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Lafayette candidates’ forum notes

By Jonathan Morales
Friday, October 1st, 2010 at 3:27 pm in election, Lafayette.

Few real surprises in last night’s Lafayette candidates’ forum, sponsored by the Lafayette Homeowner’s Council. Attendees (a big enough crowd to force organizers to move everybody to a larger room) were treated to a point/counterpoint presentation on Proposition 22, speeches from school board and council candidates and a question-and-answer session with each group of participants.

Common theme of the night? “Sorry for the OSHA violation,” repeated multiple times by Homeowners Council President Marie Blits, referring to the power cords leading to the rudimentary podium from which candidates spoke.

Each council candidate had the podium to themselves for 10 minutes while the others sat outside. The candidates then fielded questions from the audience as a group.

The candidates stuck to the familiar script. Like incumbents do, Brandt Andersson and Don Tatzin ticked off the recent accomplishments of the council, saying the board has been doing a good job and thus making the case for their re-election. And like challengers do, Traci Reilly and Dino Riggio spent their time making the case that the current council has underperformed, and they are the ones who can bring about change.

“I’ve been on the council for 25 years and I’ve helped bring around many of these improvements and I’m proud of that record,” Tatzin said after listing the number of changes in Lafayette since the mid-80s like downtown development and the library.

Noting the council has also dealt with an unforeseen financial crisis, Andersson said, “In the next four yers we need people who can deal with those issues that we don’t know about yet.”

With many homeowners association members in the audience, Reilly found a crowd receptive to her opposition to the downtown specific plan and the recent charter city/property transfer tax proposal. The council, she said, has forged ahead on these issues despite the community’s opposition.

“I will bring fiscal restraint and insist on thoughtful growth,” she said.

Riggio, while offering few policy specifics, emphasized that, at 29 and as an Acalanes High alum, he represented the next generation of Lafayette leadership and a new voice on a council that has become “entrenched.”

“The term ‘different perspective’ always gets thrown around, but essentially that’s what it is,” he said. “It’s not the repetition that we’re used to.”

Reilly probably thought she had landed a joke when the audience laughed when she said she was the only council candidate with a child in grades K-11. But the crowd was likely still thinking about a comment by Andersson, who spoke just before Reilly while she was out of the room. Referring to Reilly’s statement (which is on her campaign flier), Andersson said her exclusion of 12th grade was not because the high school district had made some dramatic changes but because he currently has a daughter who is a high school senior.

More levity: After Blits introduced Riggio essentially with Riggio’s campaign slogan, calling him the next generation of leadership, Tatzin said, “I guess that means I’m the older generation of candidate. I’m still actually the second youngest member of the City Council.”

Most specific audience question of the night award: What are each of the candidates going to do about the stoplight at Pleasant Hill Road and RohrerCondit(???) (Could have sworn questioner said Rohrer, but since the two streets aren’t anywhere near each other that can’t be. Anyone hear more clearly than I?)

Most relevant question of the night: Do you believe the city is run as efficiently as possible? Reponses:

Tatzin: The council has periodically asked a volunteer group of residents who are financial experts to review the city’s budget and the council implemented most of their recommendations. Council subcommittee will also present recommendations for dealing with long-term budget gap soon.

Andersson: The city staff provides services that the residents demand, but if large projects die down and if planning applications decrease, the city may have to re-evaluate the city’s engineering and planning staff levels.

Reilly: The city added staff for projects (Veterans hall, library) that are now complete, so “I do think it would be a reasonable thing to look at staffing levels.” It was “insulting” that city staff received raises during the recession. (Reilly was referring to a roughly seven percent average raise city employees received in 2009. The employees have agreed to freeze wages as part of their current contract).

Riggio: City’s long-term projections may be off. It also may be a good time to take another look at the peer cities used to set salary rates. “No, I don’t think (the city is) being run as it could be.”

For more info on the school board candidates, here’s my election story posted yesterday afternoon. Also, keep an eye out for school board candidate profiles next week.

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