Council candidates on the issues

Readers seek candidates' positions on police, streets and housing

The November election will result in a big change in representative government in Morgan Hill—a switch from at-large to district council members—but the campaign thus far has focused on citywide, rather than neighborhood issues.

Just two of the four new districts—District B in central Morgan Hill and District D in eastern Morgan Hill—are up for election, along with the mayor. The mayoral race is the only citywide vote in the Nov. 6 election.

The new plan that will see residents voting for council candidates by districts has had little visible impact on the council campaign, as candidates and voters have emphasized citywide issues.

At a Sept. 27 forum sponsored by the American Association of University Women, Morgan Hill chapter, city council candidates tackled questions of growth and infrastructure. The audience at the council chambers on Peak Avenue heard few disagreements among the Nov. 6 hopefuls. Perhaps the most pronounced difference among the candidates, as illustrated at the forum and in other campaign efforts, is in where they stand on growth: at what rate and where Morgan Hill should grow in the coming years.

The candidates for mayor—Rich Constantine, Greg Sellers, and Kirk Bertolet—and for districts B and D answered several questions submitted by Morgan Hill residents at the AAUW forum.

(To view the full candidate responses at the Sept. 27 forum, a video is available on the Morgan Hill Times Facebook page and the Morgan Hill City Council website, morganhill.ca.gov.)

The District B candidates are Yvonne Martínez-Beltrán, Matthew Loewenstein and Ken Murray. The District D candidates are Julie Makrai-Hutcheson, Marilyn Librers and John McKay.

The Morgan Hill Times recently asked residents to identify key issues facing the city. Based on comments taken from Facebook and Twitter, the Times asked council candidates to answer three questions. Each candidate was given an opportunity to respond in writing to the questions, with roughly 150 words for each candidate. Here are their responses.

District D

Marilyn Librers

1. Will you support spending more money for uniformed officers?

Yes I support spending more money for our police department. The second largest expense for the City is used for public safety at 76 percent of our general fund. One of the ways we are increasing the revenue into this fund is by passing Measure H in November. This will increase the Transient Occupancy Tax by 1 percent or an increase of $27,000 annually. This is not a tax to our citizens! This tax is added to hotel charges. It is a very common practice in all cities.

Marilyn Librers

2. What will you do to upgrade and repair city streets?

Upgrading our streets is a must. Only 3 percent of our general fund is used for street maintenance and another 3 percent is for pavement rehab from capital improvement projects.  Proposition 6 on the November ballot would appeal State Legislature for funds for highway and roadway repairs. Morgan Hill is slated to receive funding, so a no vote on Prop 6 will help us greatly.

3. What can the city do to make housing more affordable?

We are fortunate to live in Silicon Valley. However, unfortunately, housing is in high demand driving up prices. The State has mandated affordable housing in all cities. We had the highest rate of affordable homes, or what is known as below market rate homes. Today’s numbers from the state are requiring Morgan Hill to add an additional 193 more units. Yes, these homes will be affordable; however the average salaries in Silicon Valley will exclude many from qualifying.

Julie Makrai-Hutcheson

1. More police

We need to find additional funding sources to support needed staffing levels over time per our Public Safety Master Plan. First though, we need to find qualified officers to fill existing open positions which is a process that can take up to six months or more.

Julie Makrai Hutcheson

2. Street repairs

We need to keep existing funding sources that include the $800,000 we receive from Senate Bill 1, which is in danger of being repealed via Proposition 6. I agree with the current strategy of using some General Fund reserves to increase investment for street improvement projects. We need to grow General Fund revenues and keep growth within current city limits.

3. Affordable housing

Preserving our existing inventory of affordable housing units when they come back on the market, exploring all opportunities for public-private partnerships to meet income-based housing needs and requirements, seeking feasible and appropriate changes to help the city achieve state-mandated affordable housing goals while ensuring quality homes are built consistent with the character of our neighborhoods.

John McKay

1. More police

I absolutely support funding for more police officers in our community, but funding from where?

We need to increase city revenues. I helped establish tourism as a key economic cornerstone to build upon, helped revise our zoning codes to allow more businesses we want. Economic development equals additional police.

John McKay

2. Street repairs

First, fight Proposition 6. Repeal of SB1 could lose us $800,000 to $1 million per year in roads funding. Second, maintain good roads so more extensive and expensive repairs aren’t needed.

Research avenues like grants and visitor fees. Engage community so everyone understands what it takes to maintain roads. Support economic development.

3. Affordable housing

Our community wants 70/30 mix of stand-alone houses and multifamily housing. Smaller houses (example 1,200 square feet) and lots and higher density townhomes offset outrageous land cost. Putting more homes on less land in the right place creates community, affordability and avoids annexations. Larger homes will always be built too.

District B

Matthew Loewenstein

1. More police

The chief of police has stated that the department needs at least six additional officers to properly serve our community. With the amount of growth we have experienced, we have to increase the number of officers to combat crime and keep our community safe.

Matthew Loewenstein

2. Street repairs

Much like fighting crime, we have to make our roads and infrastructure our top priority. That means placing road repairs and public safety at the top of our budget priorities and fully funding those areas that are vital to the daily lives of our residents.

3. Affordable housing

I will work to increase the number of Below Market Rate homes and ensure that Morgan Hill residents and their families get priority in those programs. I do not support the amount of high-density housing we are building nor increasing the amount Section 8 housing, since they have little impact on overall affordability. BMR’s are a better fit for our town because they create homeowners who are more secure and vested in our community

Yvonne Martínez-Beltrán

1. More police

I am committed to preserving public safety and that includes more uniformed officers. We must ensure our growth is balanced to not overextend our public safety and infrastructure resources and to be able to ensure Morgan Hill continues to be safe, and encourages walkability and biking throughout town.

Yvone Martinez-Beltran

2. Street repairs

Measure B funds would go towards street improvement. The Transient Occupancy Tax increase on the ballot could provide funds so visitors drive comfortably in town and there may be other possible revenues streams that we need to pursue. We need to derive a Plan B with reliable funds.

3. Affordable housing

We recently passed (which I supported as Planning Commissioner) a 15 percent Inclusionary Housing ordinance. First, we prioritize building affordable housing to meet short-term goals, keeping local control. Then, we create a long-term plan to leverage creative public-private partnerships with developers and our newly increased In-Lieu Funds to build/finance affordable housing.  

Ken Murray

1.More police

Absolutely!  Serious crime is up 12 percent. Police Chief David Swing did a thorough analysis and determined a need for eight additional officers. There was enough money for two. That is why we need to develop a comprehensive revenue growth plan to grow revenues, not new taxes or increased rates!

Ken Murray

2.Street repairs

I believe our city manager would authorize the $25 million in deferred maintenance, if she had the funds!  This is a question of money, not desire. That is why we need to develop a comprehensive revenue growth plan that focuses on increasing sales tax, commercial property taxes and transient occupancy taxes!

3.Affordable housing  

Make the “right” land available. This is a balancing act between residential growth, affordable housing and the general plan.

Encourage off-site construction to reduce building costs (i.e. Barley Place).

Utilize Leadership in Energy Design (LEED) Techniques to reduce operating and maintenance including onsite water recycling (NSF350).

Leave your comments