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Council members Bob Johnson, JoAnne Mounce both deserve second terms

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Posted: Friday, October 10, 2008 10:00 pm

We're endorsing incumbents Bob Johnson and JoAnne Mounce for the Lodi City Council.

They face three challengers, all reasonable and decent fellows. But the challengers could not, in our view, step in and do the job as well as the incumbents.

Let's begin with Johnson, the former longtime parks commissioner who, by his own admission, is a city government junkie.

Johnson is a semi-retired real estate appraiser who once worked on Wall Street.

Back at St. Bonaventure College, though, he majored in journalism.

That's telling because Johnson is enormously inquisitive and engaged. Even before he was elected to the council, he attended most of the meetings. He's a former president of the Lodi chamber and a former president of the Boosters of Boys and Girls Sports.

If it is a cliché, it is also true Bob Johnson has a passion for Lodi and serving the community.

He is also willing to make tough decisions. When the city faced acute fiscal problems in 2005 and credit rating agencies had soured on the city's bonds, Johnson voted to raise utility rates.

That was not politically popular, but it was necessary.

Johnson has gumption.

For instance, he has said that, as the budget shrinks, economies in public safety should not be off the table.

He has been known to read letters to the editor taking issue with city hall, find the name of the writer in the phone book, call them up out of the blue and start a respectful conversation.

Though he is endorsed by the Lodi Firefighters, he has not pandered to city employee associations. He is well aware that city labor costs have risen dramatically in recent years and will only continue to claim an increasing share of the city budget.

With that in mind, he has taken the unusual step of asking for a study of local and regional compensation in the private sector. That information may not please the city hall workforce, but it could provide valuable context for controlling labor costs into the future.

All that said, an incumbent's re-election bid is a good time for a performance review, and we do have some constructive criticism.

While we appreciate Johnson's willingness to speak out, he could be a more patient and attentive listener. There is a perception among some who go before the council that Johnson sometimes has his mind made up and is not particularly encouraging of alternate views.

All in all, though, we find little to quibble over when it comes to Johnson's council service. He has emerged as an outstanding council member.

Mounce, also completing her first term on the council, is in generally known as an open and attentive listener. There are other qualities that commend her. She's a tireless volunteer who has served as a Neighborhood Watch captain and a public concert organizer.

This year, as mayor, she has risen to the challenge of directing meetings with relative efficiency while also encouraging public comment.

She lives on the Eastside and was a member of Lodi Eastside Improvement Committee (now known simply as the Lodi Improvement Committee.)

During her first term, she helped forge an ordinance regulating mobile food vendors, most of whom operate on the Eastside. She has supported placing building code enforcement under the umbrella of the police department, giving it more bite.

Mounce has no lack of experience and enthusiasm.

What she appears to lack, and we'd hope to see this develop in her second term, is a certain resolve.

When the aforementioned vote on raising utility rates took place, she voted no. That was politically expedient - what politician wants to raise rates or taxes, after all? - but hardly in the best interests of the overall community.

The council, through no fault of its own, was up against it. Mounce did not offer an option. If the rates had not been increased, the city may have stumbled into a financial abyss.

In effect, Mounce stepped back and let her council colleagues take the bullet.

On the controversial issue of redevelopment, Mounce has wavered. She has grudgingly voted for it - while clearly outlining reservations, perhaps a nod to her populist base of support.

Still, Mounce offers an important perspective. She is diligent. She cares what people think. She has learned and progressed; her tenure as mayor has shown that.

Her first term has not been spectacular, but it has been solid. We believe, in her second term, she can grow into an even more confident and pro-active council member.

The challengers are Kelly Bates, a teacher; Cliff DeBaugh, owner of BBQs and More; and Roger Khan, a real estate agent.

Bates has a palpable interest in retaining Lodi's quality of life. DeBaugh wants to bring fresh thinking to city hall. Khan's optimistic, positive attitude is infectious.

As we said, they are pleasant and reasonable men. They just haven't built particularly compelling campaigns.

On Nov. 4, we encourage Lodi voters to support Bob Johnson and JoAnne Mounce.

- Lodi News-Sentinel

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