With three top-performing City Council incumbents all seeking a second term, Mountain View voters have no reason to change the line-up at City Hall in this election. Incumbents Margaret Abe-Koga, Ronit Bryant and Jac Siegel have worked hard and deserve to continue on the council. Challengers Dan Waylonis, Aaron Jabbari and Greg David are good sports for making it a race, but none of the three are ready to become productive council members.
The three veterans have helped the council slice more than $4 million from a budget that is balanced for now but will continue to need work if the economy does not improve. On other fronts, this group takes pride in helping the city rewrite its General Plan, a huge job that only comes around every 20 to 30 years. Other advances made during the last four years include substantial work on sustainability and the effort to support the needs of the city's youth.
Here is why each incumbent has our support:
Ronit Bryant currently serves as mayor. She puts much of her energy into planning and new development and delivered on her campaign promises to update the General Plan and promote a greener, more sustainable city in her first term. Another promise, to offer more youth services, has been accomplished.
Bryant helped balance this year's budget (without dipping into reserves) and kept her vow to protect the city's good credit rating. She is also very knowledgeable about employee costs and pensions, and said she will not approve any salary or pension increases without a corresponding jump in revenue. She is committed to preserving the city's high level of services, including those provided at the library and parks.
Like some of her colleagues, she has not made up her mind on whether to permit medical marijuana dispensaries in town, and would prefer that the drug be sold in pharmacies. She said the city needs to have controls, but it is not clear which controls to adopt.
We like that she will work with the high-speed rail commission and would agree to share some revenue from the Shoreline special tax district with schools, as long as needs are met at Shoreline.
Margaret Abe-Koga is an energetic stay-at-home mom who brings the perspective of young families to the council. She worked to balance the budget by consolidating some departments — without resorting to layoffs. She also helped negotiate salary and benefit "give-backs" from the city's unions, and notes that employees already pay nine percent of their salary into the retirement system, more than most cities.
We like that she favors adding more housing to help young families find homes here. She voted for the Prometheus and Mayfield projects, and we agree with her belief that building housing on Bayshore may not be such a good idea.
"What happens when Google is no longer there?" she asks, noting the demise of SGI, the city's last premier high tech firm, a few years ago. She believes the city should help provide more affordable housing in addition to the already-approved complex on Franklin and Evelyn streets.
We agree with her position that the city should approve "only a handful of medical marijuana dispensaries, a subject that staff members continue to study. She supports high-speed rail, but opposes a station at the downtown transit center, which would have required 3,000 parking places in the downtown area.
Jac Siegel is a retired management executive who has been an eager player in local government for nearly 10 years, including five years on the Planning Commission and the past four years as a council member. He likes to say that financial, environmental and human needs are the key to local government, which must be carefully balanced. "You can't care about just one," he said. He calls himself a "pragmatic environmentalist," meaning you can't force environmental solutions.
We agree that he and his colleagues did a good job in balancing the budget this year, but share his concern about a projection that shows that in 10 years, up to 85 percent of the city's income will be paid out in pension benefits. "We have a big issue to work on," he said.
He has clear ideas about what is acceptable development, voting against the 200-unit Promethus apartment building on the Minton's lumberyard property, due to its size and lack of parking. However, the downsized 250-unit Mayfield complex at San Antonio Road is a "perfect project," with its parks, tunnel under Central Expressway and proximity to Caltrain.
It is not clear whether he will get his preference to run the high-speed trains in open or covered trenches through the city, but it is a good goal. And we are happy to see that he is willing to share some — but not all — of the revenue from the Shoreline tax district with local schools, pointing out that there are significant costs to maintaining the landfill and Shoreline Park.
In this race, incumbents Ronit Bryant, Margaret Abe-Koga and Jac Siegel deserve your vote.