Six council candidates vie for four seats
Loss of Means, Macias opens at least two seats for newcomers
In an election that could dramatically change the makeup of the City Council, six candidates are hoping to win one of four seats.
Incumbents Mike Kasperzak and John Inks are running against Margaret Capriles, Jim Neal, John McAlister and Chris Clark. McAlister and Clark are both planning commissioners who are running again after unsuccessful bids in 2008.
In interviews with the Voice, each candidate responded to a list of issues, including a potential ban on new drive-through lanes on El Camino Real, traffic in North Bashore, the challenge of making the city more bikeable and walkable and the possibility of a new deal with local schools to share property tax revenues from the Shoreline Tax District. The Shoreline district is an unusual arrangement created by state legislation which gives the city a near-monopoly on property taxes from North Bayshore companies like Google.
When the dust clears after the Nov. 6 election, at least two new council members will take the council dais. Laura Macias and Tom Means will term out at the end of 2012 after eight years on the council.
All of the candidates have pledged to not spend more than the city's voluntary campaign expenditure limit of $21,388.
Neighborhood: San Antonio
Occupation: Retired engineer (Lockheed)
Web site: www.electinks.com
Campaign funds raised: $11,099
Notable campaign contributions: $1,000 from the California Real Estate PAC, $500 from Los Altos real estate firm Denardi Group, $250 from property owner Charles Gardyn, $500 from the Mountain View Housing Council, $686.27 from real estate broker Donald Bahl and $250 from apartment management firm Woodmont Real Estate Services.
Running for re-election, retired aerospace engineer and Vice Mayor John Inks says that maintaining a balanced city budget is a top issue for him. It should be done with "economic growth as opposed to new fees" on business. "It is pretty expensive to deal with the city right now."
Inks says he reads the Shoreline West neighborhood email list discussions about pedestrian deaths and says the solution may be "somewhere in between" what he calls "revolutionary ideas like road diets — narrowing California Street, or what is basic traffic engineering."
To fix traffic issues in North Bayshore, he said it probably make sense to have "some kind of traffic demand management, like what they have at Stanford."
Even though Inks voted for a deal in 2011 to share $13.6 million in Shoreline tax district revenues with local schools over three years, he said "to tell the truth, I'm probably a little more biased towards making sure the city's interests are protected." He noted that he might distrust assurances that sharing more of the funds wouldn't hurt the city's obligations to care for the landfill under Shoreline Park. "Five to 10 years from now I just want to make sure the Shoreline Fund is solid."
Inks is a major opponent of the city's affordable housing program, saying he would only support it if "the tax base was broader" instead of basing it on fees paid by developers. Instead, he said affordable housing could be built without subsidies if developers were allowed to build cheaper and denser projects. "It is probably not the sort of structure you see right now," he said.
A moratorium on drive-through lanes at restaurants isn't something Inks would support, saying it was adequate for the zoning administrator to put proposals "through the ringer." "I don't see anything wrong with having drive-throughs themselves."
Neighborhood: Varsity Park
Political affiliation: moderate Democrat
Job: data quality consultant
Web site: margaretcapriles.com
Campaign funds raised so far: $11,407
Notable campaign contributions: $2,000 from the Mountain View Firefighters Association, $500 from the California Apartment Assocation, $500 from the Mountain View housing council and $600 in food from Chef Chu's.
While Capriles doesn't have any experience on a city commission, she says she brings the perspective of a resident of over 40 years, a mother of four children and someone who has served on the boards of the local YMCA, Leadership Mountain View and El Camino Hospital's Hope 2 Health Initiative. "My passion is getting people to work together" after a 27-year career at Hewlett Packard which involved getting people around the world to create and implement data management systems.
Unlike the other candidates, Capriles is unequivocal in her opposition to drive-throughs on El Camino Real, supporting a moratorium being discussed by the City Council. "We have enough, thank you very much," Capriles said, noting the negative environmental effects of such car-oriented development on El Camino Real.
Expressing interest in streets that favor alternatives to car travel, "I'd love to be able to get to some shopping centers without having to drive. The hard problem is that ... we built this area's infrastructure for cars."
