Name: Stephen Hammond
Occupation: I am the Senior Pastor of Bethel Community Church.
1. Why do you want to be elected to city office, and what makes you a better choice than your opponent(s)?
One of the main reasons why I am running for City Council is because of character issues that have broken important relationships in our city, our county, our state and our nation. We must stand together and work together as a council and as a community and partner with our neighbors to build a strong regional economy. Although we must put Los Banos first, we are not an island to ourselves.
As a planning commissioner for seven years, I have a proven record of planned growth and being prepared to make the best decision possible for our community. I bring proven leadership, integrity and character that puts the needs of others before my own.
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?
The first thing we need to do to bring livable-wage jobs to Los Banos is to change the atmosphere in our city to a mindset that is attractive to businesses. Los Banos does not have a great reputation to the outside region and that translates into businesses and people not wanting to relocate here. The City Council has always had the power to negotiate and offer incentives to businesses on an individual basis, such as lowering fees or negotiating tax sharing programs. We also need to streamline our permit process and reduce the red tape that businesses have to go through. We must do more than say we want businesses to come, we must show them that we mean what we say. We have plenty of land and vacant buildings to offer businesses. We have room to grow but we must grow intentionally with a plan that will bring prosperity to our whole community and not just a few people.
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 people of Los Banos have always risen to the occasion to help one another. If we do not have the budget to hire more officers, then we must come together as a community and support our police department with programs like neighborhood watch, or police volunteers such as the VITAL program. I have been a chaplain for the police department for several years now, helping out in difficult situations wherever I could be of assistance. Together we can make a difference and make Los Banos a safer place to live.
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?
BROKEN!!! The current administration has done everything in its power to sever our relationship with MCAG. This is one of the relationships that we must repair. Again, we are not an island to ourselves. What happens to the region around us affects us whether we like to admit it or not. The Continuum of Care program is very important to bring federal dollars into our county to help meet the needs of our homeless population. We can only do so much by ourselves. Churches feed and help the homeless as much as we can, but NONE of us have the necessary means to provide a way out of their current circumstances. We must work together so that we can produce the greatest result possible.