10 questions were asked to each of the three incumbents running for re-election for Scotts Valley city council; Donna Lind, Randy Johnson and Jack Dilles.
We will provide you with the answers from each candidate.
This Q&A comes from:
1. How long have you lived in Scotts Valley and what brought you here?
I got to know Scotts Valley when I was working for the City as Finance Director back in the 1990’s. The longer I worked here, the more Scotts Valley impressed me, and I convinced my wife Lisa that we should move here. More specifically, we moved to Scotts Valley 26 years ago because we wanted to raise our two sons in a wholesome family-oriented community. We wanted safety, great schools and a green environment. Scotts Valley has proved to be everything we hoped for.
2. What do you love best about our city?
I love the green environment with many trees and parks, especially our new Glenwood Preserve. I love that I can hop on my bicycle and ride in almost any direction on quiet, beautiful mountain roads. I love the friendly neighbors who engage us in conversation when we walk our dogs. I love the local business owners who greet us when we shop in our local stores.
3. What motivates you to serve in city council?
I am running for Scotts Valley City Council for a second term because I want to confront the critical issues facing the city. As a former Mayor, former Santa Cruz County Board of Education President, former Scotts Valley Finance Director, and long-time Scotts Valley resident, I care about the community and bring a lot of relevant experience to the City Council. This experience will enable me to help guide the city in a successful direction.
4. What are your thoughts on future housing development?
Scotts Valley is growing and numerous housing projects are underway, or are being proposed. For me, it is critical that we maintain our small town character, and yet we have to grow somewhat to be economically healthy. We need some housing for workers and for our young people.
In general, I am not fond of large housing developments, unless the benefits clearly outweigh negative impacts. However, property owners have rights that allow them to build 100% housing if their properties are zoned for residential or almost 50% housing if zoned for service commercial. Further, the State has forced cities to set housing goals and has taken away local control over some development. For instance, it is almost impossible to rezone property zoned as residential to open space, commercial or industrial.
I don’t believe that new homes in Scotts Valley generate enough taxes to pay for the services they receive from the city, so the city should be cautious about overbuilding homes when the city is struggling financially.
My focus in building new homes is two-fold. First, I would like the city to expand the inclusionary zone within which housing projects are required to include 15% of homes as affordable. This zone currently covers the Scotts Valley Drive and Mt. Hermon Road corridors, and I am advocating to expand this zone to the city limits. In this manner, whenever future projects are built anywhere in the city, they would be required to include affordable units and add to the affordable housing supply.
Second, I would like to encourage interested homeowners to add an accessory dwelling unit (“ADU”) on their properties as a rental investment. This would add rental housing units in a way that would not overwhelm our small town and would provide an opportunity for residents to both increase the value of their homes and to receive rental income. If a mortgage were taken out to finance this rental, it is likely the ADU would generate positive cash flow for the owner.
5. What would you do to infuse more business to our local businesses and how are you supporting them today? More dollars for local businesses mean more dollars for our city of course.
I will continue shopping locally. It feels good and it definitely helps our local economy. My family shops in Scotts Valley for almost everything we can get in town. We buy groceries, gifts, flowers, hardware, gas, pet supplies, office supplies, plants and garden supplies, drug store items, jewelry, and lots of coffee. We also contribute by ordering from many restaurants, using local dry cleaners, seeing local dentists, patronizing our veterinarian and dog sitters, hiring a local roofing company, using local website design services, and hiring a local pest control company.
The City has been assisting local businesses as much as we could during these difficult times by including businesses in the recent eviction moratorium, distributing business tool kits for dealing with COVID-19 impacts, providing a 90-day extension of the due date for payment of business license taxes, allowing gyms and fitness centers to operate in city parks, allowing restaurants to serve food outdoors, and streamlining business use permits.
I would like to see the city allow restaurants to continue serving food outdoors and continue to allow gyms and fitness centers to operate in parks, if they were interested and if this were feasible.
I would also like to see the city consider allowing restaurants on Scotts Valley Drive to serve food outdoors on weekends in the outside lanes as a way to help existing businesses; to encourage patrons to stroll along Scotts Valley Drive and shop at other businesses; and to attract new businesses to Scotts Valley Drive.
