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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Santa Clara County, CA November 5, 2013 Election
Smart Voter

Gustav Larsson
Answers Questions

Candidate for
Council Member; City of Sunnyvale; Seat 1


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?

Serving on Sunnyvale's Planning Commission, and as Chair last year, gives me valuable insight into the challenges of a dynamic city in a growing region. A key responsibility of City Council is land use: deciding what gets built where in the city and how we balance jobs, housing, transportation, shopping, and open space. Hundreds of hours spent in over 80 public hearings working through the fine details of these issues makes me well prepared to address policy questions on City Council.

I understand what it is like to be faced with an unexpected city issue in the neighborhood. When the PAMF medical clinic on Old San Francisco Road was planning to expand, I successfully built consensus with my neighbors, the city, and PAMF to solve traffic, parking, and privacy concerns. Neighborhood issues often bring out strong emotions, and my ability to find common ground helped us listen to each other and work together. Now we have a beautiful new clinic that provides vital services to the community.

I have earned a reputation for being thoughtful, thorough, and handling complex decisions in an open-minded way. My good working relationships with city staff allow me to be effective immediately on Council.

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?

Five years ago we went through a comprehensive selection process. Numerous interview committees, representing key groups in the city such as residents, businesses, and Council, made sure we hired a City Manager who met the diverse needs of our city and worked well with all constituents.

As a result, we selected an excellent City Manager who has built a strong leadership team to carry on after he retires. He has strengthened our city's finances and protected the city's triple-A credit rating even through a recession. And his team continues to bring world-class employers into the city. He has left us a strong foundation for moving forward.

We can be more efficient this time, while still being just as comprehensive and effective, now that we have figured out the process. Attracting strong candidates will be harder with the current contention on Council. Efficiently carrying out a proven process will help us hire the best City Manager.

3. What has the City done to make its pension liabilities sustainable? Would you advocate for additional changes?

Sunnyvale has already taken major steps toward making our pension liabilities sustainable: we negotiated two-tier pensions with our employee bargaining units, we increased employee contributions to 3% of salary, we hired our own actuary to calculate how much we should pay toward pension liabilities above the CalPERS requirement, and we are now paying down our pension liabilities faster than required.

The final step is negotiating with our bargaining units to increase employee contributions from 3% to 8% of salary over the next 5 years (or other equivalent financial savings). With this change, our pension costs will be fully sustainable over the next 20 years.

The fact that Sunnyvale went to two-tier pensions through negotiations reflects well on the city and our employees. It is important that we all work together to ensure city finances remain sustainable. It's good for the residents, good for the city, and good for employees.

4. What is the most important accomplishment of the City Council in the last two years? What is its greatest failure?

Approving affordable housing at the Sunnyvale Armory site has been Council's most important accomplishment. When this project opens, it will provide 119 units of much-needed housing to low-income individuals and families. It will also provide important services such as job counseling and after-school programs coordinated with the local elementary school. This is the first city-assisted affordable housing project in Sunnyvale in 7 years. As Chair of the Planning Commission, I was proud to shepherd this project through the Commission and play a role in its approval by Council. Sunnyvale can facilitate more projects like this by acquiring land that we can sell or lease to affordable housing developers, and I am committed to helping more projects like this go forward. Seven years is too long to wait.

Our city's greatest failure has been not getting the Town Center project completed. Downtown projects at the old Town and Country location are nearing completion while the Town Center still remains on hold due to a lawsuit between the previous developer and the bank. We need to stop the finger-pointing and bring both parties to the table to work out a solution for the best interests of the community.

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?

There are many ways to support a campaign, through financial contributions, volunteering, in-kind donations, and word of mouth. To date, almost 20 volunteers for my campaign have spent parts of their weekends talking with voters throughout Sunnyvale. If volunteer hours are valued at $17/hour, the rate Microsoft uses to match its employees' community volunteer hours, some of my volunteers would be among the top 5 campaign donors.

My top financial donor is myself. I have put $16,000 of my own money into the campaign.

My next top financial donors are a local developer, a mobilehome industry association, and two former Sunnyvale mayors. Each donor contributed less than 10% of the overall campaign budget so I foresee no conflicts of interest.

This information is current as of September 21, 2013.

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: September 25, 2013 18:26
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