Name: Elizabeth Stonegrove
Occupation: Teacher, Pacheco High School
1. Why do you want to be elected to city office, and what makes you a better choice than your opponent(s)?
I have served on the Los Banos City Council for the past four years. I have lived in Los Banos all my life, and I care deeply about this community. I believe there are significant differences between my views and those of my opponents. I have a great deal of concern for the young people who are growing up in this community right now. Every child and every family deserves to live in a community where they feel safe. I have a record of making difficult budget decisions to ensure that we are focused on providing "core" services to our citizens at high levels, despite the recession and declining revenues to our city. I will continue to support police and fire to the highest degree. I care about raising the standard of living in this community for all residents, not just a few. I want the children of Los Banos to have the opportunity and the desire to raise their own families here someday. I am not afraid to vote for something that is politically unpopular, if I know it is the right thing. I care not only about what Los Banos looks like today and tomorrow, but also what Los Banos will look like 20, 50 and 100 years from now. I believe we can do better.
2. The city's unemployment rate hovers around 17 percent. What can you do, and please be specific, to bring livable-wage jobs to Los Banos?
I believe we need to focus on attracting and retaining quality jobs in this community. We have more than our fair share of gas stations and fast food restaurants in Los Banos. While those businesses provide some jobs and sales tax for our community, I believe we can do better. And we have to do better, if we want to give future generations the opportunity to live and work in this community when they grow up. We need to raise the standard of living and the median income level in Los Banos. I believe this means investing in amenities and infrastructure, so that business and industry want to be here. To ensure our infrastructure needs are met, we must make sure that developers pay for the impact they create. I am not opposed to offering fee deferrals for businesses that we believe can be positive additions to our community. In fact, I have voted in favor of fee deferrals in the past. But it is unacceptable to me, to eliminate a traffic impact fee completely, so that big corporations (who expressed no qualms about paying fees) do not have to pay for the impact they create on our roads. Instead, the residents of Los Banos are left to pay the bill. Our residents should not be subsidizing corporations who can more than afford to pay for their impact in our community. We can do better.
3. The rate of property crime has risen 18 percent in the first six months of this year. Given the crime rates and knowing there's no room in the budget to hire more police officers, what do you propose to do about it?
The city of Los Banos continues to support public safety in our effort to provide "core" services to our residents, despite falling revenues to the city. Because of a critical budget vote in 2009, I am proud to say that our city is in better shape than most in its ability to provide high levels of services to its residents; public safety is the priority among these services. In 2010, city employees agreed to give back significant amounts from their paychecks, to help ensure financial stability. Because of their sacrifice, we are in a better position than our neighbors. Because of their sacrifice, we were happy to announce the swearing in of two new police officers earlier this week. But I believe we can do even better. We have seen a growing number of gang-related incidents in Los Banos over the past few years. We need to place a greater focus on prevention and intervention strategies, rather than rely solely on suppression. We need to provide more opportunities for our youth to get involved in positive, safe, and healthy activities.
4. The Merced County Association of Governments is a part of local homeless efforts, the proposed Los Banos Bypass and several other projects. How do you view City Council's relationship with MCAG, and would you change it in any way?
I will work to repair the relationship with MCAG. I believe it is critical that we work together with our regional partners. It is important to understand that we have some issues that affect our entire region, not just our city. On those issues, like transportation, homelessness, regional transit, air quality and others, it is more cost-effective and efficient to work with our regional partners. Our investment in the MCAG partnership brings countless benefits and millions of dollars to our city through projects that affect our residents directly. Some of these projects include the Los Banos bypass, the new eight-bed facility to serve homeless individuals in Los Banos, transit services provided by The Bus, funding for local road rehabilitation through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, bikeways, trailways, street sweepers, implementation of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and the first annual Homeless Connect event in Los Banos, among others. We realize a significant return on our investment every year through our partnership with MCAG. I have worked with the staff at MCAG on a number of these projects. I have seen first-hand the benefits of working together and developing relationships with other cities in our region. Together we accomplish much more than we ever could alone. We do better when we work together.