Jan 9 2012

City Council Candidates Discuss Issue 3: Leadership and Initiative on Fiscal/Budget Issues

The PCA posed a series of 10  questions to candidates for the Piedmont City Council in the upcoming election on February 7.   Following are the candidates’ entire responses to question #3:

How would you demonstrate leadership and initiative in addressing fiscal/budget issues if you are elected to the Council, especially during the next 6 to 12 months?

Tim Rood, City Council Candidate, response:

If elected, I would immediately propose legislation to implement the key recommendations of the MTRC report and the MTRC supplement, including obtaining an independent analysis of employee pension obligations (as Berkeley recently obtained), appointing a Municipal Finance Review Committee, adoption of a clear and public limit on employee fringe benefit costs at no more than current levels, and the start of 5-year advance financial planning.

Margaret Fujioka, City Council Candidate, response:

I would begin by moving forward with several of the recommendations of the Municipal Tax Review Committee.  In fact, the City Council has already implemented two of the Committee’s recommendations: 1) Placing the Sewer Tax on the February 7, 2012 ballot and 2) Deferring placement of the Parcel Tax on the general election ballot until June or November 2012. In addition, the City is in negotiations with employee labor unions, which negotiations are in closed session pursuant to State law.  Progress is being made, and I am hopeful that we will reach an agreement that will be fair for employees and the City alike.

To achieve meaningful long term cost reductions and a healthy municipal budget for the future, the City must reduce labor expenditures.  I have consistently taken a fiscally prudent approach to reducing labor costs, and I support increased employee contributions to benefits and a two tier benefit system for new employees.

One of the areas I have successfully focused on in the last 4 years on the Council has been improving our contracts so that the City is better protected from risk.  From selected professional services contacts, to public works contracts, to leases that have come before the Council, I have worked with the City Attorney and the City Administrator both publicly and behind the scenes to modify and streamline City contracts to  improve language in such areas as insurance and indemnity.

I have supported policy decisions that saved City funds.  For example, I supported the sharing of our fire chief with the City of Albany, which has resulted in a cost savings of $111,299.55 for FY 2011-12.  I support public-private partnerships such as the Piedmont Center for the Arts and the Japanese Tea Garden Renovation because they enable the City to leverage its monies with private contributions, which improves our facilities in a cost effective way.  For example, my husband, Cedric Chao, and I made a $5,000 contribution to the Tea Garden project which added a beautiful bench for the public’s use.

I will continue to seek improvement in City contracts, urge staff to strike a hard bargain with anyone seeking to do business with the City, and move forward with needed financial reforms. 

Robert McBain, City Council Candidate, response:

As a council member, I will be one voice on a five member council.  I will emphasize the importance of fiscal issues raised by the MTRC-of which I was a member.    The council needs to address those issues raised and take action accordingly.  I believe the community has that expectation.  As well, I believe the council understands that directive and will move on those recommendations in an appropriate and expeditious manner regardless of who is elected.    Ensuring the city has realistic timelines for implementation would also be a priority.

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