Friday, August 15, 2008

Crowded field vies for seats on Moraga's Town Council

Three open seats. Six candidates. Only one incumbent in the race.

In Moraga, the two open space initiatives won't be the only showdown on the November ballot; the Town Council race has a crowded field with divergent views of where the town's priorities should lie.

One-term incumbent Michael Metcalf will be joined on the ballot by Howard Harpham, Janice Kolbe, Brad Kvederis, Karen Mendonca and Dennis Wanken.

Incumbent Councilwoman Rochelle Bird did not file candidacy papers, though she said in July she would run. This week she said she changed her mind because of her nine-year-old daughter.

"It was important with the priorities of my family to not run and make sure I have enough time to be the kind of mother I want to be," Bird said.

Mayor Lynda Deschambault announced in July that she would not run because she wanted to focus on non-profit work.

Metcalf said he has the experience and judgment to lead the town.

"I have a very good idea of what the town's priorities are and what they need to be," he said. "We've got financial survival to worry about."

Kolbe, president of the Moraga Country Club Homeowners Association, also voiced concerns about the budget. Kolbe, 49, is a human resources manager.

"Our budget is in dire need of some attention," Kolbe said. "We need to look at ways we can generate more revenue through tax dollars. We need to open some type of development that can bring more money into the Advertisementtown."

The current council has lost sight of the important priorities of the town — roads, police and budget stability, she said. The town should also make sure its policies help the school district by allowing it to keep its enrollment levels up, she said.

Kvederis, a 30-year-old graphic and Web designer, is focused on keeping large-scale development out of Moraga.

"I cannot bear to stand by and watch as they build a bunch of tract houses and turn our town into San Ramon," he said.

Any large development that would affect the town's character should be put to a public vote, he said. The town may have reached its maximum population, he said, regardless of the legal challenges the town could face from developers or for failing to meet state housing numbers.

"I'd rather take my chances with (lawsuits) than with the bulldozers," Kvederis said. He would also try to halt the already-approved Palos Colorados development, he said.

Kvederis wants to look at the city budgets of other small college towns across the country for ideas about how to fix Moraga's budget, he said.

His campaign Web site also says the budget needs to take into account the population of on-campus Saint Mary's students, which he wrote were not included in the town's population estimates. Those on-campus students, however, are counted by the Census; when told that, Kvederis said he would look into it and change his Web site.

Mendonca, 54, a Parks and Recreation commissioner and retired university administrator, also put protecting Moraga's ridgelines at the top of her list of priorities. She also wants to support the schools, revitalize business and support traffic safety measures.

The town also needs a responsible budget, she said. The money it will get from the Palos Colorados development should be used to build up budget reserves, she said.

She thinks the MOSO 2008 ballot initiative proposed by the Friends of Moraga Open Space provides good guidelines for development in the town, she said.

"Property owners should have the right to build where appropriate on their land," she said. "(The initiative) allows building, but it ensures that it is not as densely built as it could be."

Harpham and Wanken, a former Moraga School Board member, did not return phone calls for comment.

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