Council candidate forum draws crowdBy: Rachel Zirin, Senior Reporter
The Folsom Chamber of Commerce hosted the first Folsom City Council candidate forum Tuesday evening, Aug. 21, at the Harris Center, and with a full audience, candidates were ready for action.
This event was presented by the Folsom Telegraph, Folsom Lake College, Folsom TV and Style Magazine, as well as live streamed on Facebook by Folsom TV.
This election, which will take place on Nov. 6, has three open seats at the dais with two vacancies, as Mayor Steve Miklos and Council Member Andy Morin announced their retirement.
As official filing closed and the candidates were finalized and announced, Folsom has 12 residents in the running, making this one of the largest group of candidates in years.
John McGinness, Folsom resident, former Sacramento County Sheriff and current host of KFBK’s The John McGinness Show, moderated the event with insightful questions at random.
Prior to the start of the event, all candidates drew a number out of a basket. Whichever number they drew indicated their seat on stage. McGinness indicated to the audience that all questions will be asked in a random order as well. He said the event was a forum, not a debate.
“Let’s have a civil discourse that’s respectful and reflective of the community in which we live,” McGinness said before starting the questioning.
Candidates’ answers were timed, and questions were rotated throughout the night, so each candidate had the chance to answer first. There were also different questions for randomly selected candidates.
The event began with opening remarks and introductions, which each candidate had 90 seconds to accomplish. For information on each candidate and why they are running, please see the related story.
Some of the questions throughout the night included scenarios such as if a large employer was looking to relocate to Folsom, how would you sell the town; if a large employer was relocating out of town, what would you do to convince them to stay; how would you handle a disagreement with a colleague or resident while at the dais; and more.
A small part of the event was a lightning round where McGinness mentioned a few hot topics in local politics and each candidate raised their hand in affirmation or left their hand down in opposition. After, each candidate had a short amount of time to state why they voted the way they did. The four items discussed during this round included rent control, term limits, campaign finances and the proposed sales tax – all of which will be on the ballot in November for residents to vote on.
During the closing remarks, all candidates had the chance to address any questions they did not get to answer.
Ken Brown was unable to attend the forum due to a prior scheduling commitment.
Introductions: (Each candidate was given 90 seconds to answer.)
Jennifer Lane (Candidate 1): After visiting the small town of Folsom in the 1980s with my young son, we decided together to set our new roots here. I became a teacher in Folsom Cordova. We had one stoplight in town. Lake Natoma was a big attraction for us. I used to go to City Hall and listen to the council. The first time I spoke at the podium, the topic was what to do with the city corporation yard. Should it be sold or do nothing with it? I spoke to the do nothing with it. That was on Oct. 2, 1985. Tonight, I am the one candidate that wants to turn this beautiful piece of land into a nature center with cultural amenities. Look at JenniferLane2018.com to learn more. I believe the residents of Folsom should be informed as we hear about homelessness, traffic or water concerns. Our quality of life should not be compromised. That’s why I have put people before politics.
Sarah Aquino (Candidate 2): I’m sitting before you this evening because one time 15 years ago, I listened to my mother. It was 2003. My husband and I had been married for a few years, we lived in a small house we had purchased in Sacramento, we had one child, and we were starting to have conversations about where we wanted to live long-term to raise our family. We started house hunting and looking at surrounding communities. My mom said to us, “Why don’t you check out Folsom? They do things right.” We did check it out. We ended up buying a home in Empire Ranch. We moved in on Dec. 5, 2003. In 2012, we moved our family insurance business from Sacramento where it had been for 26 years to Iron Point Road. In 2014, I was elected to the Folsom Cordova School Board. My mom is in the audience today, and I know she is going to appreciate hearing this, but she was right. By and large, Folsom has done things the right way – proof is in the pudding. We are a growing city and we have some challenges. I am running for City Council to address those challenges head on. If I am elected, I pledge to do four things: I will be accessible, I will listen, I will do my homework, and I’ll make common sense decisions. I promise you we will not agree on all the issues, but you will always know where I stand.
Aaron Ralls (Candidate 3): I have been a Folsom resident for 30 years. I am 43 years old and have been married for nearly 20 years to my high school sweetheart, whom I met at Folsom High School. I am a father to three great kids – ages 17, 15 and 12. I have been a little league coach for of my two boys, both with Folsom American Little League and National Little League. I have also been a soccer coach for 7 years. As my children decided to no longer play sports, I began to devote my time to our city in my role as planning commissioner. During this time, I began to observe the inner workings of city business. I observed many things I liked and some I disliked. After an 11-year career in law enforcement, I opened Luck’s Barber Shop in Folsom. We have now been open for nearly 8 years. Three years ago, my wife and I also began a real estate team in Folsom and the surrounding areas. During this time, I had the very unique opportunity to meet thousands of Folsom’s residents. I hear on a daily basis the concerns of our neighbors and I feel I truly have a good understanding of their wants and needs. I believe with my business background, I will be a huge asset for Folsom. My strong work ethic coupled with pure intentions can be the perfect candidate to face our upcoming challenges as we grow. I have not sought out endorsements from outside interests. Only wish to beholden to our residents. You can rest assure that a vote for me is a vote for your best interests. I am the candidate that will talk the talk and walk the walk. Thank you for your support and please give me your vote this November.
Kerri Howell (Candidate 4): During my tenure on the City Council, we’ve accomplished a lot of things. We’ve built parks and trails, a library, three fire stations, a senior and arts center, and most recently, celebrated the opening of Econome Family Park and the Johnny Cash Trail. I played a role directly in the annexation of the Folsom Plan Are,a and after 20 years of community meetings and planning, we will finally see residents living there by the end of this year. We brought light rail to Folsom, and recently extended the hours of operation through our work with Sacramento Region Transit. We’re about to move forward with improvements on and around East Bidwell to reduce traffic congestion during the a.m. and p.m. peek hours. We have balanced the budget and dramatically increased the reserves on that city budget in recent years. As an engineer, small business owner and experienced council member, I will continue to work on behalf of the residents to find solutions both in the city and within the Sacramento region with my experience on several regional boards and commissions. Thank you for your attention and consideration in this election. Experience matters.
Rob Ross (Candidate 5): I’m running for City Council to ensure that Folsom continues to be viewed as the model for city innovation, economic strategies, plentiful well-paying jobs, and the area’s best parks and trails. Most importantly, we need to preserve our resident’s sense of belonging to a vibrant community and retain Folsom’s small-town feel. I have owned a local technology business for more than 30 years, and I specialize in cloud hosting software for the medical industry. It’s important to have diverse skill sets between city and council members, and my experience in technology will help the city gain efficiency. We’re going to lower costs; I’m going to provide significantly improved transparency to residents. I volunteered within the city as the chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission for 7 years where I worked to approve three parks and more than 20 miles of trails. I formed relationships within the city departments and understand how the city operates, which is why I can be a very effective council member from day one. My top three priorities would be implementing a smart traffic system that can automatically reroute traffic in real time as needed. I’ll ensure that Folsom will always have a balanced budget and maintain a strong fiscally responsible economic position, and finally, I will keep our small-town feel by creating public places where people want to be and go, like along our river front area. These gathering places promote accidental meetings between neighbors, friends and acquaintances, which strengthens our community bond. Help me keep Folsom the amazing place it is.
Chad Vander Veen (Candidate 6): I’m running for City Council because I believe I have a duty to leave our city to our children in better condition than I found it. I’m confident that as your councilmen, I will do precisely that through the steps I will outline in my plan called SKI Folsom. SKI Folsom stands for safety, kids and infrastructure, and it’s the heart of my campaign. Protecting our residents, helping chart courses for our children to be successful and investing in innovative infrastructure solutions are the fundamental steps we must take to ensure Folsom’s distinctive nature remains untarnished for us and for our future generations of Folsom. Thank you all so much.
Mark Moore (Candidate 7): I live in Empire Ranch with my Fiancé Darlene and her two sons. I am a retired captain with the fire department. I am running plan and simple because I care about my community and about the people in it. We came to Folsom because we thought it would be a nice place to live and raise our children. It became much, much more for us. It became our forever home, and we are very grateful for that. Still some folks say that Folsom is doomed for a downturn in their fortunes, while others believe that Folsom ain’t broke, so why fix it? I disagree with both of those assessments, but the one thing that is for sure is Folsom is presently being pulled at the seams with enormous development and challenges. Now more than ever, we need insightful and courageous leadership to partner hand-in-hand with the entire community, in order to tackle the tough issues and make the hard decisions that’ll keep us on the path to a strong and vibrant tomorrow. If I learned anything at all as a leader in the fire service, it is that there is no substitute for integrity, knowledge, preparation and teamwork. I promise to bring all of that and much more to the City Council. Thank you.
YK Chalamcherla (Candidate 8): I visited Folsom in 2002 just for a friend’s birthday party and my wife saw the communities going and said, “Honey, can you please stop?” That’s it – that stop is here. So later on we moved from the Bay Area. I am a computer science engineer, and have public service and leadership experience. I am passionate about serving the community. Currently, I am a Parks and Recreation Commissioner and an American River Parkway board member. Here are some of the challenges I have gathered during my meet and greets with the residents; if I become a City Cmember I am certainly going to work on them: public safety – that’s an important one. Jobs – we can certainly bring the Bay Area jobs here; it is not that hard. The only thing is we will have to have a commitment to infrastructure. Folsom is organically growing, so there will be challenges going along with that. I am committed to further identify the issues, and I will be transparent when we are addressing them. Education – Folsom’s schools are great.
Scott Bailey (Candidate 9): Having volunteered to this community – lived, worked and raised a family in Folsom for over 35 years – I have always loved this city. I love pretty much everything about it. My wife Lynn and I started our home and raised three great kids while enjoying all that Folsom has to offer. I like to say we have lived the 95630 experience. For 35 years, I have watched the city improve in so many ways. I was not surprised to hear that it was rated the best place to raise a family. All the great things about Folsom happened with intelligent, thoughtful planning by our citizen commissions, dedicated and very talented city staff under the guidance of experienced leadership. I’m offering my commitment, historical perspective and experience to continue my service to the Folsom I love, our Folsom. With your help, let’s keep it going.
