Folsom is a city going through some growing pains, so it’s good that its future is being loudly debated in a competitive City Council race.
Three longtime incumbents – Kerri Howell, Steve Miklos and Andy Morin – are up against four credible challengers. One in particular stands out.
Chad Vander Veen, a former city architectural review commissioner and now an editor of a website focused on city issues, is an articulate advocate for a clearer vision of where Folsom should go. He says city leaders have done a good job establishing Folsom as a good place to live, but are stuck in a rut.
Vander Veen would bring a fresh perspective and energy to the council. He says he’ll work to bring express light-rail service to Folsom, to push a privately funded trolley and to make the city a leader in renewable energy and water recycling. And, notably, he pledges to serve no more than eight years.
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Electing him and two incumbents would be the best choice for voters. The harder question for voters is whom to boot out.
They should keep Morin, who has been on the council for 12 years, compared with 16 for Howell and 20 for Miklos. Morin is a reasonable voice and does not seem to be as much a target for the challengers. Howell and Miklos were defensive at times during a televised forum hosted by the League of Women Voters last weekend. It’s a very close call, but our other nod goes to Howell, who is now serving as mayor, is the only woman on the council and has served not quite as long.
While the other challengers don’t quite measure up to Vander Veen, they also deserve consideration.
Jennifer Lane, a city planning commissioner, has a clear, if simplistic, platform – that the city shouldn’t approve any major new development until the drought ends and an adequate water supply is guaranteed. Roger Gaylord, a city utilities commissioner who also ran in 2012, is promising to end “politics as usual” and fight developers’ influence. Sandra Lunceford, who is active in the Folsom Historical Society, wants to make the city a world-class historical destination.
Whether the incumbents like it or not, the challengers are speaking for some residents.
For instance, there’s community unrest over long-range plans for more than 10,000 homes on nearly 3,600 acres of cattle land south of Highway 50 that the city annexed in 2012. That would vastly increase the population of Folsom, now about 73,000. But a major challenge to development is a reliable water supply. The city says it can provide enough water, in part by cutting consumption among existing residents. But critics say the plan violates Measure W, which bans reducing water available to current residents.
There’s dissension over Folsom’s historic district, which has become a nightlife spot after the city spent millions on improvements. Nearby residents complain about noise and traffic. The council has barred nightclubs from offering entertainment too late, but that may not be enough.
Another concern is that city leaders have become too chummy with business interests. The Folsom Chamber of Commerce, a big player in local politics, is behind all three incumbents. Getting around the city’s $150 limit on individual campaign donations, the chamber’s political action committee gave $590 worth of advertising to each incumbent.
Any incumbents who win re-election need to listen to a broad range of community voices, take criticisms to heart and deal with them forthrightly. An outsider like Vander Veen on the council would help make sure they do.