With less than a month left before Election Day, six candidates vying for a spot on the Redwood City Council took turns last night sharing their views on topics as wide ranging as the budget, public safety and land use as they explained why they are the best qualified person for the job.
Planning Commissioner Ernie Schmidt, bail bonds business owner Corrin Rankin, former councilwoman Diane Howard, community activist and property manager James Lee Han and incumbent councilmen John Seybert and Jeff Gee are running for three seats. Councilman Jeff Ira is being termed out.
All six presented their qualifications and positions at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters held inside the Redwood City Council chambers.
Rankin said “public safety is my area of expertise” while Seybert prioritized a balanced budget and the “renaissance” of downtown. Howard emphasized her accomplishments while on the council previously, including the downtown renovation and creation of a water recycling program, and said the city needs to find new revenue generators. Han said he is motivated by affordable housing, having had his mother pushed to Los Angeles by Peninsula prices and himself challenged to find a place with manageable rent. Schmidt pointed to land use issues and Gee highlighted a background in architecture and work with agencies like SamTrans that gives him insight into public transit.
All of the candidates lauded the idea of partnering, whether it be for public safety, child care or parks. Han suggested the city also look at more immediate solutions like a commercial linkage fee in which developers of retail space pay into the community.
Rankin also supported such a developer fee and shared that, as an infant, she lived in the now-burned Hallmark apartments.
“If it weren’t for affordable housing, I wouldn’t be sitting here today,” she said.
She also joked that affordable housing options will let her daughter return to Redwood City after college but not move back home.
The candidates were also like-minded in their promotion of the city’s arts scene and, separately, approval of the city’s collaboration with homeowners for sidewalk maintenance and tree planting.
“Partnership is what it’s about,” Howard said.
Gee said some residents say that trees should be a city responsibility but that “the reality is that Redwood City gets less than 18 percent of property taxes we pay.”
Han said city staff are stretched and, returning to his priority of responsible development, said the city needs to consider how developers are or are not benefiting the city. For example, he said, the Stanford in Redwood City project will bring in millions in a development agreement but “got a pass” on its property tax.
Schmidt returned to the idea of partnering as a solution to the lack of housing at every economic level and for the elderly which he named as the city’s biggest long-term challenge.
The city needs to identify where they want to partner before the developers come calling, Gee said.
“If we make it too hard to build here they’ll go down the street ... and then we end up with nothing,” he said.
Gee also emphasized the need to keep the city financially sound to provide city services because “without that nothing happens.”
Seybert also listed a balanced budget as his number one priority which he said he’s accomplished for four years on the council by voting only for things that do not call for reserves.
The budget was tops for Howard, too, and she said partnerships are the answer to meeting goals like rebuilding aging facilities.
On the flip side, when it comes to cutting if necessary and making ends meet, Seybert said he would work with labor groups and pointed out that the city instituted a two-tier pension system two years before the state did.
Howard doesn’t want to make cuts even as the state finds new ways to take away money. She prefers raising revenue.
“We can’t keep cutting to the bone and keep asking the people of Redwood City to keep accepting it,” she said.
For less than $10,000, Han said the city could install wireless downtown and corporations and businesses pay for advertising that could then fund parking.
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