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League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
The questions were prepared by the Leagues of Women Voters of Santa Clara County and asked of all candidates for this office.
Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).
Questions & Answers
1. Of all the experience related to city government you would bring to the City Council, which three would be most important to your effectiveness and why do you think so?
I believe that every experience I have had in my life makes me the individual I am today and will have a strong positive impact on my effectiveness as a City Councilmember. For the past eight years, I have been deeply involved in Sunnyvale. By participating in the Leadership Sunnyvale program, and by serving on Boards and Commissions, I have gained a strong understanding of our great city. On Day One, I will be able to hit the ground running, representing the Sunnyvale community on City Council.
Specifically, my experience on the Sunnyvale Planning Commission, Personnel Board and Citizen's Advisory Review Committee will be instrumental in elevating my effectiveness.
Serving on the Planning Commission has provided me with in-depth experience relating to complex land-use issues in Sunnyvale. I have experience understanding and working to resolve conflicts that can arise between the General Plan, various Specific Plans, and zoning regulations.
My service on the city's Personnel Board, combined with my professional experience as a manager, has prepared me to work with city staff on personnel policy questions, compensation and disputes that come before City Council.
I was fortunate to be a member of the Citizen's Advisory Review Committee that had an active role in hiring Gary Luebbers, Sunnyvale's current City Manager. Hiring a new City Manager is going to be a key priority in light of Mr. Luebbers retirement. My participation in the process of interviewing and selecting Mr. Luebbers provides me an insight into the critical upcoming efforts to secure the right City Manager for Sunnyvale going forward.
My combined experience has also provided me an opportunity to have extensive interaction with city staff. This is a vital component to becoming a successful Councilmember. City Council relies heavily on city staff. City Council defines policy and provides a vision for what needs to be done. Council needs to communicate effectively with staff and have confidence in their professional ability to carry out the role they were hired to do. City Council then provides oversight and review of the completed work to ensure their policy decisions have been met.
I am not a "one-issue" candidate and I do not have a singular focus for being on City Council. I have actively prepared myself for the job of City Councilmember with hands-on experience and intensive knowledge gathering to ensure my ability to immediately add value to the process and to the community.
2. The City Council is now in the process of selecting a new City Manager. What, specifically, is working well about the selection process, and what would you like to see done differently?
The framework and process that was used to hire the last City Manager was a tremendous success. I believe it is a good decision to use the same process this time around. The process provides an avenue for input in the selection of our new City Manager from a diversified group within the city. With any hiring decision, some aspects, such as employment contract negotiation, need to be completed in confidence so as to not adversely affect the outcome. However, including a wide variety of groups (citizens, businesses, city staff) to participate in the basic framework of the process allows for greater transparency and was extremely effective and positive.
One concern that I have regarding the selection of our new City Manager is the current interaction between the City Councilmembers. The current working style of the existing City Council could be viewed as a deterrent by some candidates for City Manager. In January 2014, Sunnyvale is going to have two new Councilmembers and a new Mayor. Applicants for City Manager will know that, come next year, the dynamics will change between the seven Councilmembers that will have oversight and supervisorial responsibilities over the City Manager.
With the election in November, the timing of hiring a new City Manager could not be more critical. The process should move forward with some pre-selection and job definition by the current Council. As much as I feel we need to have more security in such a vital role within our city and secure our new City Manager as quickly as possible, I believe that the final hiring decision should be done by the City Council once the new members are sworn in and a new Mayor has been selected.
3. What has the City done to make its pension liabilities sustainable? Would you advocate for additional changes?
Overall, Sunnyvale has been working to address this challenging issue. First and foremost, it is important to note that the city does not have total control of how the pension system works or the definition of the rules regarding participation in CalPers (the state pension system). Nonetheless, the city is managing and sustaining the pension program for its employees.
Sunnyvale has worked with its bargaining units to implement a multi-tier pension system. While this two-tier system does not change the benefits of current employees, it does create a new set of parameters for future hires. This is an incredible accomplishment. It took leadership and vision by both the city and the bargaining units. Sunnyvale was successful where a large number of other cities throughout the state have not been.
