Saturday, October 9, 2010

City Council Candidates - Meet Sue Digre

Text and picture from online  Pacifica Tribune Questions (Part 2), 10/6/10.

The Pacifica Tribune sent questionnaires to all nine City Council candidates. Eight of the nine responded to the following six questions. Their responses are published in their entirety. This is the second of two parts with responses from Susan Vellone, Heather Tanner, Sue Digre and Barbara Arietta. The responses from Tom Clifford, William "Leo" Leon, Len W. Stone and Jim Vreeland appeared online (9/30/10).  

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.  College of Notre Dame de Namur, Belmont. Major: B.A. Biology. Minor: Philosophy. California State Life Teaching Credential. Taught Full Time Grades 2,3,6. Part time: Grade 5 Science and Gr 9 Environmental Science. Adult Ed. Parenting of Special Needs Children. Present Employment: Director of Parca Family Support Services and Advocacy Dept. Providing practical and moral support in the areas of health,education,employment, recreation, transportation, housing, aging. Providing Family Support Speakers and Activities.  Source of Income: Parca Employment and Husband's Employment. Experiences: Teaching experience and present advocacy employment both are very helpful in enabling me to meet the challenges of City Council duties. I need to know the same resources and skills to do well in my present employment advocating for better public transportation and housing, for example. I am also an experienced City Councilmember and Mayor two times.

2.  What is your position on the future use of the quarry, including the possibility of residential units.  The Quarry is private property, and needs to be respected as such. It could be an ideal site for mixed use, including various types of housing and night-life of reasonable proportions. The public has the right to vote on any housing component, and that must also be respected. The Quarry is now under the jurisdiction of a trust due to a recent default on the part of the owner. This Investment Company indicates that it is studying the issues very carefully to respect the site and the Pacifica Community.

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?  What Pacifica does regarding Highway 1 can make the difference between a Pacifica as an appealing destination or a Pacifica that is a mere bedroom community on a breezeway between San Francisco and Half Moon Bay. Pacifica has nine exits along accessible stretches of gorgeous Pacific Ocean, complimented by rolling open hills and quaint shopping and living areas. These aspects of Pacifica need to be marketed and enhance not marred by a "Highway 101 West." Congestion and safety are very important issues and do need to be addressed.  At the Scoping Meeting, plans provided to the community were solely the widening of the highway. The Pacificans attending that very well attended session responded with irritation. The widening plan is extremely expensive and has the risk of destroying a local economy. There are other strategies that deserve deeper consideration and they appear to be much cheaper and more practical. One is to deal with school traffic in a better manner.
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 has great potential as it is a large area and is across the street from the majestic Pacific Ocean and it is owned by the City. A past Council did allow a well known Hotel Conference Center Developer to have exclusive rights to build. This never happened, in spite of the City providing requested extensions. We do not have the right to know why a developer decides not to follow through. During those Brownfield meetings, Pacificans urged the City Council at the time to encourage and cooperate as much as possible with advocates for a "Pacifica Ocean Discovery Center." The plans were well thought out and were of reasonable scale. But the Council, at the time, chose to give the Swenson Hotel Company the right to go forward with their plans as mentioned above. Then came a plan for Special Type of Time Shares as presented to the neighborhood community by the Marchetti Group. I attended the meetings and witnessed neighborhood residents saying to the developer: "I came in here ready to tell you to pack up and go home, but I feel more positive about the plan." But that did not come to pass either. Presently the City has a Consultant Group specializing on highest and best uses for this type of property to analyze data. A report on the findings will be presented to us soon. It seems obvious to me, that this site has unique value and potential. The economy and the "trends" in the marketplace do have a role in whether or not a site is desirable to developers and any given time. I read developer and real estate trade manuals to get an idea of what is the current mind set among builders and developers.  I also realize that because it is public property we should look for types of developments that will provide our City with continuing revenue rather than a "one shot" deal. I am optimistic that research being done now will help guide us to find just such a situation. During the meetings with the financial experts on the Brownfield's study team, when asked the viability of an Ocean Discovery Center, they responded that it had the potential to bring in revenue during bad times as well as during good times. Yes, I was one of those visionary advocates and still want those plans given serious consideration even now. Some of the merchants on nearby Palmetto, who know of the PODC plan, do see it as a means to enhance foot traffic and destination appeal in whatever type of economic scenario we have to face. You can find the Pacifica Ocean Discovery Center plans online.
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?  City Council created a wellmixed representation of residents to study city finances. They met on a regular basis with our City Manager and two council persons. They scrutinized documents and practices and questioned department heads in public meetings. They determined that Pacifica does run a "tight ship." We have been cautious and diligent in budget matters. They took on the task to determine what strategies could be used to help during these severely challenging budget times. They devised together with staff expertise, a five-year plan, and plan B and plan C, if we had to get to that more horrible budget cuts.
6. How would you solve the city's longtime budget structural deficit?  If we follow the plan meticulously we will come out even in five years and can start to inch upward in revenue after that. If we can not be enabled by each step we will end up with the worst demands. We do not want to cut employees. We are a thinly staffed city already. The TOT, Transit Occupation Tax, is a tax on those who visit our hotels. It is not on the residents for retail, for example. We are asking that it be raised from 10 percent to 12 percent, which is even with Half Moon Bay and other cities near us and below the TOT in San Francisco. It is a small enhancement as stated. There are steps, multiple steps that if all are taken will get us to a stable place, and not in a hurry, unfortunately. The world, the nation, the state, the cities are all in economic crisis mode. Infrastructure is old and decaying. Maintenance costs are essential or we risk health and safety disasters in addition to the woes we have now. What type of services, or not, are we willing to accept?  We have finished the first decade of a new century. Things are going to be different by necessity. Working together, and clinging to optimism and common sense, we will weather the crisis and emerge with more optimistic possibilities for this next decade and beyond. I will actively encourage the community to do their own research and self-reflection and decide on a common-sense approach. It is no time to become dramatically distraught and petrified. As mentioned, the five-year plan spells it out well and step by step. If there are other common sense strategies that can be used, we will not be closed minded. Time is not static, every day we face the possibility of new nuances that can make things better or worse. We have to be strong, calm and rational.

