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7 questions with Jay Patel

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Posted: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 12:00 am

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

A: If the state of California would stop raiding our city’s revenue streams, I think we will be OK.

If things were to get worse, I would encourage our citizenry to prepare for a lower level of service than we have enjoyed in the past. We would all need to lower our expectations. We might have to look at eliminating graffiti abatement and reducing hours of operations for Lodi Lake, pools and parks, as well as other city services.

In truth, my main focus would be to grow our general fund revenues through pro-business and pro-jobs initiatives in order to prevent the decline of service levels as well as the need to shrink payroll. Lodi doesn’t have a spending problem as much as we have a revenue problem. Our focus must be to grow our revenues!

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

A: I acknowledge that every council member has the very best intentions for the city of Lodi. I do not expect to be on the winning side of every vote. In fact, it isn’t productive or wise to have 5-0 votes too often, as it shows a lack of independence. As such, I would not take things personally and over time I would hope to be able to persuade fellow council members that a view that I hold is correct. This is how I operate in my business life, and I consider it essential in order to succeed.

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

A: I do not believe that public safety can be outsourced. As a council member, I would listen carefully to any ideas brought by staff or members of the public regarding how we can save money through privatization. One idea that I was approached with, which sounded worthy of considering, would be sending small vehicle repair (police cars, trucks, scooters, etc.) to local garages, or maybe LUSD could take over the maintenance of our bus repairs.

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

A: Lodi needs to become more competitive with other cities in our area in terms of expanding our jobs base as well as sales and property tax bases. In the next 10 years, I hope to be able to help change public opinion regarding the desirability of new development as it pertains to jobs and housing opportunities.

Lodi is economically stagnated, which I believe has helped create our poor fiscal condition. Too many people and some council members believe that being anti-jobs and anti-economic growth is a positive for our city.

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 would consider reducing fees for companies looking to bring jobs and services to Lodi. I would put those discounts into place today.

I would also insist that the culture of our City Hall become friendlier to businesses. I have no complaints with staff, as they are all quality people. However, they consistently take the most conservative approach to building and planning issues. I have personally experienced the bureaucratic challenges put up by City Hall. It does not need to be that way.

What some council members fail to recognize is that Lodi has earned the reputation as being anti-jobs, anti-development and anti-growth. Other cities enjoy a more favorable reputation and those communities also have far better amenities, such as new sports fields, recreational parks and better shopping and eating opportunities.

I would fund the economic development director position. I also don’t feel it necessary to demonstrate initially how cost-effective that position would be. When a business is open, they have a salesperson standing by to search and respond to customers. With Lodi not having this position currently funded, it just demonstrates what potential employers and providers of goods and services already know: Lodi is not open for business!

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

A: I believe that the city has a revenue problem more than a spending problem. With that said, I understand the budget cuts and staff reductions that we have made so far. Additionally, I think the level of service has remained at an acceptable level. Our current pension system appears to be unsustainable. I believe we are going to need to have a two-tiered retirement system and reexamine employee compensation as a whole.

Again, my main focus would be to grow our general fund revenues through pro-business and pro-jobs initiatives in order to prevent the decline of service levels as well as the need to shrink payroll.

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

A: Our utility has served us well for a very long time, and properly managed and with proper oversight, that could continue to be the case well into the future. Years ago, the utility elected not to participate in hydroelectric projects, which in turn now denies us access to the cheapest form of electrical generation.

I believe that the new power plant that Lodi is helping to create at White Slough will help provide reliable power which will help greatly. We also need to look at connecting the city to White Slough with city-owned power lines so we could avoid the wheeling charges now charged to us by PG&E.

Additionally, we should consider offering a price break to potential employers that might be considering locating to Lodi. I would also like to see the Finance Committee be more involved in oversight of the utility.

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