Public safety and street maintenance are key issues in the Citrus Heights City Council race, with five of six candidates supporting a measure on the Nov. 6 ballot that would raise the city's utility users tax to pay for those efforts.
Incumbent Jeff Slowey and fellow candidates Trish Dawson, Sue Frost, Jim Monteton and Charles Stone support Measure K, which asks city voters to approve a temporary 1.75 percent increase in the tax specifically to fund street resurfacing, additional police officers, police equipment and technology, and programs to prevent youth crime.
Bret Daniels, a former councilman, said he entered the race to fill two seats because he opposes the measure. He thinks it will fail to garner the required two-thirds voter approval and wants to be on board to help the city pursue alternatives.
The name of a seventh candidate, James Blackburn, will appear on the ballot. But Blackburn has announced on his website that he has suspended his campaign.
Jayna Karpinski-Costa resigned from the council in June, ensuring that at least one new member will be elected in November and attracting candidates who might have been reluctant to face two incumbents in a city that by most accounts has been well-run since incorporating 15 years ago.
Slowey, a bank project manager, is seeking a third term, saying it will be his last. Having voted to place Measure K on the ballot, Slowey said he wants to be on the council to help implement it or deal with the consequences if it fails.
"Infrastructure is never sexy," he said, but the measure would go a long way toward improving streets that received little maintenance prior to cityhood.
Citrus Heights has always been fiscally well-managed, Slowey said, adding that his goal in a third term would be to develop a policy setting an acceptable amount for the general fund reserve and the purposes for which it should be used.
Daniels, who has a law enforcement background and served on the council from 1999 to 2005, signed the ballot argument against Measure K. He questions whether additional police officers are needed, but if they are, he said, the city should dip into its $33 million general fund reserve.
"When we became a city, we promised residents that we wouldn't raise their taxes," he said. "That was their biggest fear. We need to keep that promise."
Other candidates, however, say they believe the programs and improvements Measure K would fund would help Citrus Heights attract businesses to provide needed jobs and the sales tax dollars that account for more than a third of the city's general fund revenue.
"We have to make it a decent place for business to come," said Monteton, who retired after 30 years with AT&T and currently chairs the city Planning Commission. "It has to look good. It has to feel good."
Some of the general fund reserve is already committed to the Auburn Boulevard improvement project, due to the loss of redevelopment funds, he said, and $1 million per year is to go toward street improvements, supplementing Measure K funds.
Stone and Dawson stressed the importance of working with the schools and the park district to support programs for youths.
"I'm really a major proponent of Measure N," said Dawson. The San Juan Unified School District measure, also on the November ballot, would authorize a $350 million general obligation bond to improve district schools.
A business manager in the architectural field and a former president of the Citrus Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dawson said she would like for the city to assist with district projects by improving streets and sidewalks adjoining school campuses.
Stone, who is making his second run for the council, stresses his military background he filed for the 2010 council race while completing a tour of duty in Iraq. He would like the city to partner with schools and other organizations to provide youth activities. He suggested establishing a fund to help offset recreational and athletic fees for young people who can't afford them.
Frost, owner of a mortgage business, said she believes the city's biggest challenge is stemming the loss of revenue that has resulted from state take-aways and declining revenue from sales tax. To attract businesses, she said, "the primary thing we can do is deliver a high level of city services."
She also stressed her efforts as co-founder of the Green Team, a nonprofit organization that aims to help residents meet the goals of the city's greenhouse gas reduction plan by promoting sustainable living practices.
Frost said her focus is helping people reduce energy expenses. "For me, as a 29-year-veteran of the mortgage business," she said, "I've seen that if utility bills double or triple, it can affect the success of homeownership."