Old Mountain View questions the council candidates
If you attended the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association City Council candidate forum on Monday night, chances are your question was answered by one candidate, but not by all of them.
The association's unusual format for the event, allowing residents to submit questions directed at a particular candidate, resulted in some unique opinions on dozens of topics. Below are the highlights from the two-hour event.
Neal staunchly defended his opposition to the city's proposed plastic bag ban and new outdoor smoking ban near publicly accessible buildings, which launched his effort to join the council. He claims cigarette butts are now littered around Castro Street more than before, and says he saw a major fight behind several bars the night the ban went into effect.
"My grandmother died from cancer, she died from smoking," Neal said. "But she had the best parties. She died doing what she loved to do. I hope to be just like her."
Neal disagreed with calls from parents for the city to share its Shoreline Fund revenues, including Google's property taxes, with local schools, saying the city's companies should be asked to donate on their own accord. "We don't need to rob Peter to pay Paul," Neal said.
Neal introduced himself by saying he wanted to be a "representative" of residents, interested in getting them what they want, as opposed to a "politician."
"When you talk to a politician, ask them a yes or no question," Neal said. "If you get a paragraph answer, that's a politician."
The comment set the stage for an exchange later when Neal was asked, "Are you a member of a political party?"
"I consider myself to be independent," Neal said. "I don't go to any rallies, I don't think party really matter on matters before the City Council. This is low-level politics. I'm an independent person."
"That's a politician," said Mayor Mike Kasperzak in response, drawing laughs in what was the only real exchange between the candidates.
When asked if there should be a moratorium on new drive-through eateries Mountain View, Capriles had a clear answer.
"I absolutely think we are done with drive-throughs in Mountain View," Capriles said. "To go through and pick up food and keep going — no, I just feel like it's not so hard to get out of a car and go up to window and order. We've got 26 drive-throughs in Mountain View now. For 12 square miles, that's plenty."
Capriles also expressed some support for an eight-story building at San Antonio shopping center, if it were well thought-out.
"A reasonable set-back, that will make a big difference in whether that will be overwhelming to us," Capriles said. "The eight-story height would be exceptional from my perspective. I would like to see them be the exception rather than the rule."
Vice Mayor Inks has enough campaign signs in business windows to cause concern for at least one downtown resident, who asked, "Do I need to be concerned about this overwhelming support from businesses?"
"I don't know all those business owners," Inks said. "I know someone who has some significant influence with businesses downtown who got those locations for me. I have good relationships with property owners downtown and good relationships with merchants. I don't think that is anything to be cautious about. Most people who will be voting won't be like people in this room. It comes down to name recognition. You want to be honest about your positions, but promoting your name is an effective way to elected."
Inks was also asked about his opinion of a high-speed rail stop at a station in Mountain View. He recalled abstaining when the council voted on the topic.
"It is a very problematic program," Inks said. "I'm not a HSR advocate, per se, at all. If you want to have it, we should have a system that's well-engineered." The current system "is politically driven."
"I've already said too much," he added.
Inks also responded to a question about allowing dogs off-leash at Landels School after school hours, to which he said he could understand both sides of the issue, and would consider the idea.
Mayor Mike Kasperzak was asked how money could be raised for public transit and safer streets for cyclists and pedestrians.
Kasperzak said developers should be encouraged to pay for such improvements, "rather than build a whole lot of parking at $50,000 per space." The solution is "getting developers to do that instead of what they'd have to do in terms of parking."
In discussing various alternatives to cars, Kasperzak said, "Pod cars are maybe a little too fancy for Mountain View," referring to a futuristic concept the council has supported.
To make biking and walking safe, "we are looking at California Street as a result of accidents," Kasperzak said. "There is some technology that puts bike lanes next to the curb and parked cars next to bike lane" to protect cyclists. He also mentioned the use of "sharrows" that tell drivers that cyclists can use the road, and enhancing the city's bike boulevards.
"I do think we are moving towards a more bike-friendly community," Kasperzak said. "People are getting out of their cars."
As a planning commissioner, Clark said he's been studying a transportation plan for fixing "one of the city's most congested arteries," Shoreline Boulevard into North Bayshore. He suggested that a pod car system could start by crossing Highway 101 in Google's neighborhood, and integrate with the city's bike network. "I think we need to keep all options on the table," he said.
Clark also supported efforts to save the "Immigrant House" from demolition at 166 Bryant Street.
"It tells a different story about Mountain View and I think it is important to have that represented," Clark said. "I think there are a lot of ways the city can contribute," especially "if we are able to identify a space."
He expressed support for the city's proposed plastic bag ban for environmental reasons. "It is important to do the right thing as opposed to our short-term inconvenience."
Clark also faced some concern that he could do the 30-40 hour week job of a council member on top of his full-time job, to which he pointed to his near perfect meeting attendance record as a commissioner, that the CEO of his company is "one of my biggest supporters" and that his social position as a young tech worker, would give him a unique perspective on the council.
In response to a question about lack of park space in the Mondrian development on Moorpark and Evelyn streets, planning commissioner and candidate John McAllister said such developments are "a big concern."
"People need a place to get rid of energy," McAllister said. "Children need to get outdoors and enjoy the environment."
"Developers should build parks inside their housing projects, and "if it's feasible they should not pay in lieu fees" to build parks elsewhere, he said.
He also expressed opposition to Bus Rapid Transit.
As a business owner on El Camino Real, "I see a lot of buses go right by, not a lot of them are crowded. As to building dedicated bus lanes for a light rail-like bus experience, "Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto have opposed it. I agree with what they've said. If we start to take one lane out of El Camino Real, people are going to start taking side streets. We don't want that."
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