GUEST COLUMN: Just another beauty contest? Or, can we change things?
July 24, 2010
The filing period for the next City Council election in November opened July 12, and my bet is it’s more of the same, despite what the Grand Jury recently reported as a council “at a barely functional level.”
Our current council has managed to spend the money left to them, has made themselves and the city look like fools and has yet to come forward with a positive program. They see their job, between petty arguments, as voting yes or no on other people’s ideas, namely the city manager’s. The system is in part to blame; we have five part-time representatives, each of whom cannot bring a matter to the agenda without a consensus, another criticism of the Grand Jury, and no real ability to manage a budget of hundreds of millions and many employees. The city manager runs the town, all department heads report to him. The mayor’s job is meaningless, ceremonial only in powers. So it’s no wonder nothing much new or inventive happens.
Let’s have a real contest, based on issues, not personalities, with candidates who run on the issue of a full-time mayor that actually runs the city. Your current council didn’t give you a say on this, they didn’t even discuss it in public after two citizens requested at least a hearing on the merits of the matter.
The candidates should discuss issues like housing, we have an opportunity to develop Sierra Boulevard and Barbara Avenue in to real, deed restricted housing for working people. Those people who are now living off the hill but work here such as city employees, hospital workers, firemen, police. The people who raise children, play little league and go to bake sales – a real middle class. They are doing those things now, but, in Minden or Carson. Three bedroom townhouses and single family homes with a linear park, sound environmental protections and a bike trail that would connect Meyers with the new park at Stateline. Priced at about $230,000 with city assisted buying, we could keep those folks and their property taxes and sales tax here while at the same time gaining people with the time and resources to be involved in our town.
How about transportation as an issue? A working airport served by a regional carrier. Connected to Stateline and Camp Richardson by a light rail with BlueGO providing feeder routes form the neighborhoods, transportation that we could all use.
Someone to raise the issue of the completion of the convention center and the hundreds of jobs it represents to our town. Instead of a council sitting around ringing its hands, we need candidates willing to go to Washington and fight for stimulus money to complete it. The feds say they want ‘shovel ready’ projects, well, this one ready. Or, is it more productive to sit around and complain about the hole in the ground?
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We need leadership, bold leadership willing to rise above the defeatist attitudes and a willingness to fail. They say ignorance is bliss, it’s also bankrupting this city and its residents. Literally hundreds of homes in foreclosure or upside down and jobs being lost every day. It’s not inevitable, but you have to try something, as my daddy used to say, “When it’s not working, do something else, anything, just get new ideas in the game.”
I don’t think everyone will agree with me on specific issues, but shouldn’t we at least have issues to debate? I am asking that we engage the voters in real issues, take sides and the majority wins. It is my view that we have no idea how great we could make our town unless we truly were willing to debate.
That’s the kind of campaign we deserve, controversy, lets stir it up, with people willing to go the distance, to believe it’s possible.
– Ted Long is a former council member, planning commissioner and past president of the Sacramento Valley division of the League of California Cities.