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Lodi council candidates sound off

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Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2006 10:00 pm

Lodi City Council candidate John Johnson defended his proposed Measure G against opposition from other council candidates, and all the candidates agreed that Lodi's Electric Utility needs attention.

Measure G, which would levy a quarter-cent sales tax to fund recreation facilities and emergency services, came under fire from incumbent candidate Larry Hansen at a candidate forum Thursday.

"It's a pipe dream," Hansen said. "There is no guarantee the money will be there."

Opponents say Measure G is flawed because it proposes to pay for the maintenance of recreational buildings and paramedics' salaries even after the sales tax expires in 10 years. Johnson said the money would be there long after the tax expires.

"Sit down and do the math," he said.

He said his proposal leaves $9 to $12 million in reserve after the facilities are built, and he said the interest would pay for maintenance and salaries. Hansen countered that the proposal is risky because it depends on the economy growing in the next 10 years.

"Mr. Hansen is more pessimistic about growth than I am," Johnson said after the forum hosted by the American Association of University Women at Hutchins Street Square.

Six of the nine council candidates answered questions from the crowd of about 50, and they all said the situation at the Electric Utility needs to be addressed. Roger Khan said Lodi could learn from other cities.

"We should explore other ways to buy power," he said.

Incumbent Mayor Susan Hitchcock said she is optimistic about the utility's future. She said that by having the council closely watch the utility and hearing quarterly updates, it could overcome its earlier problems.

"We've turned a corner," she said. "The utility's reserves are adding back up. It will be a cash cow again."

Candidate Jane Lea answered questions about her proposed Measure H, which would repeal the water rate increase. The water rates were raised $10 per month to pay for the cleanup of Lodi's contaminated groundwater. Lea said the city should look elsewhere for the $3 million Measure H would eliminate.

Lodi Unified School District candidate Bonnie Cassel addresses questions from the audience during the Lodi City Council forum in the Charlene Lange Theater at Hutchins Street Square on Thursday night. David Schindler, right, is the other Candidate for the Lodi Unified School District. (Angelina Gervasi/News-Sentinel)

"If we look at the budget, there are other ways to pay for the cleanup," she said. "No one wants to drink polluted water, but we do want a voice in how we pay to clean it up."

Steve Jarrett said he would like to see balanced growth and urged the community to get involved in planning.

"New residential buildings will not get us there. We need more businesses and jobs for balanced growth," he said. "There will be plenty of opportunity for citizen input with the new General Plan."

Some audience members said the forum helped them decide who to vote for, while others already had their minds made up. Lodi resident Judy Young said she supported Lea.

"Lea is well informed and up on all the issues," Young said.

Paul Taormina, also of Lodi, said he is an undecided voter, but appreciated the opportunity to hear the candidates.

"I thought Khan was pretty good. Johnson had some good ideas," he said. "The forum helped me make a decision."

Contact reporter Matt Brown at mattb@lodinews.com.

Lodi School Board candidates answers questions

Lodi Unified School District incumbent board member David Schindler and challenger Bonnie Cassel had differing views on the biggest challenge facing the district.
Answering audience questions before the council candidate forum, Schindler said the biggest challenge was public mistrust against the board.
"It's important that we listen to the people and regain their trust," he said.
Cassel said the biggest challenge was supporting teachers with state mandated programs. She said she is a believer in state and federal programs such as No Child Left Behind.
"I will devote myself to finding the resources to support all our teachers," she said.
Schindler said the best way to eliminate violence in schools is to make students accountable. Cassel said raising salaries would help recruit new teachers.
Both candidates agreed that more attention needs to be given to students who are at risk of dropping out of school.
- News-Sentinel staff.

First published: Friday, October 20, 2006

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