Mountain View Voice

News - October 1, 2010

Incumbents battle newcomers in debate

by Daniel DeBolt

Three City Council incumbents defended their records against three challengers in a debate hosted by the Chamber of Commerce Monday night The candidates tackled the topics of medical marijuana, the city's golf course problems and the city budget.

But first came the introductions, most notably from the newcomers. After noting that Google pays $90 million in property taxes a year, Google sales account manager Aaron Jabbari said, "If you trust a new idea, or a new candidate, big things can happen."

Longtime resident Greg David said, "I have always enjoyed the quality of life in Mountain View," adding, "The council is out of touch with the common resident."

Google software engineer Dan Waylonis called himself a "sociable nerd who does have friends," and mentioned his desire for what he later called "a more searchable and transparent" city government.

Budget concerns

In his closing remarks, Waylonis drew ire from incumbents by saying that they "kicked the can down the road" when approving this year's city budget.

"The budget is balanced this year, but what about next year?" Waylonis asked. "Our employees are expensive. The costs are unsustainable. The city has the highest (cost for) health care benefits of any city in the area."

"We did not kick the can down the road," said Mayor Ronit Bryant. "Next year we will not face the same problems."

She pointed to the elimination of the city's human resources department head position last year, with the duties given to an assistant city manager. "A high level department head position is gone," she said.

Margaret Abe-Koga also responded to Waylonis, saying, "The city does not offer the highest (cost for) health care — we are middle of the road."

She added that the city's budget situation was "stable."

"I think we've made hard decisions and we will continue to make them," she said.

More tension between the incumbents and newcomers became apparent when incumbent Jac Siegel also fired at Jabbari for his inexperience in his closing remarks. Siegel took Jabbari to task for his apparently false impression that Siegel opposed outsourcing golf course operations because it would mean paying workers minimum wage. Siegel had said only that he opposed using a contractor that would pay course workers minimum wage, but did not say he opposed using a contractor to run the course.

"If you had more experience, you would know there are ways to do that," Siegel told Jabbari.

Public employee salaries have largely taken the blame for the Shoreline Golf Links' $800,000 budget deficit during the recession, along with goose and duck poop making the course unattractive.

"The city should not be in the golf course business," said David, who kept his answers short and simple. Waylonis also pointed to high salaries and said the city should consider selling the land, which Siegel staunchly opposed.

Pot regulations

Positions differed on medical marijuana

Jabbari came out as the staunchest opponent to medical marijuana dispensaries. The council will consider a draft medical marijuana ordinance next year.

"Let's not put a pot club in our city," Jabbari said.

When asked how he would bring safe access to medical marijuana for the sick and suffering in Mountain View, Jabbari said, "Put it inside CVS (pharmacy) — no other options. Like any other relatively dangerous drug, it should be bought at a pharmacy."

No other candidate opposed having a medical marijuana dispensary in the city, although the incumbents cited numerous potential problems with dispensaries, including what police Chief Scott Vermeer called "a potential for violence," as Bryant put it. The two Libertarian candidates, David and Waylonis, both support marijuana dispensaries with no real caveats.

Other topics discussed during the two-hour debate televised on KMVT included whether to be "cooperative" with the California High Speed Rail Authority (yes, said all the candidates), how to encourage new business in Mountain View and how to respond to a disaster like the recent gas line explosion and fire in San Bruno.

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