A top concern is the large amount of development going on in the city and how it can be made to fit the surrounding neighborhood. In a recent debate she said she would support a new eight-story building at San Antonio shopping center if it were put in the right spot.
"I definitely support what we can with the schools," she said about an ongoing effort to share Shoreline tax district revenues with schools. "What we want to do is make sure we've got a good solid balance" to pay for items like landfill maintenance and transportation infrastructure north of Highway 101.
To fix traffic as Google makes room for thousands of new jobs, Capriles said the bottom line is to "get rid of the cars" and build on the private shuttle services already in use. "I think this is an opportunity to work together with Google as a partner." She mentioned the idea of building a new transit hub north of Highway 101. Capriles opposes housing in North Bayshore because of its potential impact on wildlife in Shoreline Park.
To balance the city's books, she wants to continue to seek creative solutions from city employees who have suggested recent measures used to contain the growth of their compensation costs. She's open to raising fees, but wants to remain competitive in attracting businesses to the city.
Neighborhood: Cuesta Park
Occupation: Senior operations manager (Loopt)
Web site: www.electchrisclark.org
Funds raised: $19,979
Notable campaign contributions: $12,000 in loans from himself, $2,000 from the Mountain View Firefighters, $2,000 from software consultant Nicholas Sivo, $1,000 from the California Real Estate PAC, $500 from the Mountain View housing council, $500 from the California Apartment Association.
After gaining experience on the Human Relations Commission for two years and the Environmental Planning Commission for another two, Clark is taking a second shot at the council election. The Stanford graduate says the commission experience has been critical, and "reinforced that I'd like to serve at the council level."
At 29, he's the youngest candidate. And he may also be the city's first openly gay council member. "You don't want council made up of a bunch of young folks," he says. "You want at least one person on council to represent that perspective."
He said that his generation of young workers "are getting out of their cars," referring to a surge in bicycling among the city's commuters. "We really need to take a second look at how we are planning things. Mountain View has a strong bicycle and pedestrian committee. We need to work more with them."
To fix traffic problems from increased office development north of Highway 101, Clark said he was eager to see a "menu of options" in an anticipated transportation study. "I'm open to anything from a community shuttle to bike and pedestrian overpasses to a pod car system or something along those lines. Mountain View should make a statement and do something really innovative."
Paying for such innovation should take precedent over the campaign to share more Shoreline tax district revenue with local schools. "That should be the first priority for those funds," Clark said. "I'm not sure whether an increased percentage" of the tax revenue for schools makes sense, he said, adding that the city needed to determine its financial obligations for Shoreline.
Clark says the city has "done a pretty good job over the last four years" to balance its budget. He applauded unions for sharing the cost of pension increases and said it makes no sense to "kick the can down the road" with unaffordable employee compensation increases. He also opposes balancing the city's budget with higher fees on small businesses. He says voters may have to approve a sales tax increase soon, because after years of cuts, "I'm not sure how much leaner you can get at city hall."
As for talk of banning new drive-throughs, Clark says "moratoriums are a really big deal. There has to be absolutely no public benefit. Fast food is one thing, I understand the opposition to that. But there are other valid uses for drive throughs. A pharmacy is one."
Web site: www.kasperzak.org
Campaign funds raised: $13,848
Notable campaign contributions: $250 from apartment management firm Woodmont Real Estate Services, $500 from California Real Estate PAC Silicon Valley, $200 from property owner Roger Kao, $250 from MGP IX Properties .
If re-elected, Mayor Mike Kasperzak will be among the few residents to have served two eight year stints on the City Council.
"I'm running because I do think experience on the council is important," Kasperzak said. "It takes a while to get to understand the real issues."
Kasperzak says he brings to the table "pragmatism, objectivity, creativity and willingness to look at new things," including the possibility of having paid parking in downtown, an idea about which he says there are many myths — the idea that free parking is really free or that it would drive people away. If parking had a cost for drivers, "maybe people would come to downtown Mountain View because they could find parking," he says.
Kasperzak appears more open to new ideas for making bicycling and walking safer. "Streets like California and Rengstorff were designed in an era when cars were presumed to be the future," he says. "I think we're stepping back from that." He's also been an advocate of personal rapid transit to connect Google to downtown, calling himself the "pod car mayor." He says it would even work for El Camino Real better than dedicated bus rapid transit lanes.
