Fillmore City Council Candidate Question #2
2012 Fillmore City Council Candidates (l-r) Manuel Minjaras, Rick Neal, Douglas Tucker, Gayle Washburn. Not Pictured, Sandy Pella.
2012 Fillmore City Council Candidates (l-r) Manuel Minjaras, Rick Neal, Douglas Tucker, Gayle Washburn. Not Pictured, Sandy Pella.

Question No. 2: What is your vision for Fillmore if elected/reelected? What do you perceive as the five most important priorities for the city?

My vision for Fillmore is to see our City thrive; not merely survive. I envision a restoration to the vibrant, quaint and small town appeal that is characteristic of Fillmore. The recession has adversely affected Fillmore like so many other cities throughout the United States. Our business and residential growth as a City is stagnant, and our household and business budgets are stretched to the limit. As we continue to confront challenges within Fillmore with respect to the economy, and in rebuilding the community’s confidence in our ability to turn things around, we need to address priorities that can affect a positive change:
We need to stimulate business by re-zoning the downtown in order to allow for diversity in types of businesses, and at the same time complete the business park.
We need more avenues for enhancing communication among the business community, Fillmore residents and the City.
We need to raise City income, control costs and balance the City budget; while maintaining responsibility for City resources.
We need to ensure the safety and welfare of the public through maintaining sufficient law enforcement, fire protection and emergency services.
We need to work together toward accomplishing common goals; avoiding divisive political and/or self-interests.
The City Council is only an instrument through which these priorities can be realized. City Council members serve only to meet community needs as determined by the public. You, as Fillmore residents and businesses, are the driving force behind our City’s return to success and prosperity. We can accomplish these goals with effective leadership and a cooperative community spirit.

My vision is consistent with Fillmore's Vision 2020 document which states that the goal is to "Preserve our small-town atmosphere and quality of life through slow, well-planned growth in order to protect open space, allow agriculture to thrive and strengthen our local economy, neighborhoods, schools, parks, libraries and public services." I think it's a sound vision and I take it quite literally. Unfortunately, the General Plan done in 2003-2005 departed from that vision and put Fillmore on a high density, fast tracked growth plan that was 37% higher than our SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments) allocation. That General Plan created a need for extensive capital expenditures resulting in over $100 million in debt that has to be paid back. So, moving forward, my vision is to have an economically sustainable community that provides excellent services and high quality of life for residents. My five most important priorities are: 1. Replacing revenues taken by the State to balance the budget. 2. Reducing the operating costs of our sewer plant. 3. Resolve El Dorado Mobilehome park litigation. 4. Resolve Sales Tax Agreement litigation. 5. Support Local Business - review zoning ordinance to facilitate business startups in Fillmore.

As a longtime local business owner, Volunteer Firefighter, Fillmore native, and someone who is raising three children in Fillmore. I have a unique viewpoint of Fillmore. From my perspective the five most important priorities for Fillmore are 1) addressing our budget issues, 2) the high price of water and sewage treatment, 3) the lack of business and the need for more good paying local jobs, 4) how our schools rate in comparison to other districts and 5) adequate funding our public safety agencies.
I have some ideas of what I think Fillmore can and should be long term and short term, because of limited space I will limit my response to my short term or immediate vision for Fillmore. We need to address our budget situation. The expense cuts have been deep and I’m not sure the city will survive more cuts to it’s services. We need to address how Fillmore gets its revenue. There needs to be more energy focused on business development. There are too many vacant buildings around town and a business park that needs to be fast tracked. We need to attract businesses that offer good paying jobs to residents. We have an unbalance leaning heavily on retail and I’m not convinced a retail only vision is the best solution for us at this time. We also need to address our staffing crisis and hire a city manager that is willing to lead by example and put all their energy into making our city’s services second to none. It’s time for city leadership, city staff, local businesses, and the community to all take responsibility for our futures and work together to put Fillmore “Back on Track”.

My vision for Fillmore is to bring back the wonderful qualities of our town that are now only memories. We need to rebuild our relationship with the Fillmore Unified School District. The Joint Use Agreement between the City and FUSD only makes Fillmore a better place to live and play. As a city we need to build our relationships with our Service Clubs and Chamber of Commerce to facilitate the improvement of our festivals and community themed events.
This work cannot be accomplished without beginning to address our perpetual budget shortfall, which is my Priority 1 task. As a city we can’t keep spending 1.5 million each year more than we bring in. It’s been that way for the last four to five years and it has to stop. Priority 2 is to hire a qualified and approachable City Manager with real economic development experience through the use of a professional job recruiting agency. Priority 3 would be to conduct a forensic audit of the budget to find out where we currently stand. I lost count of the number of finance directors that have had their hands in the budget in the last 4 years. Priority 4 is to remove the roadblocks from the Business Park. Business Park = jobs + increased tax revenue. Enough said. Priority 5 is to look at realistic ways at reducing or stabilizing our water and sewer rate fees. Removing our current operator, like the incumbents have recommended, will come at the expense of voiding the warranties on the water recycling plant which will ending up costing us way more than the few dollars we may save by giving the contract to another company. Priority 6 would be to reassess our current staffing and cut the ridiculous amount of spending on attorney fees and outside consultants.

My Vision for the city of Fillmore is Unity. We have no place for swords of divisiveness, we must move forward with perseverance and positive thinking. Meaning, 1) City Hall needs to listen to the City Council; the City Council must listen to citizens. 2) We need to get our budget under control and in a format that makes sense and is easy for everyone to understand. 3) We need to staff City hall with persons that understand our vision and share in the vision of what Fillmore is and can be. The council should review a list of consultants and determine what the best solution is. Logically it doesn’t make sense to lay off employees only to turn around and hire a consultants and contractors to do the same work. 4) We need to take a hard look at our sewer and water rates; ultimately I’d like reduce both rates. 5) We need to do all of this through accountability and without raising any taxes, fees, or the like. We need a city that encourages business and most importantly JOBS. Together we can get it done.