By and large, Citrus Heights is on the right track. Since becoming a city in 1997, it has formed its own police force, built a new civic center, and fixed roads and sewers to keep up with a population that has passed 85,000 – all while being frugal and avoiding debt.
No wonder, then, that three City Council members do not face lots of competition to keep their seats on Nov. 4.
Better yet, Jeannie Bruins, first elected in 2002; Steve “Sparky” Miller, a councilman since 2005; and Mel Turner, elected in 2010 and now serving as mayor, are all deserving of re-election.
They each add a different quality to the council. Bruins, a former local Chamber of Commerce executive, brings her business background. Miller, a building plan inspector, represents the city on the Regional Transit board. Turner, a former city planning commissioner, started the Police Activities League to help at-risk youths.
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Of their two challengers, Tim Schaefer is the most promising. He has made a name for himself as leader of a grass-roots group opposing a proposal to move City Hall. He’s trying to capitalize on that activism and discontent.
What isn’t that clear, however, is his reason for running beyond that single issue. At a televised forum hosted last weekend by the League of Women Voters of Sacramento County, Schaefer was rather vague.
The other candidate, Bridget Duffy, is a self-described “million-to-one shot” who rails against poverty and corporate greed.
The three incumbents all support the City Hall deal, saying it’s an economic development opportunity too good to pass up because it creates high-paying jobs while generating cash to help pay for a new City Hall.
Dignity Health plans an office building, where 170 doctors, nurses and support staff would work, on the current City Hall site at Greenback Lane and Fountain Square Drive. It would pay the city at least $6.9 million over 15 years to lease the land, while a developer would build the new City Hall and sell it and the site to the city for about $18 million.
The existing building needs some costly renovations, but the city doesn’t have many ways to raise money without dipping into reserves after voters rejected a utility tax increase in 2012 to help fund street repairs and police officers. The latest proposal is better because the new City Hall would be just down the street in a central location, not across town on Antelope Road as in an earlier plan.
Whether Schaefer wins a council seat or not, he and other critics of the City Hall plan will have plenty of time to press their case before the council takes a final vote in March.
Citrus Heights is fortunate that experienced City Council members want to keep serving. As it continues maturing as a city, however, it would be healthy if more strong challengers raise their hands and run.