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In The News

Ira, Gee and Seybert take seats on council
Newcomers face development decisions

By Shaun Bishop
The Daily News, 11/04/09

An incumbent Redwood City council member was re-elected to a fourth term Tuesday and two planning commissioners appeared to win their bids to become the newest members of the council.

Council Member Jeff Ira led the pack vying for three seats, collecting 27 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting, according to unofficial election results. Jeff Gee was next with 24.5 percent, followed by John Seybert with 19.7 percent. Both currently sit on the city’s planning commission.

Ira, an accountant who has been on the council since 1997, said he is “very excited” to return for four more years.

“Obviously, I do it because I enjoy it as well as I think I can make a difference,” Ira, 54, said in an interview at an election night party Tuesday night.

Janet Borgens, another planning commissioner, came in fourth place with 15.4 percent of the vote and Cherlene Wright, a member of the city’s housing committee, placed fifth with 13.2 percent.

Gee said he is looking forward to tackling the myriad projects that will be facing the city in coming years, including an ambitious plan to develop the Cargill salt flats into thousands of new homes and offices and plans for a high-speed rail line on the Peninsula.

“Now the fun part starts,” said Gee, 49, who will be the council’s only Redwood Shores resident.

Seybert, 44, wasn’t ready to declare victory Tuesday night with returns still coming in, but said he was pleased to be in line for a council seat.

“If it holds, I’m excited to get to work,” Seybert said. “If it doesn’t hold, I’m excited to get back to work.”

The departure of termed-out council members Diane Howard and Jim Harnett left the door open for the first new faces on the council in four years.

In the coming years, the freshman council members will face a series of major development decisions that could profoundly affect the city’s future.

The largest — and most controversial — of the projects is Cargill’s proposal to construct up to 12,000 homes on 1,436 acres of salt ponds east of Highway 101.

All five council candidates declined to state their opinions on Cargill’s plans during the campaign, saying a thorough study of them is needed before any decisions can be reached.

The city is also trying to continue the revitalization of its downtown area, which reopened in 2006 with a renovated Courthouse Square and a large movie theater complex. But the efforts have been marred by vacant storefronts and a court ruling that tossed out a major downtown development plan.

Besides the many pending development decisions, Ira said the city’s most pressing priority is keeping its budget balanced amid state cuts and declining revenues. “It’s going to hurt. It’s going to be hard,” he said.

 

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