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7 questions with Phil Katzakian

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Posted: Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:00 am

Q: If the city budget worsens, where would you cut? Please be specific.

A: If the general fund decreased by X percent, that same percentage has been applied across the board, and I would assume the same will work again. In other words, we relied on the department heads to work within their budget. At this point in the economic downturn, I think we have worked our way through the largest cuts. With the Lodi Energy Center and the Reynolds Ranch projects coming on line in the next two fiscal years, my hope is that we have seen the last of a shrinking general fund revenue stream.

Q: As a member of the council, how would you work effectively with other members whose perspectives conflict with your own?

A: Different perspectives are good, they make you look at an issue from a viewpoint other than your own. I like that aspect of our current council. In the end, you make the best decision based on what you learned from your homework and gleaned from other council members. ... And then you vote. You have to have respect for your fellow council members; after all, you will be working with them for at least the next four years.

Q: Many cities are looking into outsourcing or privatizing some operations. What could be outsourced for the city of Lodi?

A: We currently outsource some landscape maintenance. We could outsource more, including park maintenance and pool maintenance, if necessary.

Q: What is your vision in 10 years and, as a council member, how will you work to achieve it?

A: I see Lodi continuing to develop its persona as a wine destination; that is, to develop as a destination and further develop its wine-based industry. This would increase TOT and sales tax revenue.

I would like to see the city develop and implement an acceptable redevelopment agency. This is an important tool that would allow us to attract businesses to Lodi and address some of our aging infrastructure.

I see the benefit of the new Lodi Energy Center and a western transmission line to bolster our EUD and insure competitive electric rates for our residents and businesses. I see the benefit of our new water treatment facility, moving Lodi towards surface water and off groundwater.

As a council member, I’m looking forward to the completion of these projects and any future projects that ensure a bright future for Lodi. Let’s move forward, not backward.

Q: Outline specifically how you would bring new jobs to Lodi. If part of your plan is to hire an economic development director, specify yardsticks to ensure the position is cost-effective.

A: I think an economic development team may be a better fit in this economy. That would include a city council member and the city manager along with department heads from EUD, Building and Public Works. (We need) partnership and working relations with Lodi Chamber, San Joaquin Partnership and various other agencies that are already in the business of bringing business to the region. And, of course, an RDA.

Q: How can city payroll and pension costs be controlled?

A: That is a very complex issue. There is a need for immediate relief through measures that could include participation of employee contribution to pension plans and benefit plans, and possibly a two-tier system for new hires which would be of benefit in the future. It’s widely accepted that the current plan needs to change in order to be sustainable.

I’m willing to look at all the options in the near future. It’s an issue that affects all cities, and I’m sure there will be lots of options available for us to consider.

Q: The city’s electric utility is now recovering from a financial crisis created by burdensome debt. How can a nearmeltdown in this operation be avoided in the future?

A: I’m satisfied that our EUD is on the right track, that proof is in our current rating from the rating agencies and a continued building of our reserves. The problem stemmed from large open positions. We now have closed those positions in advance of a current fiscal year and have in place an ECA. We also have a risk oversight committee that consists of the city manager, finance director, city attorney and the EUD director.

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