Barbara Leary (Candidate 10): I moved to Folsom 26 years ago for the same reason as everyone else – we have an outstanding city here. As a nurse practitioner, I spent my time at work at UC Davis Medical Center helping others. As a resident, I spent my time serving our city as a Parks Commissioner, Arts and Cultural Commissioner, neighborhood organization leader, as well as a service organization member. I have collaborated with residents, the city and our regional partners to safe-guard Folsom’s many attributes as the city grew. I worked to ensure land use is compatible with neighborhoods. I fought to protect open space, historical sites, trails and parks, and I have supported growth in local businesses. Our city faces new challenges as it continues to expand. Growth will increase demands on our city services, police, fire and sanitation, as well as our resources – water, transportation, parks and schools. These challenges must be met with someone with experience in working with our community. I’m committed to continuing the fight to ensure Folsom residents benefit from superior city services, a stable water supply, and viable neighborhoods surrounded by a healthy environment. I’m looking forward to working with you all and hope to hear from you about your ideas for making Folsom the best town it can be.
Mike Kozlowski (Candidate 11): I can be bold and summarize, like all of the other candidates, my family has prospered to an unreasonable level of success here in Folsom, and I feel indebted to all of you for making Folsom the way that it is. It’s fantastic in every way, and most certainly, no one would contest that. I work and have worked most of my career as a project manager in one capacity or another, and I can only say to you that I have three key priorities that I’m running to try and improve here in Folsom because I see challenges ahead of us. The first being attaining and attracting the best, most professional police and fire fighters that we can possibly have as we grow, so that our public safety is absolute because it is the underpinning of all the value of our homes and the enjoyment of Folsom that we live with. I want to immediately improve six key traffic corridors through Folsom. I have a plan to do that at minimal expense. Traffic is something that we are all dealing with as a result of the economic success that we enjoy here, and there’s ways we can mitigate that to make it better right now. Finally, I would like to see us build a bigger, better Dan Russell Area so that we can host bigger, better rodeos and bigger, better regional events. Finally, I am honored to have the endorsement of the Sacramento Republican Party, the Folsom Police Officer’s Association and Councilman Andy Morin who’s retiring this year. Thank you very, very, very much.
Q2 – Folsom is recognized as one of the best cities in California to raise a family and start a business. Even during the great recession, the city had the region’s lowest unemployment rate, a low home foreclosure rate, a strong bond rating for being financially secure and enjoyed very low crime. Do you think Folsom is going in the right or wrong direction and why? Please be specific. (Each candidate was given 30 seconds to answer.)
Mike Kozlowski: I think Folsom is most certainly going in the right direction. However, there are storm clouds on the horizon in a number of ways. There is a push for a great many economic-type measures like rent control and other things like that, which we need to deal with carefully. The pension situation for the city will continue to grow, so we need to be able to prepare for that and maintain proper reserves.
Barbara Leary: I think Folsom is going in the right direction. I think we have a good foundation to continue to grow. I do see the need to bring in larger employers, so that we can provide jobs for people who want to live here in town. I think that will do a lot to improve the traffic situation. I do recognize that the city has some challenges in terms of our pension plans, and I think that we’ve built a reserve that will be able to address some of those challenges.
Scott Bailey: I am absolutely thrilled with the direction Folsom is rolling. I fully support the south of 50. I fully support an active Chamber of Commerce and all things in free market, economies that make a community thrive. It is a symbiotic relationship to public safety and commerce. Without it, historically from the dawn of time after we stopped being hunters and gatherers, cities do not thrive without commerce. That’s very, very important. I love everything that is going on right now.
YK Chalamcherla: Folsom is going in the right direction for sure. I can think of just one quick example – in 1994, Folsom started building 25,000 homes in a span of 20-25 years. It was going slow. Likewise, in 2000, Roseville had 17,000 people; Folsom had 53,000 people. Roseville doubled their population. Folsom has only grown 20,000, meaning it is establishing and demonstrating very slow growth and successful growth.
Mark Moore: I think it’s going in right direction, but I think small businesses need greater help from the city. A couple of my ideas: I would like to see the home occupation permit abolished. For our brick and mortar retail service businesses, I would like to see a substantial tax break and incentives to do business here.
Chad Vander Veen: The future will dictate the direction, and I think the economic drivers of the future will be technology and skills-based. That’s why as your councilman, I’ll pursue a plan of building a municipal broadband network in Folsom and work closely with FCUSD to bring back the critical rich vocational training that our schools have been lacking for so long.
Rob Ross: Of course Folsom is going in the right direction because we all live here and we all know what an amazing place it is. You just heard 11 reasons why it is so amazing and I agree with all of them. We do have issues we need to take care of. I wouldn’t call it doom on the horizon or anything from that type of standpoint, but it’s hard to attract large employers here – campus-style employers – because we don’t have enough houses on the market, and that’s going to be really important for us as we move forward. We have unfunded pension liabilities we need to take care of. We need to be more fiscally responsible, although we are doing some of that. I think if we maintain a fiscal responsibility, we pay down those debts; we can work with our housing market south of 50. As those houses increase, we have the ability to attract large companies from places like Silicon Valley.
