Saturday, October 2, 2010
City Council Candidates - Meet William "Leo" Leon
Text and picture from online Pacifica Tribune Questions (Part 1), 09/30/2010.
The Pacifica Tribune sent questionnaires to all nine City Council candidates. Seven of the nine responded to the following six questions. Four candidates' answers are published in their entirety. Due to space constraints the remaining candidate responses will be published next week.
1. What is your background, training and experience that qualifies you to manage the affairs of a city of 40,000 people. Please include your occupation and principle sources of income. I am married to Anna Rollene and we have four lovely grandchildren. We have lived in Pacifica for 25 years and have made plans to spend the rest of our lives in Pacifica. We think Pacifica is the best community, bar none. We are both committed to helping make Pacifica a better place. I am a retired Postmaster/ Manager. I have practical experience in both my government and union careers, and in private business. I believe in a common sense approach and creative solutions to problems. My training and experience are ideally suited for this challenge. I believe that no other candidate has a combination of training and experience equal to mine. As a City Council member, I will lead by example. Council members must meet high expectations, insisting on professionalism and clearly defined goals. The public deserves council's respect. Council must set an example of qualities demanded of all city employees, commissioners, and committee members.Local government actions must be transparent. If Pacifica is to prosper, all segments of the community need to set their differences aside and focus on the common good. We must all work together.I have served Pacifica for the past six years as a commissioner and former chair of the Planning Commission. I also have served Pacifica as a member of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area Liaison Committee, Open Space Committee, Green Building Task Force, and Mega-Home Ordinance subcommittee.
I have more than 20 years of management experience in government service. As a postmaster/manager, I was responsible for large operations, successfully managing budgets, staff, and a diverse workforce. Most recently, I served as manager and supervisor of field operations with the U.S. Census Bureau in San Francisco for the 2010 Census, responsible for all field operations in San Francisco City and County, San Mateo County, and part of Santa Clara County. I was directly responsible for large, complex operations with hundreds of employees.I understand the needs of business, having owned three successful businesses: a glass design studio, a restaurant, and an antiques and home furnishings shop.
I also have experience and education in advanced leadership, group facilitation, problem solving, communication, and process management. I have negotiated local labor contracts as both a union official and, in different situations, as a manager.I have extensive experience with labor relations and contract administration. At the post office, I was a union member and shop steward. Eventually, I was elected as an officer, serving as executive vice president and chair of the Executive Board, National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 1427. I was also a 20-year member of the National Association of Postal Supervisors in San Francisco.
2. What is your position on the future use of the quarry, including the possibility of residential units. I do favor the idea of having some development in the quarry, including the possibility of a limited number of residential units. That may include senior housing units, which usually do not contribute to commute traffic. Three separate proposals for development have been defeated by the voters because none had a finalized development plan clearly spelled out; each called for too much residential development, creating additional traffic problems on Highway 1; and each had unresolved environmental and endangered-species issues. The public clearly wants a sense of place in the quarry: some envision a downtown with a town square and a main street. Any residential development proposed in such a plan must be subordinate to healthy commercial and recreational uses. Development of the quarry should be a modest and logical extension of Rockaway Beach. The commercial uses should serve visitors and local residents. Whatever commercial uses are chosen, they should be new - not a transfer of existing commercial areas to the quarry - which would weaken existing business districts and shopping centers.
There are a number of contingencies to developing the quarry. Since the property is within the Coastal Zone, it is subject to habitat protections of the California Coastal Act. A thorough biological assessment of the entire property prior to approval would be required. It should be noted that any proposal most likely would be required to include protection of habitat and conform to the regulations of the Endangered Species Act. I have read the January 2007 Swaim Report on the quarry, which concluded that "the Coastal Commission requires complete avoidance of significant impacts and that mitigation is not an acceptable planning tool." My experience on the Planning Commission has shown that growth is accepted if the impacts (traffic and all other environmental elements) are reduced to less than significant, and consistent with the Hillside Preservation District Ordinance and any regulations of special areas such as the Coastal Act, Pacifica's Coastal Use Plan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and California Department of Fish and Game. The City Council, the public, developers, and planning and jurisdictional agencies must work together in a constructive partnership.
3. For more than 20 years, Pacifica has debated a Highway 1 congestion solution. Where do you stand on the proposed expansion plan Caltrans and the Transportation Authority has presented? We need Highway 1 improvements now, and specifically we need Highway 1 improvements that will work. I do not favor the six-lane proposal. Caltrans and the Transportation Authority are failing our community badly. The traffic consultant for Don Peebles told the city that the Calera Creek Parkway proposal will not work and, in my opinion he was right. The most obvious thing about the Calera Creek Parkway proposal is that the City Council needs to get involved in the planning process to protect the interests of our community-- before the planning process spins out of control. We need a permanent and effective solution to relieve congestion. Such a solution includes safety and operational improvements, without environmental destruction. I believe that the simplest, most cost-effective, and least invasive alternatives should be considered and evaluated. We all know that when the recession lets up and more people start commuting to work, and when the Devil's Slide Tunnels open, the situation will seriously worsen.The current six-lane proposal has glaring deficiencies: It does not deal effectively with the main obstacle to commute traffic, namely the Vallemar stoplight. What happens now is that very few northbound vehicles can cross the Fassler/Rockaway intersection during a light sequence, which backs up traffic. The culprit is the Vallemar stoplight and the bottleneck that it creates.