6. Where do you think our city needs to focus on most in the next 5 years? What are our biggest challenges?
The city needs to focus on finances. After the voters approved Measure Z, our sales tax measure, last March, we thought we would finally be able to stabilize the city’s budget and maintain our budgeted service levels. However, because sales taxes and hotel taxes make up 50% of our General Fund budget, and because these revenues took a huge hit from COVID-19 impacts, the city was forced to burn through $2 million in cash reserves last fiscal year. In the current fiscal year, the city was forced to cut more than $1 million from the annual $13 million budget by not funding vacant positions in the Police, Community Development, and Public Works Department and by cutting other costs. After adoption of the budget, the city suspended most Recreation positions and programs because of a sharp drop in recreation revenues and the imposition of COVID-19 restrictions.
The city has maintained our minimum cash reserve level equal to 17% of expenses, so that there is enough for cash flow and enough to withstand an additional fiscal downturn. However, the city is running with a skeleton crew and must build back up our reserves to meet our needs over the next five years. There is still a lot of uncertainty in revenue projections, and the city is carefully monitoring incoming revenue so that whatever steps become necessary, they are taken in a timely way. Once business activity returns to normal, the city will be in a better position, but the city will still need to accumulate at least several million dollars of lost revenue to stabilize services and to get back to where we planned to be before COVID-19.
7. Do we really need a town center at this point or would we be better off focusing on existing vacant business locations like KMart and others including improving them by incentivizing property owners?
I believe it is time to take a new look at the town center specific plan and envision something different. The city has struggled for many years to attract retail businesses to the town center area and the latest proposal was halted by the developer during the early stages. The city heard from many residents about the amount of housing that was proposed and questions were raised about the small amount of retail that was proposed.
I would like Scotts Valley to reimagine what could be done. The city must honor an affordable housing obligation associated with a city-owned parcel in the town center area and contend with the fact that several parcels are owned by the City of Santa Cruz. One idea would be to explore development of outdoors oriented businesses that would bring more ecotourism dollars to Scotts Valley. This would build on the city’s image as an outdoors oriented community and as the gateway to the Santa Cruz mountains.
I believe the city should be focusing on getting the Kmart building and other vacant commercial buildings back in business.
8. What are your thoughts on Measure A that’s on the upcoming ballot and how can our city continue to support our schools and education?
I am supporting Measure A because the School District has significant infrastructure needs now at the two elementary schools and high school. The District is concerned about improving the health and safety of students by making COVID-19 related and other safety improvements. These facilities need significant facility upgrades, including ventilation, security, roofs, restroom improvements, plumbing and electrical.
The city can support and protect students by employing the Juvenile Detective and School Resource Officer. When staffing allows, the Juvenile Detective is in charge of our Drug Abuse Resistance Education (“DARE”) program, the Junior Police Academy; and also investigates all crimes involving juveniles including kidnapping, sex crimes, child abuse and molests, criminal gang activity, and burglaries. Our department boasts a well-received juvenile diversion program, which allows certain first time juvenile offenders the opportunity to make amends to the community in lieu of being sent directly to Juvenile Probation. Successful completion of diversion results in dismissal of charges against a juvenile offender. This program has been very popular with the community and the criminal justice system.
When staffing allows, a School Resource Officer (SRO) is assigned to Scotts Valley High School and works closely with the Juvenile Detective. This officer has many duties such as criminal investigations, traffic control, juvenile diversions, campus security, teaching DARE, and acts as a liaison between school, police, and the community.
9. How, going forward, can we support the infrastructure of our city including much needed current positions within our city, public safety and public works?
First, the city needs to get past the COVID-19 impacts and then bounce back to our normal revenue stream. At that point, we can more rationally update our financial projections and determine the best course of action.
10. Why should people vote for you in the upcoming election?
I bring a lot of relevant experience to the City Council. As a Council Member and former Mayor, I have listened to the community and strived to make decisions with the community in mind. As a former County Board of Education trustee, I know how important it is to support our youth. As the Finance Director for 3 cities, I have helped solve many fiscal problems and have always strived to give taxpayers their money’s worth. These experiences will enable me to help guide the city in a successful direction.