Friday, September 26, 2008

Clayton candidates talk issues

CLAYTON — With the new downtown park a rousing success and the longed-for downtown development going swimmingly, the tiny city of Clayton has had to come up with new election issues this season.

All eight candidates running for three open seats on the Clayton City Council in November say it is time to talk about the city's $3.7 million budget. That is about the same size it was in 2001, despite inflation and gas prices. Meanwhile, residents want the same services they always have.

"We've had to cut back on projects, all capital replacements, we have even eliminated council conferences and things like that," said Julie Pierce, the only incumbent running for re-election. Councilman Bill Walcutt and Mayor Gregg Manning have decided not to run after a combined 30 years on the council.

"And because we've made those cuts, we haven't had to dip into our reserves. We're hoping the downtown development will stimulate our sales tax revenue."

Dan Richardson, retired director of public services in Walnut Creek, wants a bigger sales tax base by developing vacant downtown properties — creating funding sources from which the city gets a direct percentage.

But most importantly, he'd like to see the city revamp it General Plan — something that hasn't happened since 1989.

"That touches on housing, transportation, recreation and all those key vision areas," Richardson said.

Allen Lampo, an active Clayton volunteer Advertisementand financial adviser, wants to focus on the family issues, and on keeping local crime rates low.

"I want to make sure Clayton keeps its small-town feel, even with development happening downtown," he said.

Keith Haydon has been a Clayton planning commissioner for the past 12 years. His priorities — preserving the small-town feel, and its balanced budget.

Joe Medrano, who works in insurance brokerage, says a successful downtown requires buy-in from residents. He also feels Clayton has many underused assets.

"Generally, I do feel the city has done a good job with the budget, but we need to utilize our current resources more efficiently to generate revenue," Medrano said. An example — getting more out of the baseball fields at Clayton Community Park, specifically scheduling more tournaments.

Harun Simbirdi, a company CEO who has worked closely with the police department's emergency response team, says the council should have a balance of seasoned politicians and business people.

"Clayton is a bit of an island, so we need anchor businesses that will attract people, something that will create a destination for outside residents but will also serve the people who already live here," said Simbirdi, who believes Clayton doesn't do the latter very well.

Howard Geller, a 33-year Clayton resident who started the Clayton Art and Wine Festival and many other local staples, expects newly elected council members to come in with a can-do attitude, to listen and to finish what they start.

Jim Diaz, a security consultant and former planning commissioner, favors a handful more restaurants and boutique-type gift shops in the downtown area.

"Clayton is at a crossroads now," he said. "New leadership equals new ideas."

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