Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brentwood incumbent, newcomer disagree on some key issues

The two candidates running for Brentwood mayor remain divided on heated campaign issues like fire service, but they are in agreement on fiscal conservancy.

Incumbent Bob Taylor is facing newcomer Teresa Wooten in the November election. Wooten is a former city engineer who has criticized the city for poor long-term planning and wasteful spending.

"In this financial climate, the city needs to be careful," she said. "There are so many ways that the city can waste money that may seem minor individually but can quickly add up."

Wooten opposes the scale of the planned Civic Center and the associated parking structure next to Liberty High School. She also argues that the city should save money on the proposed project by allowing the engineering and community development departments to stay in their current location across the street.

Taylor has spent the past 16 years in Brentwood politics as a Liberty school board trustee and a Brentwood City Councilman. He said the city needs that experience in these troubled financial times.

"In the next four years, you are going to need some leadership," Taylor said to local voters at a recent debate. "The community is going to have to be aware that we are going to need changes."

Although Taylor has supported the Civic Center plans thus far, he said the recent financial crisis will make the budget and remaining fiscally solvent his top priority. Because of limited funding from the state, AdvertisementTaylor said the city must re-examine spending.

"We have to be frugal and look at everything," he said.

Wooten said she would like to strengthen public safety by re-allocating $10 million from the Civic Center to police staffing.

"You need a voice that is going to support you and is going to look at spending," she said.

During the campaign, Taylor has maintained his aggressive stance on public safety. Taylor said that he was an advocate for the police sub station that will be part of the new Streets of Brentwood shopping center.

"The council is totally backing our police officers and safety," he said. "I am pro-police. I am pro-safety."

Taylor said he is also committed to enhanced fire protection through the proposed merger with the Contra Costa Fire District. A paramedic should be on every fire engine, according to Taylor. Brentwood is currently served by the underfunded East Contra Costa Fire Protection District.

"This mayor supports medics on those fire trucks," he said. "I will make myself heard. We need the best firefighters and paramedics."

Wooten acknowledges there are some issues with the current fire service, including getting local firefighters on the same pay scale as those in neighboring communities. However, she added that the current structure of having a separate paramedic service with American Medical Response is a good thing, and that the Contra Costa Fire District may not welcome the merger.

"They may not want us. We are bringing no money to them," Wooten said. "I'm opposed to a fire tax right now. Families are not ready to take on anymore financial burdens. It is not the time to go to your residents and ask for a tax for a service you already have."

In reaching out to voters, Wooten said that some constituents have questioned whether she has the experience to lead the city. Wooten answered that she does hold the experience from the other side of the table as a former Brentwood senior engineer who was laid off last April.

"I know some of the places to start to ask (city staff) to justify the numbers," she said. "It would help getting some of these issues out so the council could act on it and make some truly informed decisions."

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