Kerri Howell: Folsom basically is absolutely, positively going in the right direction, and having been one of those people that helped to guide the ship, I’m extremely proud of that. With regard to the issue of jobs, we currently have 35,000 jobs in the City of Folsom. As development continues south of the freeway, we have space and zoning to allow for bringing larger corporate campus-type folks to town. I think that all works in our favor. We have one of the best housing markets and I think we got a few minor tweaks we need to do in regards to traffic and a couple other things, but I think we are definitely sailing in the right direction.
Aaron Ralls: I think the city is heading in the right direction. I know the current City Council has done a great job over the years of maintaining a budget in our bank as far as that goes. We are continuing to pull in great families that want to move here – that’s one of the most sough after places to live in the area. I am concerned, however, over our continuous growth without proper infrastructure improvements prior to the construction.
Sarah Aquino: I think Folsom is going in the right direction, but with three seats up and two vacancies, this election is going to determine how we do things for the next decade. First and foremost, we got to have a functional and collegial City Council. It is disheartening to me to go on to social media and see council members bickering back and forth. If elected, the first thing that I will do is introduce a governing handbook that all five of us agree on, which is the expectations for how we are going to conduct business for the betterment of the city.
Jennifer Lane: I too believe that Folsom is going in the right direction. I’ve sit on the planning commission for now 7-and-a-half years and I have to tell you, traffic has been an issue - Bidwell and Iron Point Road. I think if we keep putting large businesses in one area, we are just setting ourselves up for a mess. I think schools are great, public safety is wonderful; and our police and fire seem to be doing great.
Q3 – You find yourself in the elevator with the CEO who is considering relocating 1,000 jobs to Sacramento County. What is your pitch to convince them that Folsom is a business-friendly community? (Candidates 1-4 only – given 60 seconds to answer.)
Jennifer Lane: I would say to him, first of all, we have amazing schools and that’s why people continually move to Folsom. If he has a family, then schools would be a priority. We have parks and trails. We have more parks than most communities that I’m aware of. We have trails all over town. If you like nature, the environment – we’ve got it.
Sarah Aquino: I would say come to Folsom; we have a great quality of life. We’ve got great schools, safe neighborhoods, fantastic recreational amenities, we’re two hours from Silicon Valley, we’re near the state capitol and we’ve got great relationships with all of our state legislatures. I would also say we have an educated workforce. Over about 50 percent of Folsom resident have at least a bachelor’s degree and 90 percent of us have a high school diploma.
Aaron Ralls: Easy question – I would invite them into my truck, and I would drive them around and personally introduce them to probably 30 businesses that I am familiar with in town. They’d have a first hand tour of our city. They would be able to meet business owners; they would be able to talk to the business owners to see how they are flourishing; to see any issues they may have. I’d bring them by City Hall. I would just simply sell them on the lifestyle and what we have to offer here in Folsom, which literally is everything. It’d be an easy sell, and it’d be a pleasure to do it.
Kerri Howell: I must admit, I have actually done this on many occasions – my friends will attest to that. I basically just explain to people that Folsom is a wonderful community. I have lived here myself for 34 years. We have great schools; we have great parks; we have great trails; we have great amenities; we have access to the wine country; access to skiing; access to the ocean; we have a highly-educated workforce. I would go through some very detailed statistics about the educated workforce we have and the jobs we already have here; the high-tech folks that are already here in town; other amenities; the great restaurants. I guess people would probably prefer to not be stuck in an elevator with me, but I could go on for a long time.
Q4 – A major employer previously was headquartered in Folsom due to costly burdensome state regulations, the company relocated to another state. This could happen again. As a council member, what would you do to keep another employer from moving away from Folsom? (Candidates 5-8 only – given 60 seconds to answer.)
Rob Ross: You know, we just had, not that long ago, an employer in town that was going to relocate. Their employees essentially protested and said they didn’t want to leave this place because of what a great family area it was and the great amenities we have. I think that we would sit down and discuss the economic viability, the education of our workforce, our amazing college, the technological achievements and the technology they have here. The fact that we’ve got so many different things here would just make it in such a way that it wouldn’t be economically feasible for them to relocate. We have a regional airport right down the road, we have an international airport 25 minutes away and the list goes on and on, whether it’s logistics, it’s financial or whether it’s the greatest place to bring your employees and raise them, Folsom is it. It would not be a good economic decision for you to leave.
Chad Vander Veen: I touched on this a few minutes ago for about 5 seconds. I would tell them, as your councilman, I have a plan to give Folsom a massive advantage in technology and that’s because I have been pursing this plan to build a municipal broadband network, and bring Folsom into the ranks with the other cities around the country and around the world that got out from under the shackles of ISPs. A municipal broadband network will put Folsom in a position to not only keep businesses, but attract new companies and good paying jobs. Plus, a municipal broadband network would mean faster internet service at cheaper rates for Folsomites and the employees of this theoretical company than we would ever see from Comcast or AT&T. Many jobs of the future are going to be technology-based, but they’re also skills-based, which I wanted to allude back to something I said earlier. I think it’s so important that we work with the school district to make sure our students are getting vocational education opportunities, so we don’t have to just depend on technology companies, we can depend on a whole slew of career options for our students in the future.