Recently the Pacifica Tribune, in a discussion about the new General Plan, stated: "The consultants reported they came to a different conclusion than Caltrans in its traffic analysis and road condition study. While Caltrans advocates a highway widening between Reina del Mar and Fassler, this consultant calls the problem 'intersection related, not roadway related." Even though the public pleaded for a separate and safe overhead pedestrian crossing at Vallemar, the Transit Authority planners disagreed and said NO - claiming that the people would not use a pedestrian overhead crossing. What's the wisdom of greatly expanding the width of the highway with additional lanes, and then making children, people with baby carriages and dogs, and seniors dash for their lives across the intersection? The Transit Authority planners knocked out the idea of daylighting Calera Creek as it passes under Highway I with new bridges over the creek. Currently, the creek is in a culvert hundreds of feet long, which is a death trap for endangered-species migration. Have they even considered the idea of daylighting the creek and including a separate and safe pedestrian trail that crosses the busy highway under the bridges? Incredibly, the Transit Authority planners claim that Calera Creek has no viable habitat areas east of the highway. In fact, when the police station was built, a large section of creek habitat was improved next to the station. U.S. Fish and Wildlife participated in negotiations for that habitat improvement next to the police station, and stated that there may be money for further creek habitat improvements upstream. The current proposal is so wide that it requires massive, tall retaining walls where the pavement would impinge on recognized California redlegged frog habitat. The current proposal makes it more difficult for visitors to get to the business district in West Rockaway Beach.
4. What is your position on reuse of the old wastewater treatment plant and/or developing West Sharp Park as a potential downtown area? The old wastewater treatment plant site isn't doing the city any good sitting empty. Developers, particularly developers who have resources to build a project, have not been beating down the door to develop the site. I believe that it would be wonderful to have a hotel withmixed commercial uses on the site and maybe some very limited residential use. Otherwise, we should sell the site for top dollar - with zoning restrictions so Pacifica ends up with a project that is in scale and looks like it belongs here. The Chamber of Commerce should aggressively market the site with the assistance of the city. The city may offer incentives to potential developers of the site. Palmetto Avenue should be developed as a strong commercial street with improvements to parking, building design, streetscape, etc. Many merchants have worked hard to improve their businesses and the appearance of Palmetto Avenue. Some design guidelines should be in place so there is an overall cohesive character to what I hope will develop into a pretty coastal community. West Sharp Park has an ideal location, pier, and ocean setting. Palmetto Avenue business plans have been discussed since the early 1970s, with little or no action. Now is the time to take creative, decisive action to find financial resources and partners to fund those improvements. It can and must be done. The old wastewater treatment plant site is a critical element of those improvements.
5. What are your thoughts regarding the council's proposed $6 million in new taxes for 2011-12, including the proposed increase in TOT hotel tax that will appear on November's ballot. Will you actively campaign for or against these tax proposals and why? I firmly believe that the voters should have the final say on any and all new tax increases. Pacifica must balance the city budget every year. My job is to make sure that the voters clearly understand the alternatives, including any cuts required due to choices they vote on. The TOT hotel tax that will appear on the November ballot is paid by out-oftown visitors, not by Pacificans. The last time the hotel tax was raised was decades ago. And it was approved by the voters. The same arguments against that tax increase are being used now. And history shows that those arguments were not true. The proposed increase will result in a hotel tax that is in line with that of many neighboring communities and significantly less than San Francisco's. People who rent hotel rooms anywhere expect to pay a local use tax. In my opinion, this is not a significant deterrent for visitors using our hotels. Traditionally, Pacifica, being on the coast, enjoys a fairly high occupancy rate compared to other jurisdictions. We do not depend on business conferences to fill our hotels as many cities do over the hill. These are tough economic times. Measures similar to the other TOT tax measures have been defeated in the past. Of course, I would abide by the voters' decisions.The other revenue initiatives will be a tough choice for voters to consider: A $4 million parcel tax increase and a $2 million Utility Users Tax increase. Clearly, the voters need to be informed of all alternatives to the tax measures and the impacts of each option.
6. How would you solve the city's longtime budget structural deficit? Many cities and counties in California are in dire financial condition. The biggest problems for most of them, including Pacifica, are that the country is in a recession and the State of California has siphoned substantial amounts of funds. The state "takeaways" must end. Additionally: We must eliminate waste and duplication in all city and county government services. I will address the budget process with an open mind and a fresh, pragmatic approach. The most important priority has to be public safety (police and fi re services). All budget items need to be reviewed. Any cuts should be uniform across We need to raise revenue wherever we can, including business revenue We need to investigate partnering with other cities for some services to save money, gain effi ciencies, and share administrative costs. We need to use and develop our own city assets, such as the long-vacant old wastewater treatment We need to help our businesses grow and attract visitors to Pacifica. Pacifica is a great place for visitors and outdoor recreation, but we are not marketing ourselves effectively. My principal sources of income are from my pension and Individual Retirement Accounts.
Posted by Kathy Meeh