Jan 9 2012

City Council Candidates Discuss Issue 5: Recommendations On Budget, Contracts, Undergrounding

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 #5.

 Do you support the full set of recommendations of:
– the 2011 Municipal Tax Review Committee (MTRC) on budget/fiscal issues?
– the League of Women Voters (LWV) Task Force on contract administration?
– the Audit Subcommittee on undergrounding projects?
– the City Administrator on priority for implementing these reforms?

Please identify any recommendation you do not support and state your reasons.


Robert McBain, City Council Candidate, response:

As a member of the Municipal Tax Review committee, I supported the unanimous majority report.    At the time of that report, the committee was not aware of the specific legal and financial structure of the Blair Park Project.  The report had called for an independent assessment of the costs of the project. As I have answered elsewhere, I believe the proposed guarantees by Webcor and surety bonds issued by Wells Fargo obviate that requirement.   I support the other recommendations.  Regarding the recommendations of the LWV and the Audit Sub-committee, I believe significant issues were raised and discussed.  There are strong recommendations made that I support and that will improve project management and emphasize the importance of risk management and contingent liability.   These mostly fall within the “best practices” category andshould be employed for future projects.    Regarding the priorities set by the City Administrator, I agree with the approach of the old adage: solve the biggest problem first. There is no doubt, as the MTRC stated, solve the employee
benefit problem.   Other recommendations by the MTRC can be implemented once the larger problems are solved. The city will have in place experienced project management for Blair Park if it proceeds;   let’s set the guidelines, establish the protocol, hire the right people and have regular reporting.  Other MTRC recommendations are well within the City Council’s authority—such as establishing a citizen advisory committee and setting guidelines for a capital project sinking fund– and can be implemented early in 2012. City leadership should establish a realistic timetable for the implementation of such plans.

Tim Rood, City Council Candidate, response:

I fully support the recommendations of the MTRC, including the sewer tax measure (see clarification below regarding pool subsidy). I also support the expectations for Council action prior to seeking voter approval of the parcel tax renewal that are set out in the MTRC supplement.

– the League of Women Voters (LWV) Task Force on contract administration?  Yes.
– the Audit Subcommittee on undergrounding projects?  Yes.
– the City Administrator on priority for implementing these reforms? Yes, although the City Administrator’s recommendations were not specific as to the Council’s role in managing the growth in employee fringe benefit costs, the largest contributor to the City’s budget crisis.

To clarify my support for the MTRC recommendation regarding the pool subsidy: the MTRC called for the elimination of the pool subsidy or equivalent budget cuts elsewhere. I support onlythe latter recommendation, as the former is not realistic. Other cities’ experience, as well as aconsultant report commissioned by the City of Piedmont in 2006, show that year-round public pools typically only cover around 40% of their costs through user fees. To reduce the subsidy to zero, the user fees would have to be so high that users would simply use other facilities. Having made the decision to abandon a public-private partnership with the Piedmont Swim Club that had made the pool available to the schools and the community at no cost to taxpayers for 47 years, I believe the Council must now identify budget cuts sufficient to offset the approximately $400,000 annual subsidy, as well as reviewing the pricing structure to try to reduce the amount of the subsidy.

Margaret Fujioka, City Council Candidate, response:

In addition to my response to #3, I support the Committee’s recommendation to begin appropriating $1.3 million annually to maintain our facilities and capital assets.  The Committee is correct in its statement that it is critically important to maintain and ensure the full function of public safety vehicles.  I recently voted to support the purchase of a new ambulance and fire truck to replace the old ones that have outlasted their reasonable life, so that residents will continue to feel confident that when needed, the efficient delivery of emergency services will continue.

I support capital planning through the development of a multi-year plan.  Each department should propose and justify assets they anticipate needing financial support.  The allocation of funds will depend on the overall condition of the City’s budget and a recognition that revenues fluctuate from year to year. Priorities will need to be set by the Council and made with public input.

I support the LWV Task Force recommendation on contract administration.

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