Mark Moore: I think both of those questions were very similar because I would talk about how fantastic Folsom is. Everybody has already mentioned the schools, the location of Folsom, and how happy the people are here. I would invite that company back to take a look and do what Aaron said. I would give them the tour. I think Folsom sells itself. I think we all know that. All you have to do is be here and experience it. We’ve got everything that you need here. We’ve got schools, great public safety; we’ve got a future that we’re working on, and I think it’s a bright future. I’m looking forward to it. I don’t see how they could say “No.”
YK Chalamcherla: We want to know in any situation why they are leaving. Just pause it and understanding is very important. Is it that their corporate is mandatorily pushing them away? Then City Council can’t do anything. Understanding and accordingly investing is very important. Bringing the core values – if an employee is a happy employee in your company, you will benefit. No. 1: They won’t leave your company. No. 2: He is a happy employer, and he will produce less family tensions. The only thing I can say – we are building Folsom as a technology hub. Technology is the root cause for any building, so we will convince that way for the employer to remain here.
Q5 – What are the hurdles to doing business here in the city and what are the solutions? (Candidates 9-11 only – given 60 seconds to answer.)
Scott Baliey: Some of the hurdles I think are the cost of living here. We all enjoy the super high property values if we’re homeowners. I just recently read an article in the Sacramento Bee talking about how we have recovered from the big recession. Providing homes, apartments and housing could be a bit of an issue that needs to be addressed. The other thing is that we talk about permitting, streamlining and making the community a business-friendly environment. I recently had my 90-year-old mother move to town and I had to get some permits for the construction of her place. It was beautiful. The city has done such an excellent job of streamlining that process, and I would continue to encourage that in all ways, so let’s keep it going.
Barbara Leary: I’ve spoken with a number of developers recently about the hurdles of development here in town, and what I have been hearing is there is a long process in order to get a building permit, which was just mentioned. I think that we can do better in terms of processing building permits by streamlining some of our processes at City Hall. The availability of a workforce can be somewhat of a constraint. We are building south of 50 so that we have more space for housing, as well as for more spaces for light industry or other kinds of employment opportunities for people to live here. Some of the constraints are currently lack of space to expand within the city itself. I think one of the other hurdles may be finding adequate or appropriate space for certain kinds of industries.
Mike Kozlowski: I think I can actually address all three questions succinctly in saying that businesses are attracted by the lifestyle that’s here in Folsom, most certainly. If they choose to leave in spite of our fantastic lifestyle, it can only be for a couple of very straightforward reasons. One being the cost to do business and the second one being the red tape involved in getting permits or getting business licenses, or other support from our municipality or other agencies. We have to be vigilant and keep finding ways to reduce the cost of operating, reduce the cost of starting a business, reduce the complication of starting a business, and reduce the cost in complications of building things. That’s the way you attract and hold onto businesses and reduce the hurdles to having Folsom be the best place to raise a family and start a business.
Q6 – Our city has historically had a low crime rate. If you’re elected, what are your ideas to ensure that the crime rate stays low? (Candidates 6, 7, 8 and 5 only – given 60 seconds to answer.)
Chad Vander Veen: Well, I think the No. 1 thing we need to think about is getting really serious about students and teachers. The proliferation of school shootings is terrifying, and we cannot assume that Folsom is somehow immune. How is our town any different than the many others in the sad precession of those victimized by school shootings? That’s why are your councilman, I will work night and day with Folsom PD on a plan to protect all of our schools and ensure a regular law enforcement presence on all of our campuses. Another issue I know we are all concerned with is homelessness. How does it make you feel when you see that mom and her kid holding the sign in the Safeway shopping center? What do you want to do with her? You don’t want her there. You don’t want her kid in your neighborhood, do you? But what should we do with them? You and I, I think we all agree we want to keep them safe and to put her child in a safe spot. I would like to maintain property values, so if you’ll help me, I’ll make sure we put a plan in place to do that.
Mark Moore: For me, it’s a no brainer because I spent 30 years in public safety, so I understand first hand the difficulties of the job that keeps us safe and assists us in so many highly-specialized ways. A fully-equipped staff in the fire and police department is crucial in a successful and growing community as ours. For me, it all starts with these two groups. I whole-heartedly support them, and they’re fabulous. If you go online and just take a look at what the police department has and what they are doing, it’s incredible. I have never seen anything like it, and I have seen a lot of cities. I have been involved in public safety for a lot of years. I’m very proud of our police department, and I don’t think we’re going to have any trouble keeping that crime rate down.
YK Chalamcherla: First of all, I want to salute our police officers. They put their life in protecting us and secondly, Folsom has been one of the safest places. The question is how are we going to maintain it? Folsom is full of volunteering, volunteerism – that is the inner-core strength of Folsom. My recommendation is enhancing and expanding the neighborhood safety, CAPS programs and empowering those who are willing to come forward and be public safety and public officials’ eyes and ears in the community. Our police officers can’t be everywhere. We have 402 miles of lengths of streets in Folsom, so that’s how I am going to recommend it. Also, technology – having every homeowner using a camera, networking homeowner with police and monitoring. Strategically, we can fix it.
