Name: Deborah Lewis
Occupation: Retired Public Guardian/Santa Clara County & Los Banos Planning Commissioner
1. Why do you want to be elected to city office and what makes you a better choice than your opponents?
Los Banos is moving toward a path of re-establishing common sense spending and showing respect for taxpayer through open government. I would like to be a part of this positive change in making Los Banos a better place to live and do business. I have been a volunteer for the City of Los Banos since 1999 and I have made at my commitment to promote responsible government as a City Council Member.
2. The City's unemployment rate hovers around 17 percent. What can you do to bring livable-wage jobs to Los Banos?
Los Banos had been unfriendly to business development for quite some time. We mandated businesses to pay fees for the Regional Transportation Fund (RTF), which were over and above our standard infrastructure assessments fees, to pay for a bypass around Pacheco Blvd/ Hyw. 152. As a result, major businesses had been coming to our city since 2006. In January of this year, the City Council suspended the RTF fees through December 2012. This has ignited new businesses coming to our city and established businesses expanding, like:
- Arco AM/PM
- Expansion of Wal-Mart
- Charles Schwab Tire Store
- General Dollar Store
- 40 new hires for Peluso Cheese
This has been a positive way of bringing new jobs to Los Banos and our city will realize new taxes from the creation of these jobs.
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?
On Oct. 22, the City of Los Banos swore in two new police officers. We are very fortunate, because most cities are lying off their officers to meet budget. As citizens of Los Banos, we can still help our police by reporting activities of crime and suspicious behavior that we witness in your neighborhoods and by forming neighborhood watch groups through the police department. Being involved empowers you as a citizen showing you care about what happens in your city.
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?
MCAG is made up of the 5 members of the Board of Supervisors and 6 members of incorporated cities within the county. Los Banos had been depositing funds in the RFT account, for a bypass, for many years and most of those funds have been spent by MCAG, for project on the Merced side of the county to enhance Hyw 99 and the Atwater Exchange to UC Merced.
At our last City Council Meeting, the public was informed that MCAG does not have enough funds to purchase the land for our bypass, even though the funds were there in 2008. You have to wonder where the money went! --the Eastside of the county! To top it all, MCAG's executive manager had proposed to give Santa Clara County $700 million dollars of our funds to offset the cost for an environmental study for redirecting Hyw 152 on the Santa Clara side.
Over the past 2-3 years, Los Banos paid for homeless/mental health housing out of the Redevelopment Agency Fund, which no longer exists. This year's cost was $12,000.00, for an administrative position. Nothing was going to direct services. This payment would have come out of our general fund budget, which pays for our police, fire and all city employee salaries. They have sacrificed and gone without raises for 5years. I am thankful to them for their sacrifice! As individuals, we can give to organizations, like the Salvation Army, to help with our homeless.
Los Banos is doing better than most cities. Despite the tough time we face, I believe our city government should put the people of Los Banos first. This is how I see our priorities:
- Public Safety first
- Jobs through New Business
- Financial Accountability
- Honest & Open Government