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Reflections on the city council forum

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Posted: Saturday, October 6, 2012 12:00 am

By the Lodi News-Sentinel

It was a small but well-informed audience at the Lodi Public Library for the City Council forum Thursday night. We were impressed by the questions, many from the audience, and the responses, from incumbents Joanne Mounce and Bob Johnson and challenger Doug Kuehne.

We stopped making editorial endorsements of candidates some time ago, but let us say that these three all came across as capable and articulate. Here are a few notes.

***

At one point, a somewhat pointed question was asked regarding relations between Johnson and Mounce, who've been known to, shall we say, agree to disagree?

Kuehne didn't miss a beat.

"Is this my time to take a bathroom break?"

He was not excused.

Both Johnson and Mounce acknowledged disagreements from time to time, but said they can and do move on.

They were downright cordial during the forum. Both mentioned that on Wednesday night, they were on the same side of a City Council vote on a proposed housing development.

One area of mild disagreement: the idea of police substations in violent sections of town. Mounce and Kuehne said they'd at least be open to the idea.

Johnson said Lodi just isn't big enough to justify substations.

"We're only 12 square miles, folks," he said.

***

Each of the candidates, as we mentioned, did just fine.

Kuehne, former chairman of the Planning Commission, showed a good grasp of development issues and a deep affection for Lodi, alluding to his vision of preserving small-town values and charms.

His own story is compelling: He was homeless during a period in his youth and walked to business classes at Delta College, scraped up money to start his carpet cleaning business, and has become an expert in that field.

***

One of the lighter moments came when Kuehne asked for a question to be repeated.

"I was so enamored of Bob's response, I sort of lost track (of the question)," he said.

"You want to vote for me?" Johnson quipped.

***

For Mounce and Johnson, the forum was timed well: Earlier in the day, the city issued an announcement that a company is relocating from Stockton to Lodi. A printer and label maker, MEPCO, will bring 105 jobs to Lodi, drawn in part by attractive utility rates and the chance to consolidate operations at the former Thule manufacturing plant in south Lodi.

***

All of the candidates were upbeat about the state of Lodi's finances. Fund balances are robust. Johnson, however, voiced a chilling warning: "We'll be fine unless there's a double-dip recession."

The thought of Chinese and European banks imploding, Middle East oil engulfed in flames or rebellion, and the collapse of more American corporations left us with a nightmarish afterthought.

Johnson, the old stockbroker, said it twice: "We'll be fine unless there's a double-dip recession."

***

Publisher and forum moderator Marty Weybret would like to offer an apology to the candidates. He would like to pull his foot from his mouth for accusing them of dodging a question. There was none of that from any of them Thursday night. It was a welcome change from the gobs of gobbledygook we glean from the national campaign.

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