In response to concerns that the city is not sharing enough of Shoreline property taxes from Google and others, Kasperzak said that historically, no one anticipated the wealth of North Bayshore and the effects of Proposition 13 on schools. "My belief is the schools should share to at least a better degree," he said.
Kasperzak was hesitant to say he would be for or against a moratorium on drive-through restaurants on El Camino Real. "As we go towards a more pedestrian-, bicycle- and public transit-oriented system and as we focus on more on wellness and physical activity, I think drive-throughs are not in keeping with that."
Neighborhood: Waverly Park
Occupation: Business owner (Baskin Robbins)
Web site: www.johnmcalister.org
Campaign funds raised: $10,011
Notable campaign contributions: $5000 loan from himself, $1,000 from the California Real Estate PAC, $100 from Robert Cox, $100 from Councilman Jac Siegel, $500 from the Mountain View Housing Council and $500 from the California Apartment Association.
After barely losing in 2008's City Council election, John McAlister served four years on the city's environmental planing commission before deciding to run a second time.
"The reason I'm running is I have deep roots in Mountain View," McAlister said. "I've lived here 55 years, raised a family here, run a business here and been involved with youth programs." He notes his experience getting city permits to remodel his house, serving on PTA boards and being a youth sports coach among numerous experiences that qualify him for the job.
McAlister said "We should give as much as we can," from the city's Shoreline tax district to local schools "without putting the city into financial concerns." Increasing enrollment could mean the district would lose revenue from its lease of Slater, Cooper and Whisman school campuses if one had to be re-opened. "When my kids were at school over 250 kids (were) at Huff. Now there 575. The schools were really designed for around 500."
McAlister has often questioned the need for high-density development, and goes against the current trend among urban planners as he calls for adequate parking in developments, which he says will also keep streets clear for bicyclists. He also is not interested in making drivers pay for parking downtown, unlike Mayor Kasperzak.
As for North Bayshore, he calls for numerous options to be studied, though he says the solution will probably be a private transportation system. He has opposed housing there but says, "Let's get transportation in and then we can see how many houses can we put in there."
As for drive-throughs, McAlister says he would support them on a case-by-case basis. "I have a business that could potentially use a drive through," he said. "From my perspective, yes, I think drive-throughs have a place"
Neighborhood: Old Mountain View
Job: Information technology assistant administrator at U.C. Berkeley
Political affiliation: Independent
Web site: facebook.com/nealformountainviewcitycouncil
Campaign funds raised: $2,725
Notable campaign contributions: $1675 from himself, $400 from David Stafford, Apple engineer
Neal became involved in Mountain View politics this year as a major opponent of the city's new ban on smoking near publicly accessible buildings and the city's proposed plastic bag ban. "Government seems to be determined to subject people to projects, laws, and regulations that they do not want or need such as High Speed Rail, telling businesses how much to charge for paper bags, and banning things based on their personal preferences."
Despite his libertarian positions, Neal says "I am not endorsed by any special interest group and therefore do not owe anybody anything, so I will be free to represent the best interests of the people of Mountain View. "
A former business owner, homeless person and father, Neal says he has "seen firsthand what effect the wrong decisions" made by government can have.
Neal opposes the "Share Shoreline" campaign pushed by parents of local students who want the city to share more of its Shoreline tax district revenue — and Google's lucrative property taxes — with schools. Instead, he calls for voter-approved parcel taxes and "lobbying businesses or individuals to provide additional funding as long as it is not done in a coercive manner."
To balance the city's budget, Neal said "revenues should not be raised," and blamed the high cost of employee salaries, which account for over 80 percent of the city's budget. He advocates a two-tier system "to restructure the benefits and pension plan only for any new employees" in order to cut costs.
As the City Council considers the idea, Neal opposes raising affordable housing fees on commercial development, such as that of Google, calling it a "disincentive" for businesses to locate in the city. He also opposes a moratorium on new drive-throughs in the city. "People that are disabled, elderly, have small children, or are time-constrained would be at a tremendous disadvantage."
Email Daniel DeBolt at firstname.lastname@example.org