Rob Ross: First of all, first responders don’t get paid for what they do. They get paid for what they might have to do, and I think that’s something that we might lose oftentimes. I think one of the best things we can work on is to exceed our response times. I think response times matter more than anything else. I’d love to see increased funding in community programs because our police and fire need to be visible. You know, we do National Night Out, and we have our police and fire show up at our houses, and it’s so great to see the children that just embrace them. I think we need to keep continuing to do that. As far as the investment in technology, we absolutely need to increase that as well. We have recently installed automatic license plate readers. We know if a stolen car drives through an intersection in town, and I think that is something we need to keep doing. For the fire department, there is some new technology called fire extinguisher balls that are amazing, low cost and will keep people safe. I think we need to continue along that road.
Q6 – Can you please outline your basic views and philosophies on law enforcement/public safety? Do you have any recommendations on how our local law enforcement and city officials can effectively work together to protect the public?
(Candidates 10, 11, and 9 only – given 60 seconds to answer.)
Barbara Leary: As a nurse practitioner, I have to say we worked pretty closely with law enforcement at UC Davis. We had the contract with Folsom Prison and the city police department down in Sacramento. I’m very supportive of our public safety officers. I do believe that we could enhance the ability of our public safety officers to address the issues that people are having with soft crimes. These days if somebody has a car break-in, they’re really not well-staffed to be able to address those kinds of problems. Also one of the chronic complaints these days is the amount of traffic in town and the illegal behavior of some drivers. I’d like to see a better traffic control force put into place. I know that adding personnel is a great cost, but I would work to see that happen.
Mike Kozlowski: Law enforcement and public safety, both fire fighting and police services, are absolutely the foundational responsibility to the Folsom City Council and the thing that makes Folsom the safe, wonderful place to live. As far as I’m concerned, we have an outstanding police and fire fighting service, there just aren’t enough guys and gals working there. The response times can’t improve if we aren’t staffed properly. There’s a need to increase the experience level. We need to be able to attract professionals from other communities to come here to work in Folsom and help make it the great place that it is. I would say that in terms of my No. 1 priority, it is making sure that the Folsom Police Department and Fire Department are the premier services in Sacramento County and attractive to people who want to go into those professions.
Scott Bailey: I agree with what Mike said as far as keeping our police and fire as absolutely the most desirable place to work in this entire region. You may not be aware of it, but for 35 years, I wore the Folsom Police Department uniform as a reserve officer here – recently retiring at the end of 2018. It’s critical that we keep this up. It is the No. 1 priority as Mike said. Everything starts with pubic safety. It doesn’t matter how great the town is, doesn’t matter how great our commerce is – commerce cannot be great without public safety. Neighborhoods cannot be great without public safety. I have very strong views on all of that. I think we need to, as YK said, bring in some more cameras. Put cameras all over the area. We have the technology; why not do it? And of course address the homeless issue with regional efforts and the great HART program we have running right now.
Q7 – Historically, homelessness in Folsom has not been that big of a problem. However, things are changing. How would you address or mitigate this issue in the City of Folsom?
(Candidates 2, 3, 4 and 1 only – given 60 seconds to answer.)
Sarah Aquino: Homelessness is a complex issue, but our response to it should be fairly simple. It really comes down to two things and that is outreach and enforcement. We have a great partnership going right now where HART of Folsom, which is the non-profit, is working with the faith-based communities to do the outreach. They are going out into the community, meeting with the homeless folks, trying to offer them services, if they are willing, for housing, jobs, mental health services – just trying to connect them with the right people. But for those folks who refuse services, the police department has to do the enforcement. Nobody has the right to camp in a public place, not you, not I, not them, and it does not have anything to do with their economic status, it’s the behavior that we’re enforcing. If we don’t enforce it, we go from a public safety issue to a mental health issue.
Aaron Ralls: I think Sarah summed that up absolutely perfect. The homeless camps in Folsom, I have actually been to several times. I have spoken to several of the guys that were out there. It’s often varying groups. Not always the same guys. The last time I went, the two gentlemen I spoke with, one was just out of jail, the other was just out of prison; both admitted drug users. The problem I have with homelessness in Folsom is it is not against the law to be homeless, but I do have a problem with the mess that it leaves. I have a problem telling my 12-year-old daughter that her and her friend can’t ride the bikes on the trails along our creeks now because there’s so many homeless down there. One of the things I think will be beneficial is make it a little less convenient right now at the recycle center at Walmart. Any point of the day, there’s two-to-10 homeless guys kind of surrounding that entire area. I want to remove the recycling center away from that end of town to make it a little less convenient for them to hang out there all day and beg for money.
Kerri Howell: Sarah already mentioned HART of Folsom. They’re doing an amazing job in trying to connect first with the Navigator program and the coordination efforts that are talking place in the city of Sacramento and the county. The Navigator has basically identified there are about 60 chronically homeless people that live in Folsom. So when people start talking about the numbers, you need to know these are the real numbers. They do an unbelievable job at determining which of those people that are out there are homeless and willing to get the services they need. The faith-based community, in the winter months, their objective is to do it for 12 weeks. But if you want to go into one of those warming locations in the winter, you are going to talk to the Navigator, and you’re going to at least get some advice on where you need to go to get an ID, do whatever it is going to take to get you a job. I think that Folsom PD is working with that group amazingly well. I think that’s another location in the City of Folsom that we could get some more volunteer hours and money.