6. Continued.  I ran and run with optimism and belief in what can allow Pacifica to emerge a more sustainable economy. I have been steady in that resolve and mission. We should be enthusiastic believers in ourselves. We are now beginning to understand how important marketing is.There has been progress in just about every area of our community. I have been a constant supporter of every aspect of our community. I believe and still believe that "Our environment is our economy" means that all of our attributes functioning in concert and marketed well does and will create revenue. We are finally getting to the point where our history and our natural environment, together with our arts, culture and sports, can be a driving part of a progressive economy. Wise business people do their homework well. They do not take risks in a dying community. More and more small businesses are starting in Pacifica. Walgreens has opened a store, the Fresh Easy Market is ready for occupancy. Longtime businesses are renovating. People have steadily improved their properties. Our public Beach Boulevard site and other buildable areas in Pacifica will be noticed by developers more and more as we ourselves remain interesting and active creating a vibrant and enticing community. We are indeed a unique coastal community. After many hurdles and consistent advocacy I was very instrumental in:
acquiring the successful Gold Shuttle (with the superb help of youth group TRUST) which created and carried out a thorough survey, Pacifica's Gold Shuttle was so successful SamTrans asked to take over the services. Regrettably, in these economic hard times, SamTrans cancelled it. We will create a way to get shuttle service again for essential "foot traffic" for our commercial areas. achieving a lease agreement that enabled the Little Brown Church to spearhead the emergence of history as an economic asset. This is a significant step forward. becoming members of the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley Visitors Bureau and all the National and International Publicity it can provide. achieving better rapport and practical support with and for small businesses in the various economic areas around town. Entrepreneurship is the backbone of America. improving appreciation and support for our Pier and our Palmetto Avenue, another progressive move forward. improving our understanding that we are an asset and must market ourselves so much better. reaching out to small businesses who want an incubator business development center. reaching out to developers who respect history and environment. NEXT: Continuation to the above and many more ideas. Among other things, ongoing brainstorming discussions about the following: business incubator, small business development centers. There is an interest right now and a search for a site. niche "outlet shops" incorporated into existing shopping center.Pacifica is a coastal asset to our county and state. We are a vibrant community. We will do more than survive, we will thrive. Thank you for letting me work together with you as a member of your City Council.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

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