Six vie for three City Council seats
Three newcomers have decided to challenge three incumbents for their seats in the Nov. 2 election, hoping to change the city as a council member or to at least question the recent decisions of incumbents. The Voice sat down with all six candidates to ask about medical marijuana, the city's ongoing budget problems, housing affordability, high-speed rail and possibly sharing Google's property taxes with local schools, among other things. Here's a summary of the candidate's positions, in the order that they appear on the ballot.
Waylonis, 44, is a 17-year resident and a newcomer to city politics who was spurred to run for council by the city's budget problems and frustration over the difficulty of accessing city budget data.
As a software engineer for Google, the world's most popular Internet search engine, one of his goals is to make sure that city documents are "easily searched and indexed," he said in an e-mail at the start of his campaign. "I was shocked to discover that the 2011 budget was formatted in a manner that inhibited searching."
The incumbents are "very proud they didn't have to do anything dramatic" when they balanced the 2010 budget," Waylonis said. But with shrinking revenues and rising employee costs, "this is exactly the time to do something dramatic before it gets worse."
Noteworthy to Waylonis is that the city's public safety worker salaries have increased by 60 percent over 10 years while the consumer price index went up only 27 percent, he said.
Waylonis said he did not vote for the $9 billion state bond measure for high-speed trains to run from San Diego to San Francisco, and he says it is "hard to see a big win" for the city from its construction, especially if it means a large station building downtown.
As a libertarian (backed with a $500 donation from the California Libertarian Party), Waylonis believes in the free market and fewer regulations, and he said medical marijuana dispensaries "should absolutely be allowed." Creating blanket regulations on where they should be located instead of examining each case is "wrong headed" and "arbitrary."
Despite his free market beliefs, Waylonis does not appear to be a proponent of major housing growth. He believes Google's younger employees probably don't want to live in Mountain View. And when asked where infill development should go, he envisions three- or four-story buildings scattered along El Camino Real. He said he was glad that the Mayfield housing development was reduced from 450 units to about 250 units.
Waylonis is a strong believer, however, that the city should stop subsidizing affordable housing through fees that inflate the price of new market rate homes, he said. Another strong belief he has is that the city has too many rental units in the city, which keeps the city's property tax revenues low under Proposition 13.
Mayor Bryant is a longtime Mountain View resident who became involved in the community on school Parent-Teacher Association boards and on the city's parks and recreation commission. She is married to a Hewlett Packard executive and stopped working as a technical writer four years ago to focus on being a City Council member. She is proud to have fulfilled her campaign promises four years ago of updating the city's general plan and including more voices in the city's decisions.
Expressing pride in how the city cut its budget in a "collaborative fashion" this year, Bryant believes that the city is on track to financial recovery if the economy improves, If not, she believes that the city's unions "can do the math" and see that they need to make some concessions. Outsourcing services such as the library or fire department would "impoverish us" through the loss of strong community ties to those services.
Bryant said she voted for the $9 billion High Speed Rail bond, but with knowledge of the potential design details she is now highly concerned that it could "damage" the city. She opposes putting a station downtown.
As a cancer survivor who considered medical marijuana for herself, Bryant believes it should be available in pharmacies. As for allowing dispensaries in Mountain View, she is concerned with a potential increased "risk of violence" from having large sums of cash around. She also doesn't want to be the only city in the area that doesn't have a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.
Bryant said she's ready to have a conversation about efforts to channel more of Google's property taxes to schools and has met with a group of parents on the issue.
Bryant is known for being a stickler for urban design detail and has made the terms "walkability" and "connectivity" common in council meetings. She supported the controversial Minton's apartment development, a few blocks from her home, and is also "excited" about the possibility of building homes in North Bayshore for Google employees. She has expressed unique disappointment with the San Antonio Center redevelopment proposal by Merlone Geier, saying the retail and housing look "plonked" into place without creating a neighborhood feel.
Jabbari is the youngest candidate at 21 years old, but his resume shows that ambitions undertakings are not new to him. He worked as a network engineer and took community college courses during high school in order to get a jump start on college at UC Berkeley, where he earned his degree in political science by the time he was 19. He has worked at Google for the past year as a sales representative and recently moved to the Plymouth Avenue neighborhood. He grew up in Laguna Beach.
"I have a different perspective, as a renter, a working person in Mountain View and as a relatively young individual who wants to build a future in Mountain View," he said.
Jabbari criticized the current council for touting its passage of a "structurally balanced budget." That might be better than other cities but does not fix the problem of employee compensation costs outpacing projected tax revenue growth.
He said the city needs to take a look at what its "core services" should be and outsource the rest to outside entities, including the city's golf course.
As to the issue of running high-speed trains up the Caltrain corridor, Jabbari says the system should be underground in order to keep the trains quiet and safe, and to keep neighboring property values up. He was hesitant to take a stand on whether Mountain View should have a high-speed train station, saying there could be an "innovation" that could make it work downtown.
Jabbari is the only candidate who strictly opposes allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in Mountain View because of the "cultural" effect on the city. He believes medical marijuana should be treated like any other drug and be sold in a pharmacy, although pharmacies have not done so because marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law.
As the youngest Mountain View employee to run for council in recent years, Jabbari believes substantive measures are needed to make the city an affordable place to live for young tech workers, and it doesn't involve city subsidies, which he opposes.
"The city should grow until it becomes an affordable place for the people who work here," Jabbari said.
