With Coralin Feierbach and Dave Warden stepping down from the Belmont City Council this year, the council is guaranteed to have two new members next year.
Incumbent Warren Lieberman’s seat is also up for re-election as he faces off against five others to keep his job. The other candidates are Gladwyn d’Souza, Kristin Mercer, Eric Reed, Charles Stone and Michael Verdone.
Mercer and d’Souza currently serve on the Planning Commission and Reed is a former planning commissioner.
Reed also ran for the City Council two years ago and barely lost out to now Mayor Christine Wozniak.
Reed is running for the council for the second time as the other candidates are running for elected office for the first time.
Lieberman has served the city for two terms and is seeking another four years on the council.
With Warden and Feierbach leaving, Lieberman is hoping the council will be made up next year of five independent-minded thinkers who are willing to work together.
He has been on the losing side of many critical votes over the past eight years that are due primarily to the council majority, or voting block, of Warden, Feierbach and Wozniak.
He has even been skipped over twice for mayor with votes made by the council majority. If re-elected, however, he is due to be mayor next year.
Lieberman moved to the city in 1995 and first served the city on the Finance Commission.
He decided to run for the council because he became disenchanted with the way the council seemed to enjoy humiliating each other.
“It appeared they enjoyed fighting with each other and the city was suffering,” he said.
Mercer has lived in the city for 29 years and has a long history of volunteer work in Belmont schools and the 4-H Club.
She looks toward renewing some of the old strip mall designs on El Camino Real, attracting more commercial activity east of Highway 101 and keeping the downtown village concept in place to make the area more walkable.
D’Souza built his own home in Belmont after buying a lot in 2000. He looks toward creating a more vibrant downtown and wants Belmont residents to pay less in fees or taxes for services such as sewer and garbage.
Reed looks to join the council to change “the culture where ‘no’ is the most common thing you hear.”
The city has overregulated its residents with restrictive smoking, sign and tree ordinances, he said. There needs to be a mindset shift in the city where “yes we will work with you” is a more common phrase uttered in the city, he added.
Stone moved to Belmont in 2004 to raise his two children in a city with “great schools and open spaces.”
He became interested in joining the council after it changed its mind on plans Crystal Springs Uplands School had to build a middle school on Davis Drive in the hills last year during a lengthy and contentious council process.
The outcome was bad, he said, and the staff needs to be more empowered to attract businesses to the city.
Michael Verdone is a third-generation Belmont resident and real estate agent.
He became interested in politics after learning through the San Mateo County Association of Realtors that residents in Belmont were having their private property rights restricted.
“What you hear about Belmont is ‘good luck, they are really hard to work with,’” he said.
Many of the city’s processes are “inefficient,” he said.
Verdone liked the idea of Crystal Springs Uplands School coming to the city but said the development deal was not enough.
Mercer agreed and said one of the problems with the school’s application is that the city has not taken a look at its General Plan for about 30 years.
Office use is not appropriate for the Davis Drive location, she said, but said CSUS may not have been the best long-term solution for the city’s finances.
D’Souza, however, said CSUS did not want to pay its fair share to come to Belmont.
“Lots of residents are happy we said ‘no,’” he said.
The council, Lieberman said, never had any “substantive discussion” on the development deal CSUS offered the city. Davis Drive is not a good place for a business park, he added.
Stone noticed what he called “a concentrated effort to spread misinformation to torpedo” the CSUS project as it neared the final council vote for the private middle school project.
The council’s actions cost the school a lot of money since it initially gave the school tentative approval 18 months before the council shot it down.
The Daily Journal sat all the candidates down recently for an endorsement interview and will publish their exact answers to several questions the paper posed to them in an upcoming edition.
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