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Issue date: September 08, 2000

Candidates talk about housing, economic issues Candidates talk about housing, economic issues (September 08, 2000)

KMVT will broadcast Chamber of Commerce forum in October

By Karen Willemsen

Candidates running in the Mountain View City Council and county board of supervisors races got their first chance to present their platforms at a forum sponsored by the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce Aug. 30.

Housing dominated the questions, which the chamber solicited from groups such as the Central Business Association, the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group, the the Mountain View Housing Council, the Manufactured Housing Educational Trust, and the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors.

A few dealt with how to plan the city budget in an era of declining sales tax.

The forum was filmed for Mountain View Community Television KMVT 15. Local cable television subscribers will have several opportunities to view the entire forum in October.

Here are some highlights from the question and answer session:

City council

Challengers Greg Perry and Matt Pear and incumbents Mario Ambra, Nancy Noe, Rosemary Stasek, and Mary Lou Zoglin were asked about rent control, downtown development, and what the city should do if its expenses outpace its revenues, as projected by the city's finance department.

Perry promotes taller buildings, more parks, bike boulevard

Greg Perry spent little time describing himself, choosing instead to get right to the issues.

The main reason he is running for council is because of the housing crisis, he said. Mountain View should get "on a sustainable development path," said Perry. The many dot-com companies cropping up around town "invite people to work here," he said. "We should invite them to live here, too."

Perry, a graduate of Harvard University who has not before run for local office, touts the idea of building high-rise apartments. Perry reasoned that developers could be required to include significant green space in such developments.

Perry also proposed making Dana Street into a bike boulevard so that residents living close to downtown would consider cycling or walking there instead of driving.

If the city needed to reduce its budget, Perry said he would first look to cut waste, then postpone expensive projects like the new Rengstorff Community Center. Essential services should be preserved, he said.

Pear wants environmentally sensitive development

Matt Pear, an environmental planning commissioner, grew up tending his family's orchards in Mountain View. Later he studied engineering at Stanford and finance at the University of California at Berkeley. Pear said his family's history in the community compelled him to run for office.

Pear said that overall, Mountain View is meeting its obligation to develop more housing. He believes the number of new units per year should be approved with an eye toward the environmental impact of each project, and of the total number of developments.

Pear feels Mountain View has done its share in promoting high-density housing and neighboring cities should now do more.

Pear also wants the city to continue balancing its budget, even as it goes into a period of anticipated revenue decline. To sustain the local economy, he would encourage local "business-to-business sales." Pear categorically opposes raising local taxes.

Stasek promotes outreach, fiscal responsibility

Mayor Rosemary Stasek said she's proud to have kept her top five campaign promises to: (1) protect the local environment, (2) attract businesses and develop strong relationships with them, (3) promote youth services, (4) put money from the city budget into reserves each year, and (5) assist those in need.

Stasek said she makes decisions about housing on a case-by-case basis. She has "no sacred cows" to hold exempt from budget cuts should the city face a revenue shortfall in the near future.

Downtown development is a significant issue, Stasek said, because the area is becoming almost a 24-hour-a-day destination. She feels sufficient parking and use of the EcoPass program can help prevent development from impacting neighborhoods.

Stasek "strongly opposes" national retail chain stores downtown because they would drive rents up and small businesses out.

Noe prioritizes housing, transportation, and downtown

Vice-mayor Nancy Noe touts the 800 units of housing currently under construction or in the city pipeline. A renter herself, Noe said she helped champion the recently adopted below-market-rate housing ordinance. She also supported the efficiency studio project that is still in search of a location. Noe would support voluntary rent control.

Noe represented Mountain View on the boards of Valley Transportation Authority and the Altamont Commuter Express, where she voted "to make sure (each) had good connections to Mountain View."

She wants the city to become even more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly. Noe is proud of having voted to put a paramedic on every engine crew in the Mountain View Fire Department.

Ambra calls himself "the neighborhood council member"

The son of an Italian immigrant family, Council member Mario Ambra told the audience he enjoys knowing people feel comfortable calling him when they have a problem.

Ambra told the audience that of the decisions he's made in his four years on the city council, he is most proud of his vote to expand the fire department's paramedic service. He is also pleased the council voted to forego building a hotel/conference center within the park boundary at Shoreline.

In several areas Ambra, a local landlord, said he takes a market approach to decision making. For example, he believes bringing some chain stores into the downtown area would increase competition. He is against rent control, arguing that the market will decide what it will bear.

Ambra favors having shuttles transport commuters to and from the trains.

In "bearish" economic times, when reducing the city budget, Ambra would seek to cut waste first, and to touch essential services last.

Zoglin touts experience, Mountain View perspective

Zoglin said she spent 13 years on the board of the Foothill DeAnza Community College District, and then two years as a lobbyist in Sacramento. Earlier, she served seven years as president of a community college in Southern California.

On the city council, Zoglin said she tries to "look at everything from the perspective of 'What kind of life will this bring the residents of Mountain View?'" She said she has no "special-interest policy."

If possible, Zoglin would like to see a locally owned grocery store, pharmacy, and clothing shops downtown because they could serve nearby residents. Zoglin wants to explore having shuttles bring people from the trains.

Zoglin is against rent control, although she promotes emergency assistance for those in need.

If faced with budget cuts, Zoglin would look at less essential services, rather than asking for across-the-board cuts from city departments. Cities have a limited ability to raise taxes, said Zoglin. They can raise fees, but neither is "much of an option" to her.

Zoglin said that because the council will face new and unforeseeable issues in the next four years, she tells voters to "pick people whose way of thinking and solving problems you like."

Kniss and Sandoval suggest housing policies

Liz Kniss and Dolly Sandoval, who are competing to fill Supervisor Joe Simitian's seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, put forth ideas for creating an appropriate balance of people, homes, rent, jobs, and public transportation (see candidates' profile, p. 5).

Sandoval connected housing to the need for public transportation. Kniss considers housing a litmus strip for Silicon Valley's economy.

Kniss pointed to the ramifications of escalating rents: small businesses closing and service workers leaving. Kniss wants the board of supervisors to study the issue.

Both Kniss and Sandoval called for creative ideas to stave off the "more people equals more car trips" scenario. Each advocates building higher-density housing near mass transit.

The entire Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum can be viewed on television. Visit the Mountain View Community Television Web site at 


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