Also, Sunnyvale has been paying more than the minimum amount required into CalPers, which has helped reduce the unfunded liability of the pension program. In addition, the city has mapped out, as part of the 20-year budgeting model, a strategy of continuing contributions that will eliminate the unfunded liability over time.
Sunnyvale has made great strides in this area. However, we must remain diligent. All future decisions regarding benefits must be viewed with a critical eye towards ensuring that the current fiscal year and long-term budget projections do not become unsustainable. City Council needs to be a vigilant steward of the tax receipts that citizens entrust them with. We need to make sure we are expanding the resources that provide an excellent return on investment that benefits residents and visitors. I strongly believe that skillful pension management is a critical aspect of overall stewardship of taxpayer money.
4. What is the most important accomplishment of the City Council in the last two years? What is its greatest failure?
I think the most important accomplishment by City Council during the last several years has been the successful management of the city's finances. During difficult financial times, Sunnyvale kept core services in place and has reinstituted services that were reduced or discontinued in previous years. The city cannot provide quality services to its residents without solid finances. Sunnyvale was just reviewed by Moody's and was able to retain its AAA bond rating. The key to retention was the diligence shown in managing our finances. One example of this is the city's 20-year budgeting model which ensures that all financial decisions are sustainable for the long haul.
City Council has worked to secure Sunnyvale's long-term financial picture to an enviable state within California. It has not been easy. Sunnyvale has worked with the bargaining units to implement multi-tier retirement programs and to reduce unfunded liabilities in our pension and retirement healthcare benefit programs. And, employees have forgone some salary increases.
There have been many successes but there is more to be done. We must remain focused on the long-term sustainability of our finances. We need to make sure that we manage the growth curve of city expenses and we need to be respectful of employees while we work diligently with the bargaining units. The largest component of the city's budget pertains to personnel costs and as a service organization, we need to provide quality services at an appropriate cost.
Sunnyvale has key capital improvement projects on the horizon, such as the water treatment plant replacement. Planning for this has already started, but we need to manage this project closely. Not only will it be a significant capital investment, it is important to ensure our waste water is treated correctly before it is returned back into the environment. The replacement of our water treatment plant will increase the amount of recycled water which is used for vegetation as well as help us reduce our impact on the environment.
Sunnyvale has recently witnessed a dysfunctional and highly volatile City Council arising from the negative and inflammatory actions of a small group. A diverse City Council that represents the entire community is a good thing. Disagreement on the best course of action for any item has the potential for conflict. I strongly believe that there are reasonable ways to disagree without being disrespectful and attacking another's point of view or character.
5. Who are your top five donors and what total amount have you received from each one? What conflicts of interest can you foresee from your campaign contributions, and how would you handle them?
I view contributions to my campaign as a form of endorsement and support of my candidacy. All endorsements, whether they are financial or just in name, are like references in a job interview. They are a way for people to show their support.
Financial contributions are important in providing the means to ensure my message reaches as many members of our community as possible. While I have been diligent about walking neighborhoods throughout the city and knocking on doors to meet as many voters as possible, I am unable to talk to everyone. Contributions to my campaign are needed to help further my efforts through paying postage, printing flyers and brochures, and creating lawn signs.
Some view campaign contributions with a negative connotation. I do not. To say that campaign contributions are inherently negative and attack an individual because of them is sending a message that only candidates that can self-fund their political campaign are wanted. I believe that every member of our community has a voice and if they are so inclined, should not be deterred from participating in public service due to their personal financial situation.
All of my financial contributions are reported and available on the City of Sunnyvale elections page where there is a link to Netfile.
My experience shows that my donors have made individual contributions to my campaign because they know me and strongly believe that I will be an excellent representative of the entire Sunnyvale community. To date, I have received over 40 contributions from a diversified group with a wide breadth of experience, focus and interests. I have not interacted with anyone that contributes money to curry favor. My contributors care about their community and want to see me succeed because I have shown a dedication to public service and to serving my hometown.
Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League. Candidates' statements are presented as submitted. Word limits for answers are 400 words for all questions. Direct references to opponents are not permitted.
Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).
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Created from information supplied by the candidate: October 9, 2013 22:32
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