Local Elections

Tax measure, development divide Rancho Cordova council candidates

In Rancho Cordova, a city just 11 years old where the City Hall is in an office park, council members Dan Skoglund and Linda Budge are about as close to civic institutions as you can find.

Budge, an urban planner, has sat on the City Council ever since Rancho Cordova was incorporated in 2003. Skoglund, a salesman, was appointed to the council in 2004 and has been re-elected to the seat every term since then.

In the November general election, Budge and Skoglund are facing four challengers: James Feci, a disabled veteran; Dean Michelini, a cook; Conrade Mayer, a youth counselor; and group-home counselor Kevin E. Johnson – “not the Kevin Johnson,” he says, referring to the Sacramento mayor. The two candidates receiving the most votes will win council seats.

The challengers say Rancho Cordova needs a change in leadership to address problems, including blight and poor street conditions.

“They’ve kind of lost touch,” Mayer said of the two incumbents. “It’s time for a fresh approach from someone who is in touch with the community. I have been in the trenches.”

At a candidate forum last week attended by about 100 residents, Budge and Skoglund said their experience will help the city as it continues to grow. All the candidates except Michelini attended.

During the years Skoglund and Budge have sat on the council, Rancho Cordova has added more than 10,000 residents and now has a population of about 68,000. The office parks that line Highway 50 – including the one that holds City Hall – have made the city one of the region’s employment hubs.

The city has had problems with poverty in the past, and its median household income of $53,000 is $3,000 less than Sacramento County’s as a whole. Its poverty rate of 17 percent is slightly higher than the county rate.

Perhaps the sharpest division among candidates is over Measure H, the city sales tax hike of a half-cent on the dollar that voters will consider in November. The City Council voted in July to put it on the ballot, with officials saying it would pay for a variety of services, including increased police presence and clearing blight on Folsom Boulevard.

City officials estimate the tax will raise $5 million a year, which would increase the city’s $43 million annual budget by more than 10 percent. It is a general tax, meaning the city can spend it on any purpose.

Budge voted to include the measure on the ballot, while Skoglund abstained.

“We’re not running out of money,” Skoglund said at the forum. “It is something we don’t need.”

Feci and Johnson agreed that the tax is not necessary.

Budge and Mayer said they support the tax, in particular to help economic development. Budge said a survey of residents indicates support for the tax.

Most of the candidates emphasized the need for economic development. They said such efforts have been complicated since the state ended funding for local redevelopment agencies a few years ago. The city had received about $800,000 a year for redevelopment.

Budge said redevelopment funding was crucial to revitalizing Folsom Boulevard, where $22 million has gone toward improvements. The loss of that funding is one reason the city needs the sales tax increase, she said.

“We need to keep homes and neighborhoods looking good so people don’t move,” Budge said.

Mayer said he would reach out to businesses to get them to locate in Rancho Cordova. He said the city needs a greater variety of businesses.

“I want this to be the next community with a rock-star restaurant opening up,” he said. “I want a restaurant like Sammy Hagar opened in Roseville and Toby Keith opened in Folsom.”

Skoglund said the way to attract business is not to raise taxes, but to keep the city “lean and efficient … so business can create jobs.”

Call The Bee’s Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee.