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In The News

Incumbents want to continue work in RWC

By Michelle Durand, Daily Journal, 10/6/11

Following through.

If one phrase aptly sums up the reason four incumbent Redwood City councilmembers say they want four more years on the dais, it is the desire to continue work under way and watch previous decisions play out for the betterment of the community.

Alicia Aguirre, Ian Bain, Rosanne Foust and Barbara Pierce also have another reason spurring their re-election bids — they enjoy it, particularly when their efforts result in downtown revitalization, a renewed sense of city pride and financial stability.

Getting The Old Spaghetti Factory to town isn’t half-bad either, at least for nine-year councilman Bain who said he long-lobbied the outfit before it decided a spot near the theater was a good venture.

All four are running again to retain their seats although they are challenged by newcomer Paul McCarthy, a public information officer for the California Highway Patrol. McCarthy was unavailable to participate in in-office endorsement interviews with the Daily Journal and has previously declined to return press inquiries. From the beginning, McCarthy has said he did not plan to raise money or actively campaign for the position.

Despite Bain calling the race “not seriously contested,” he and the others say they are still working diligently to convince voters they remain best-suited for the job.

The councilmembers’ last terms have been largely colored by the DMB plan to develop the Cargill Saltworks site on the east side of Highway 101. The debate created twin charter amendment measures, both of which failed, in a previous election and continues to be a hot-button issue for the city. The environmental review process of the mixed-use plan is currently under way and each councilmember said it is important to let it play out before the council makes a final determination about its suitability for Redwood City. Some residents, however, remain focused on the city scrapping the project all together.

Foust, who has had to recuse herself from future votes because she helms an economic development group favoring the plan, said she hopes voters take a wider view of her platform and history.

“If you were going to be judged on one issue, it’s disappointing,” she said.

The council does not always make a perfect decision but often “the best it can be,” Foust said.

Pierce said she is unwilling to dismiss all the work already done on the proposal or ask taxpayers to fund developing a different plan that the private company DMB may or may not accept.

All the candidates said they welcome the multiple residents groups that have sprung up or weighed in on the issue but Bain said the council’s job is to gather facts rather than opinion right now.

Aguirre, recalling the Measure W campaign, is glad to hear the input sooner rather than later.

“I’d rather that all come out right now,” she said.

Bain thinks the process could have been undertaken better, with the city treating the Cargill site the same as any other within the general plan rather than reacting to a specific proposal. Aguirre thinks DMB could have acted differently but with so many moving pieces involved she said the city could not.

Pierce understands the need for residents to work with like-minded individuals, particularly for a project seen as another Foster City or Redwood Shores.

Pierce, who has 12 years on the council already, sees the panel and the city going in a strong direction. She and the others all touted the revitalization of downtown Redwood City among their accomplishments and a continuing priority for the city.

Pierce said it is “fabulous” to see residents and visitors alike enjoying the renovated Courthouse Square — what Aguirre also calls the city’s “living room” — and Broadway area. Foust think the refurbishing of the city’s image is among the best aspects of the redevelopment efforts. The city has become “software city,” she said, acting as a draw for startups because of its offerings.

Bain, in particular, is looking forward to this fall’s opening of The Old Spaghetti Factory, saying the city needs family-oriented restaurants in its mix of high-end offerings.

The council is now eyeing the area known as Block 2 — bordered by Jefferson Avenue and Middlefield Road and the train tracks — and slated for development into Depot Circle. Proposals are currently being submitted and each candidate said they are open-minded although each has a bit of a wish list.

All mentioned a boutique hotel and both Pierce and Bain like a bowling alley, although they said that is welcome anywhere within the city. Foust also wants a tea room, Pierce is eyeing entertainment and cultural options and Aguirre favors a sports bar and retail like Banana Republic or Anne Klein. More meeting space that can accommodate 300-500 people would also fill a large void on the Peninsula, Foust said.

Development and economic stability rated high on the list for candidates although some like Pierce take a holistic look to the city’s priorities while others like Aguirre point specifically to financial sustainability.

“If we don’t have a good budget, everything else won’t work,” she said.

The city recently shook up its organizational structure as part of a three-pronged approach to finding that stability. The police chief left, the human resources director took over as city manager and several commissions were changed into advisory boards. The process was bumpy, said Foust, and Aguirre said it may have caused some staff morale to drop. However, all agreed the outcome has been positive and put the city on the path of security.

“It just took us a while to find the right person,” Pierce said in reference to the eventual shift of Bob Bell into the city manager role. 

If Bain could revisit a vote, it would be approving high-tech parking meters in downtown that put off some drivers, confused some elderly users and weren’t as simplified or welcome as the council had anticipated. The meters can use credit cards and cellphones but Bain said the multiple screens and buttons just aren’t as easy as putting in a coin and turning a knob.

“I think we were sold a bill of goods that didn’t pan out,” he said.

Foust doesn’t second-guess prior council decisions but wishes the city had pushed economic development sooner as well as better educated residents about the failed 2007 ballot measure to increase the business license tax.

Pierce said the tax is an example of how the council needs to always build a bridge of understanding with its residents so they can see the “why” as well as the “what.”

The budget challenge now is figuring out what the city can and should provide, Foust said.

The city might consider ways to partner with other jurisdictions for services or even residents for some needs, such as sidewalk repair, she said.

Aguirre would also like to see the city reach out for agreements like the one with San Carlos to provide fire service management.

“We shouldn’t be doing the same thing in 23 cities,” she said.

Pierce said the city needs to match its revenue with its desires rather than seeking more concessions.

“I think we have to stop cutting now,” Pierce said.

If returned to the council, Bain said he wants to continue focusing on run-down sections of the city, like Woodside and Middlefield roads, where four-foot high weeds prove an eyesore and to underground utilities. He’s also a vocal proponent of disaster preparedness.

Aguirre, herself a professor, wants more connections with education like fields and after-school programs. She also is proud to provide a Latina voice on the council in a city with a large Hispanic population.

Foust wants to spend the next four years celebrating the city and its accomplishments, focusing on what it has rather than what it may lack.

“If residents are proud of their community, all else can fit under that,” she said.


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