City council race gears up - Morgan Hill Times: City Local Government

City council race gears up

One week into official filing period, four hopefuls throw names into ring; city clerk, treasurer seats open up

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Posted: Monday, July 23, 2012 6:19 pm

One week into the filing period, four candidates have declared their plans to run for two seats on the Morgan Hill City Council, and Mayor Steve Tate intends to seek his fourth term in the Nov. 6 election.

Council members Larry Carr and Marilyn Librers will reach the end of their current four-year terms Dec. 1, and both have retrieved their filing paperwork to run for re-election from City Hall, according to City Clerk Irma Torres.

Candidates Matthew Wendt and Joseph Carrillo have also pulled papers indicating their intention to run for one of the two seats, Torres said.

Tate’s two-year term is also up, and he has pulled the paperwork as well. None of the council candidates or mayor have turned in their completed paperwork and qualifying signatures to the clerk’s office yet, Torres said.

Also up for election in Morgan Hill are the city treasurer and city clerk seats, according to Torres, who said she is “seriously thinking about” running again.

City Treasurer Mike Roorda has already filed his paperwork and has qualified to run, Torres added.

The filing period ends Aug. 10.  

The top two vote-getters in the Nov. 6 election will be elected to the two available seats.

Neither Carrillo nor Wendt have ever served in public office, though Carrillo ran in the 2010 election for City Council.

He also ran for state senate as a write-in candidate in the June primary.

Carrillo, 23, plans to run on a platform parallel to the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that started last summer and spread nationwide before its ensuing fervor leveled off.

That movement supports, in part, raising awareness of the disproportionate influence that the wealthy minority of the U.S. population has over the poor majority.

Locally, Carrillo said that translates into “promoting small business over big business.”

“I want to get more businesses to downtown,” he said. “The downtown is kind of empty, like a ghost town.”

He remains committed to making the downtown more pedestrian and bicycle friendly as well.

When the time comes to start negotiating with the city’s three unions next year, when their labor contracts expire, he will “stand with the unions” for the sake of preserving jobs in a still-struggling economy.

More generally, he said he plans to bring “different views” to the dais as compared to current and previous council members.

“I want to make the political system more fair. I want to bring my creativity to the council, and I want to be a council member that stands out,” Carrillo said.

Matthew Wendt, 31, is a real estate attorney.

He is running for City Council “to serve the community and continue to build a better and safer city,” he said by e-mail.

He pointed to recent municipal bankruptcies in California as a warning signal, and an illustration of the importance of the city budget and expenses as what promises to be an ongoing issue all over the state in years to come, Morgan Hill included.

Wendt said he would continue to support the city’s “sustainable budget strategy, which establishes targets for the general fund reserves and guidelines for deciding how to make budget reductions when necessary.”

Any budget he would approve as a councilman, he said, would preferably avoid cutting services or jobs.

He said he would also work to support local businesses and grow the local economy to “enable residents to improve their quality of life” if elected.

Librers is seeking her second term on the council because she wants to finish some of the city business she started working on four years ago.

One of those issues is the development of Morgan Hill’s southeast quadrant, a mostly agricultural area on the eastside of the U.S. 101. The city has a long-term plan to eventually annex the 600-plus acres in order to ensure it is developed in a way that is more orderly than what the current county land-use policies allow.

“It will be very important to have sound decision makers to represent both sides – the property owners and the people who want to preserve the agriculture and open space,” Librers said.

Librers, the executive director of the Pauchon Research Institute, is also a “big supporter of the downtown,” and she wants to continue to support local small businesses.

She added she would like to see a “standardized” city hall policy that includes local businesses when the Council and city staff consider bids for local contracts or projects.

Carr, 43, is running for his fourth term.

If re-elected, he said it will be important to him to keep the city committed to its “sustainable budget strategy,” which is designed to keep taxpayer costs down and ensure the city’s reserve funds never fall below 15 percent of general fund expenditures.

He also hopes to keep the city’s residential development control system intact, and keep the growing population from straining public services, the schools and infrastructure. “How do we maintain that small town community feel that drew people to Morgan Hill? How do we keep that alive and cut through some of the difficulties the developers are having?” said Carr. “We’ve committed as a City Council that we want to do that.”

Carr is the associate vice president of public affairs at San Jose State University. He has two children, and has also served on the Morgan Hill Unified School District board of trustees.

Other important issues to Carr are longer-term, such as an upcoming general plan update, the development of the southeast quadrant and public safety.

Shortly after the beginning of 2013, the city staff and council will start negotiating for new contracts with its three labor unions who represent public safety, public works, community services and other employees. City officials have said in the past they will be looking for savings in those new contracts, and Carr said the issue is “fundamental to our budget” because most of the general fund expenses are for employees’ salaries and benefits.

“To me, it’s about how we respect our employees,” Carr said. “We need to be providing for ways in our budget to keep them all employed.”

Tate, a 68-year-old IBM retiree and former city councilman, said when campaign time starts, he also plans to promote the city’s budget practices, and point to the results of those practices over the last two-plus years which show the city “survived the financial storm” brought on by declining sales and property tax revenues.

An ongoing issue that he wants to continue to work on is the absence of the redevelopment agency, which was eliminated by the state Feb. 1 and financed programs that assisted with economic development and property improvements – particularly in the downtown area. Over the next four years Tate hopes to seek a replacement for those funds.

And he wants to stay in office to help ease and clarify the city’s growth control policy, without disregarding the need to keep the population in check through development policies.

“We need to revamp the growth control system so it’s not so complicated in terms of the competitions, and (housing allocation) backlogs,” Tate said.

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