Jennifer Lane: I attended a meeting with Sarah, Kerri and Barbara at HART, and I hadn’t known much about it. They are spot on about what they can do and what they’re trying to do. There seems to be lots of agencies in town that are non-profit that are helping them with clothing and food. I asked the question, “How many children do we have?” They didn’t really give me a firm answer, but it was around the same amount of people who are homeless. People are couch surfing with their children, staying in cars – a very serious situation for children, of course. I’m thinking if I don’t make it on this council, I’m going to be a part of HART and help.
Lightning Round on major policy issues on Folsom ballot measures. Candidates who supported particular items raised their hand, and those who were opposed left their hand down. After, each candidate was offered a follow up with their responses on why they voted the way they did.
Rent control (Prop 10): Chad Vander Veen – affirmative
Term limits on Folsom City Council members (Measure C): Jennifer Lane, Aaron Ralls, Chad Vander Veen, Mark Moore, YK Chalamcherla, Scott Bailey – affirmative
Lifting cap on council candidate campaign contributions from $150 per person to $500 per person (Measure D): Jennifer Lane, Sarah Aquino, Aaron Ralls, Kerri Howell, Rob Ross, Chad Vander Veen, Mark Moore, Barbara Leary, Mike Kozlowski – affirmative
Increasing Folsom’s sales tax by a half percent from 7.75 to 8.25 percent (Measure E): Jennifer Lane, Chad Vander Veen, YK Chalamcherla – affirmative
Responses: (Candidates were given 20 seconds)
Jennifer Lane: I have a granny flat in old town Folsom. I think that it’s up to the owner to do the right thing. I know that I could get more rent for my granny flat, but I choose not to get more than I think is reasonable for the person to pay. We have a council that’s been there, the longest is 26 years, I guess. I have been going to that council, speaking at the podium for about 30 years and felt I wasn’t listened to. Half the time, those that have been on for a long time, are engaged in their computer, or not focused on the people that are talking. I am for [the sales tax] in Folsom. I am a signer on that, so you will see my name on the ballot. I firmly believe we need to finish the parks in Folsom. We have 10 parks not even started. We have 10 parks that need to be finished. I firmly believe we are about parks, so we need to finish those parks. We owe it the residents that live near them.
Sarah Aquino: I believe in the free market. I don’t believe in rent control. There’s no incentive for an investor to invest in more homes or to make improvements to their exiting properties when you impose rent control. As far as term limits, we only have to look as far as the state capitol to know that they have been a disaster. Can you imagine if we said to Folsom High School Football Coach Richardson, “Coach, appreciate the three state championships, the 16-0 season last year, but you have been here for your 16 years, so you’re out.” Contribution limits: I do believe the limits should be raised according to cost of living and just inflation, but I believe disclosure is the most important thing. I am against the sales tax increase because of three words: general governmental services. That is the wording in the ballot language and that means the money goes into the General Fund, and it can be used for any purpose.
Aaron Ralls: Rent control, absolutely not. It’s un-American. Term limits on City Council members, absolutely. I think when you’re on City Council too long, it’s very easy for the door to start opening for the improprieties. There’s a lot of money at stake. There are a lot of special interests that are involved with our local politics. Sales tax increase, absolutely not. The money isn’t air marked for anything specific. It can be used by however the council deems necessary.
Kerri Howell: Rent control I am not in support of. They’re investment properties. It’s not a provision of a public service. Term limits I disagree with. We’ve had people despite the previous comments, that have done a very, very good job for a very long time on the Folsom City Council, and I am one of them. The campaign limits, it’s difficult to get your message out to everyone. I think the $150 limit was put in place something like 30 years ago, and I think it is probably a good idea to raise that, so it makes it easier for candidates to get their message out there. With regard to Measure E, I actually signed the ballot measure against it, and it was because the council was not willing to determine in advance how the money was going to get spent. Without knowing that, I couldn’t support it.
Rob Ross: Rent control, Proposition 10, will be on the ballot, and arguably, it is an investment property usually by seniors that are trying to augment their retirement. I think they should be able to control their properties in any way they want. Measure C, the council term limits, again, I just can’t see going to someone who is a great pilot or fire fighter saying, “Listen, you’ve been here 10 years. I’m sorry, you’re amazing, but we have to let you go because you have been here too long.” It doesn’t make any sense. Campaign contributions limits, this campaign will run in the $30,000 range, and maybe even more, just depends on what all of the candidates do. It’s very difficult to compete with PACs that are out spending large amounts of money to get your votes. Having a higher limit will help. Finally, the sales tax increase, no. The sales tax will likely be spent on things like deferred unfunded liabilities and not all on the wonderful things that it says it could spend the money on. Watch words when you read the ballot statement – things like, “it could be used for…”
Chad Vander Veen: I was actually surprised at my answer to rent control because I ended up thinking about the issue a lot. The way I started to think about it is, if people are unable to afford their rent, or if it keeps going up, how are they ever going to be able to purchase a home and invest in our city? The answer is they won’t be. Supply and demand would argue against rent control. In a supply and demand market, I would agree, but California, as you know, is extremely over regulated, and that makes a level playing field impossible. So, yes, I do support modest rent control in means of helping people move towards greater economic prosperity, which will in turn help Folsom prosper. As far as term limits go, to Sarah’s point about the Legislature, Congress does not have them and is also a disaster. I will also point out the fire fighters and football coaches are not elected, so I do support term limits. I will just give a simple yes on the campaign finance changes. As for Measure E, that’s a tricky one for me. The intent is certainly worth while. But I do not like the language that there are no assurance that a mechanism will be put in place to enforce the funds are spent on the intended projects, but I am well-acquainted with some of the people on our Arts Commission and Parks Commission who are working tirelessly to defend Folsom’s unique nature. I believe if we put new council members in place, committed to ensuring the purpose of measure seen through, then the measure is worth supporting.
