Economic development, utility rates and collaboration were among concerns shared by candidates running for the San Bruno City Council during last night’s forum at the senior center moderated by the League of Women Voters.
Councilmen Rico Medina and Ken Ibarra are running for re-election with challengers Andrew Mason and Marty Medina for two seats on the City Council.
Candidates discussed lowering water and sewer rates in San Bruno. Marty Medina was concerned about increased service rates, which he hopes to suspend. He noted that this is his top priority.
“We have to do things fundamentally differently,” said Marty Medina. “We need to use different materials.”
In terms of collecting fees from those who didn’t play utility fees, Marty Medina suggested adding it as a tax.
Putting a utility bill on a property tax bill is unrealistic, Ibarra said. Using PVC pipes are also lower quality and should not be considered an option, he added.
Additionally, the key to lowering rates is technology for decreasing rates. Efficiencies can help save a lot of costs, Mason said. This is the biggest issue for Mason.
“I don’t think raising rates is the way to go,” Mason said. “You’ve got to embrace technology and train people in a new way. The voters want lower utilities or stop the increases.”
There have been huge costs to upgrade utility systems, Ibarra said.
“We have an old system and we have to take care of it,” Ibarra said. “We are not the highest, we are not the lowest, we are in the middle.”
Further, candidates talked about improving the relationship between the City Council and the San Bruno Park School District Board of Trustees.
Creating a focus group with someone from industry to come in and talk to public school education students to learn about real applications would be a good idea, Mason said. He is also interested in more science-focused programs.
Rico Medina said there is collaboration between the schools and the council.
“We do need to work hand in hand,” Rico Medina said. “There are opportunities for each one of us to be engaged and involved.”
Creating an after-school program is something the city has done for education, Ibarra said.
Marty Medina sees a disconnect between the council and school board.
“I think with the change in some of the members and new attitude of wanting to work together and sharing services,” Marty Medina said. “We need to do more and figure out a way to do it.”
Ibarra and Rico Medina agreed that fire administrative shared services are a good trend for cutting costs, as long as the residents feel safe and that there’s not a change in reaction time.
Pushing for ways to increase security with the fire department is necessary, Marty Medina.
Efficiencies and service agreements are necessary to drive down costs, Mason said.
In terms of crime rates, Mason sees a positive turn in town.
“You can influence people in positive ways,” Mason said. “People are going to move here and make communities and schools better [as median housing prices go up].”
Crime is up in the city, Marty Medina said, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This is of concern for Marty Medina.
Ibarra said the data shows nine more robberies, which amounted to a 17 percent increase in crime, but is not substantial. Things are on the upside, he said.
And Rico Medina said he knows police are doing a good job.
Candidates were hopeful about economic development in San Bruno post-recession and after losing redevelopment agency funds from the state. The Transit Corridor Plan was key to all of the candidates.
“We got redevelopment, we lost redevelopment,” Ibarra said. “You can’t say you’re going to invite businesses to a city, unless you give them a plan to develop, some incentives, that’s the only way you’re going to bring on economic development and we’re in a position to do that.”
Marty Medina said the city has to encourage new businesses to start by delaying permit fees.
A grade separation project will help economic development, Rico Medina said.
“We’re blessed at this time,” Rico Medina said. “We are planning for the future and have balanced the budget and are doing our best to bring in new businesses.”
There are opportunities for small laboratories in the city and mild beautification efforts in downtown to bring people in, Mason said.
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