Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012
Council candidates spar on job growth, budgets
By Thaddeus Miller / firstname.lastname@example.org
Four candidates for two City Council seats clashed on jobs at a forum Monday at City Hall.
Retired engineer Arkady Faktorovich said the city must streamline the process and create incentives to bring business to town.
"It's not only financial matters, but it's also the length of the permit process," he said.
Faktorovich praised the moratorium City Council placed on regional transportation impact fees, which are paid by developers.
Pastor Steve Hammond said the city needs to work with public schools and the community college to provide an educated work force.
"It's not enough to say we want jobs or we want business, we need to show them that," Hammond said.
City planning commissioner Deborah Lewis also expressed support for City Council's striking of regional transportation impact fees.
"Since the RTIF fees were suspended in January, Los Banos has seen an increase in new business development," she said.
The expansion of Walmart and Black Bear Diner, and arrival of Les Schwab Tire and Dollar General, were examples she cited.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Stonegrove said the businesses were working their way to Los Banos before the suspension of RTIF.
"The people who will have to pay for those impacts on our roads are us and our children and future generations," she said. "That is not right."
Stonegrove said improving the city's relationship with Merced College and the University of California at Merced to educate the work force will make the city more attractive to business.
The candidates also answered questions about the budget and deficits. Lewis said, since she is not part of City Council, she doesn't have the inside information on how to close the city's $641,000 deficit.
"It's a matter of looking at the budget as a whole to see if there are any additional cuts that can come about," Lewis said.
Stonegrove said she has a proven record of dealing with difficult budget issues.
"I will continue to work with City Council and the city manager on maintaining a fiscally sound budget while maintaining a high level of core services," she said.
Faktorovich cited his 25 years as an engineer as expertise on budgets.
"I can tell you the main reason businesses go under," he said. "(It's) when they have more financial obligations than they are taking in."
Hammond said sometimes City Council has to make unpopular decisions.
"When things are tough, cities and municipalities cannot really mandate how much they bring in," Hammond said. "They can only cut what goes out."
Video of the forum is at www.losbanosenterprise.com and Comcast Channel 96. The forum was sponsored by the Los Banos Enterprise and moderated by John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at email@example.com.