Improving the city’s infrastructure and transportation were top among concerns shared by candidates running for the four-year seat on the South San Francisco City Council during a forum last night moderated by the League of Women Voters.
There are eight running for three four-year seats on the council. Incumbent Mark Addiego is seeking re-election. Appointed incumbent Pradeep Gupta is opting out of running for his two-year seat created by Kevin Mullin’s election to the Assembly and is now seeking one of three four-year seats, along with William (Bill) Lock, Rick Ochsenhirt, John Harry Prouty, Kate MacKay, Liza Normandy and Maurice Goodman. Both Normandy and Goodman serve on the South San Francisco Unified School District Board of Trustees.
Revitalizing the city
Candidates discussed improving the city’s downtown. Lock said removing empty storefronts is key to reducing crime, while Addiego said bringing in new businesses is necessary. Removing the soup kitchen from Grand Avenue is a way to make sure homeless don’t congregate downtown, MacKay said.
“Removing all those individuals is next to impossible,” said Prouty. “Crime is always going to go on, but if we have a strong police department that’s going to be your best line of defense.”
Community policing is a key to improving the downtown, Goodman said.
“My one feeling is, downtown should provide safety and comfort in people’s shopping,” Gupta said. “We’ve got to provide services that will be attractive to them. It won’t be done by the city alone.”
With the loss of redevelopment funds, MacKay and Prouty agreed there are still opportunities to revitalize the city.
The state was wrong to remove funds for redevelopment, Ochsenhirt said. Losing an economic tool to jump-start economies was a bad result of the state’s choice, Addiego said.
“The demise of the redevelopment agency pros are our schools got more money, but we’re in transition,” said Lock. “We could miss opportunities to develop our city and that delay may cost us money.”
Lock added the city will need to seek private funding to continue revitalization.
Economic growth of the area is the best way to increase revenue, Gupta said.
In terms of keeping families in town, Addiego said the city needs to look for stronger partnerships with its schools, the YMCA and major employers.
Gupta would like to see programs that help more students learn how to read.
“I do believe the city has a responsibility to create child development within our city,” Goodman said. “Even if we fill spaces with current planned child care, it’s not enough. It should not just be where the biotech community is.”
Lock and Ochsenhirt supported allocating more funds to helping with child care as well.
“I can tell you from experience having to be on a waitlist for child care before my daughter was even born, we do need more,” Normandy said. “The partnership between the city and schools has already begun though.”
Lack of affordable child care in South San Francisco is an issue, MacKay said, adding that more scholarships for child care are a good idea.
Poor transportation systems and a lack of access to bike lanes and Caltrain were concerns for Goodman, who sees them as important to improving the city.
A lack of a raised platform station is unsafe, MacKay said. She added the city is not marketing its ferry system well. Normandy agreed that communication of transportation systems and creating safe bike lanes are important.
“The transportation system needs an interconnectivity,” Prouty said. “The train system is beyond help.”
The dream many years ago was that the ferry service would come into the Oyster Point area, Addiego said. If things don’t happen shortly, the city will lose that ferry service, he said.
The situation will become worse as new developments come in, Gupta said.
Inefficiency and high costs of transportation in South San Francisco are concerns for Lock.
Core candidate competencies
What experience do those seeking office bring to the table?
Competency to choose policies wisely is one of her strengths, said MacKay.
Prouty said he’s been the president of at least eight organizations, while Lock said he’s been a member of the community for 20 years.
“I thought I knew everything about the city,” Gupta said. “But managing the city on the council is a completely different ballpark; any one commission will not prepare you well for that. It requires different layers of knowledge.”
Goodman, who is serving his second term on the South San Francisco Unified School District Board of Trustees, said he hopes to continue Mayor Pedro Gonzalez’s legacy of representing underrepresented populations.
A forum for the one two-year partial term contest is 7 p.m. tonight at Council Chambers, 33 Arroyo Drive.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105