To meet the demand for housing and reduce its cost, high-rise condo or apartment buildings would be in order and there are numerous places to put them in Mountain View, he said, such as El Camino Real, Shoreline Boulevard, California Avenue and Castro Street.
But he also said that if a neighborhood were to strongly oppose any housing development he would have to oppose it as well, even if the project made perfect sense to him.
Council member Siegel, 66, is a retired aerospace executive and city resident of over 50 years who has experience on numerous city commissions and community groups. He's worked as a mediator and proposed the creation of the city's Senior Advisory Committee. His primary concern is "quality" in the city's projects and he's known for siding with neighbors on development controversies.
"If we can't do it well, let's don't do it," he says.
In balancing the city's budget, Siegel believes ballooning employee retirement pension costs could soon swallow the city budget. He claims that "in 10 years with no changes, 80 to 85 percent of city revenues would go to retired people who don't work here."
But when it comes to city salaries, he believes that the city "needs to lead by example" in paying decent wages, and he opposes outsourcing the city's golf course if workers would be paid less than minimum wage.
Siegel has said he would consider allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in Mountain View and taxing the sale of marijuana. But he believes that only 2-3 percent of medical marijuana is actually used for medical reasons and feels conflicted about violating the federal law against marijuana use that he swore to uphold when he took office.
Siegel said he was open to giving "a little bit, but not all of" the city's Shoreline property taxes from companies like Google to schools, which do not see dime under the special tax district. He did not have a dollar figure, but said that "there's room" in the budget for the city to give more.
Siegel said he could imagine seeing the city grow to 90,000 people by 2030. He voted against the controversial Minton's and Mayfield housing projects, siding with neighbors each time. But he does support the proposal to redevelop San Antonio Shopping center, which he says is "badly needed." He's also the council's biggest proponent of the redevelopment of Moffett Field into offices, homes and parks — even a ferry terminal on the bay. "That would thrill me to no end," he said.
Former Mayor Abe-Koga — a 40-year-old stay-at-home-mom of two elementary school aged children — is running for her second term on the council. She has a degree in political science from Harvard and her political experience stretches back to her early 20s, taking one of her first jobs in congresswoman Anna Eshoo's office. She has served on the city's human relations commission and planning commission, and was a county board of education trustee before winning a council seat in 2006 by a landslide after losing in 2004.
Abe-Koga is the only candidate to be endorsed by the city's police and fire unions, as she said she believes it is important to listen to their concerns. She believes city salaries are "average" and believes the city has been "financially very prudent" in having employees share the costs of their benefits more than is the practice in other local cities.
Abe-Koga said it was not the time for inexperienced candidates to join the council as the city faces difficult budget problems.
"It's taken a long time for me to understand (the city budget) and I think I've got a handle on it now."
As vice chair of the Valley Transportation Authority, she is an advocated for public transportation systems, including a possible city-run shuttle system and the planned high-speed rail line on the peninsula, though she now opposes having a station in Mountain View.
She also supports having a limited number of regulated medical marijuana dispensaries in Mountain View, but is concerned about having them near schools.
She supports the idea of working with local schools to give back larger share of the city's Shoreline property taxes, collected from companies like Google and funneled away from schools in order to maintain Shoreline Park, the landfill and the surrounding area. "I do think we should be working with our school district to come up with a formula ... to give back some of the funding," she said.
Abe-Koga voted for both Prometheus and Mayfield housing developments and said she is concerned with providing adequate housing for employees for local companies. Nevertheless, she said she was uncertain about allowing housing in North Bayshore.
"I don't think Mountain View can support 100,000 people," by 2030. "I don't want to see a wall of five-story buildings when I drive down El Camino Real."
She wants the city to subsidize affordable housing more efficiently than in the past, including the 50 units recently approved on Evelyn Avenue which cost $7 million in city funds. "I'd like to help 500 or 5,000 for that amount," Abe-Koga said.
David, 40, is new to the city's political scene but not to the city. He was born and raised in downtown Mountain View, and says he 's had an interest in city politics ever since he saw his father get frustrated with city hall as the family owned and operated Eddie's Sport shop on Castro Street. David helped run the family business before taking a job as logistics manager with Hewlett Packard, though he's currently unemployed. More recently he was politically energized by the council's approval of 200 apartments to replace Minton's lumber.
He admits he's not the best qualified candidate, but he says he aims to "put a little pressure on them (the incumbents) to defend the decisions they've made."
Chief among those decisions are the salaries city employees get paid. David believes that city employee compensation is "cush" and should be compared to private jobs, not what other cities pay.
While he knows many voters may not approve, David said he "wholeheartedly" supports running high-speed rail up the Peninsula and would support a station downtown only if it would be beneficial to the city. He thinks the station could redevelop the area where the city's police station now stands.
David would support medical marijuana dispensaries in Mountain View with "reasonable restrictions" and would want them located in commercial areas, not downtown. "Nobody wants to see a city full of dispensaries," he said
His brother Brian aims to open a marijuana dispensary in Mountain View or Sunnyvale. While he may be allowed to vote on the dispensary or the city's medical marijuana ordinance, he says he would abstain anyway.
David opposed the 205 apartments at Minton's Lumber because of inadequate parking. He says he is a "big fan of parking" because "you can't mandate people out of cars." While he's a libertarian, he's not the biggest proponent of growth, saying the city could only handle another 5,000 to 10,000 people by 2030. He doesn't think city services could support housing for Google employees in North Bayshore.
David also opposes city-subsidized affordable housing, partly because he believes it encourages tenants to be "underachievers."