Mark Moore: As far as rent control, I’m going to take a pass on that. I really want to do more research on that so I don’t really have a position, yes or no on that. I hope that’s OK. As far as Measure C, new blood and new ideas is a good thing. Having elections with new faces I think creates dialog that we wouldn’t normally have in that situation. Measure D, I do support increasing contribution limits. I oppose Measure E. With the current $17 million surplus, why do we need more? I say we live within our means, take greater care of how we spend our money because we all know from our personal finances what happens when we don’t.
YK Chalamcherla: Rent control is a little bit hard for me to give a straight answer. If we don’t put the rent control, then some people might be outrageously charging, and it is very hard for millennials to come and live in Folsom. My daughter is 21. I don’t know whether she can live here. Term limits, I agree. Sixteen years is quite a bit of time. If one wants to do the greater good for the city, they can invest that 16 years and I support that 16. Finances, $150, Rob said it is about $30,000 to run a campaign here, whereas in Elk Grove, no control, no limits – $200,000 to run a City Council [campaign]. I just want to pay attention. I think I will probably go with the controls on the independent expenditures too. It’s my opinion. The last one is half a percent sales tax. I am a commissioner for Parks and Rec. and we have 19 parks unfinished for various reasons. You know, some of the neighborhoods, though they were promised, those were unfinished. My goal is I want to keep the kids out from the technology and gadgets. Put them in the parks. That’s were we can build grandpa and grandkids relationship. I know it is only 10 years. I hope we can do it.
Scott Bailey: Rent control, absolutely against it. I’m a free market capitalist. I believe that’s between the landlords and the tenants. If their rent is too high, they won’t get tenants. I do respect the senior citizens out there that are having a hard time with fixed incomes, but again, I think the markets going to go where market demands. Term limits I am for only because it is 16 years. They take four years off, they can run for another 16 years, so that would be 32 years of 36 years they could serve if they could live that long. We are about to lose 40 years of experience, knowledge, wisdom, historical context and leadership, and all of the connections they had back with Washington. They are doing such great things for Folsom. If Kerri is not fortunate enough to be re-elected, that’s going to be 60 years combined wisdom and experience. Campaign finance I am against. I believe that you can run a campaign on $150 per person, including PAC money of a maximum of $150. I think raising it to $500 is kind of an easy way out. I think if you have a $150 limit, you’re going to have to work harder for it. I’m all for that. Sales tax I am against. Of course, I am a right-leaning guy, so sales tax I am against 1 percent raise. It is for 10 years at a half cent. That’s a lot of money. That’s $100 million estimated. I think the city is doing a fabulous job right now thanks to the gentleman I call rock star Jim Francis. And all his great work he’s done with our budget. I would be much more inclined to support a quarter-cent raise for a shorter term like 3-to-5 years if it were targeted and we had a specific need that could be identified.
Barbara Leary: Rent control is a tough one. There are young people and older people that are having a difficult time paying rents that are rising faster than their wages. I would support an increase in affordable housing options and some kind of a graduated increase in rents for people who are in subsidized affordable housing. There isn’t a perfect rent control bill out there now – some work and some don’t work. In terms of term limits, 16 years is a long time to be up on the council. The difficulty is when you have a turn over of people with experience and regional connections, you don’t have the kind of influence that you might throughout the region, if you don’t have some of those people who have made the connections. I want to see more people work harder to get on the council, and to get involved and show up at the various commission meetings that they’re assigned to. In terms of campaign finance reform, I think it’s essential to reform how campaign finances are done, but raising the limit to $500 per person would be helpful. $150 per person when there are PACs out there that are able to support candidates without contributing directly to their campaign makes it difficult for people who are $25-$50 donations at a time. The sales tax, I would like to see a special use tax that would support completing our parks, our arts and cultural programs, which I think would benefit our tourism here in Folsom. I would like to see more information on how this will be structured, and it will be up to future council members, if this passes, to determine where this money goes. The money should go to where it is intended to go, and that would be to our parks and other things that were listed at the council meeting when they passed this.
Mike Kozlowski: Economists of all political persuasion all agree the only certain thing with rent control was lower property values and none of us want that. The term limit proposition as its constructed I think is useless, and I trust the voters of Folsom to impose the absolute term limit every four years if somebody’s doing a poor job, by electing someone else. The campaign contribution limits, signs, bumper stickers and t-shirts all cost more today than they did in 1985 when that $150 limit was passed, so it’s sensible. The half cent sales tax, like many of my colleagues on the table here, I would prefer for it to be more targeted, but I will say if the voters of Folsom do elect me to the council, I will absolutely target traffic mitigation and improving our parks and recreational facilities with that money.