done our part to provide low-cost housing,” but because of Prop 13 we lose on taxes. “These apartment buildings never turn over,” he noted.
See “Candidates at-a-Glance,” pages 8-9 for more of candidates’ positions.
After the debates, nine OMVNA bylaws ranging in issues from particulars on elections to language needed for compliance with being a 501(c)(3) non-profit were debated and voted upon. Six of the nine amendments passed. Please see the article on the www.omvna.org for particulars.
Watch Other Debates
Several debates were recorded, including one hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and one by KMVT. These can be viewed online at www.youtube.com/kmvt.