Fillmore City Council Candidate Question #3
2012 Fillmore City Council Candidates (l-r) Manuel Minjaras, Rick Neal, Douglas Tucker, Gayle Washburn, Sandy Pella and Alex Mollkoy.
2012 Fillmore City Council Candidates (l-r) Manuel Minjaras, Rick Neal, Douglas Tucker, Gayle Washburn, Sandy Pella and Alex Mollkoy.

Question No. 3: What actions taken by the current council in the last two years do you agree with most and why? What actions do you disagree with most and why?

Actions taken by the current city council in the past two years that I agree with most include:
1. I strongly support the current council’s decision to pursue negotiations with American Water in order to reduce operating and maintenance cost of the water treatment plant. Costs imposed by the operation of the water treatment plant, coupled with the impact of the recession, have adversely impacted Fillmore businesses, schools and households.
2. I agree with the current city council’s commitment to be openly transparent in all decision making policy.
3. I agree with the current council’s efforts to provide a streamlined budget that is user friendly, and for conducting budget workshops that encouraged more participation from the public.
4. I strongly commend the current city council for managing to balance the budget despite criticism for taking necessary actions in order to keep the City of Fillmore solvent.
5. I agree with the current city council’s endeavor to target every possible revenue source, and with supporting the Fillmore Chamber of Commerce as well as other local agencies, to promote filming and tourism. Just since July, filming in Fillmore has generated income in excess of last year’s entire revenues.
The action taken by the current city council in the past two years that I most disagree with most involves a recent decision not to censure Council Member Steve Conaway for violating the Brown Act. As an elected official of the City, every council member is held to a high standard of ethics. The other council members voted to admonish Council Member Conaway for his conduct, thereby being prudent in not expending City monies to pursue further action.

As stated at the Candidates Forum on 9/26, I am a firm believer that we should learn from our past experiences in order to avoid making the same mistakes.
I agree with the council in accepting the resignation of the City Manager. We can now move forward. I also agree with implementing a Code of Ethics to help the council members conduct business in a professional manner.
I disagree with past decisions such as 1. Laying off local employees and replacing them with out of town consultants. 2. Excessive spending on personal agenda projects and cutting basic services so deeply. 3. Making citizens who used the city 1st Time Homebuyer Program wait for months to process their requests. 4. I Completely disagree with the tone of the council meetings. People are in shock at the way business is conducted, lack of preparedness of some council members, issues which have little importance are given excessive amounts of time and important issues are glanced over. 5. This council has ignored repeated public input and offerings to help solve the budget problems.
I believe being on the council requires you to make choices based on input from the community, looking at what is sustainable and what will make Fillmore a better community. However, I believe our current council has ignored these principles and strayed from their purpose. With your support and vote let’s rebuild the public trust.

I support the actions of the City Council. The ones I agree with the most are that the Council voted to conduct negotiations with American Water to lower operating costs for the sewer plant. The original contract has no provision for lower flow rates. The base contract is for 1.3 million gallons per day. However, the city is only producing 1 million gallons per day, so we have been paying for 25% more flow rate than we produce. In 2006 and 2007, I begged the then City Council to reconsider this contract for several reasons; the size, the location, the financing and the negative impact that the rising sewer rates would have on the community. In just four years the sewer rate increases have seen millions and millions of discretionary income leaving the community. It was not a good contract.
Also, appointing Mr. Eduardo Gonzalez to the City Council was another good action. Councilman Gonzalez has proven to be an engaged, fair and intelligent presence on the City Council. He is passionate about Fillmore, and has great business sense and experience. He has already added value to the city with his involvement in the swimming pool, track gate and recent proposal to reduce paper consumption at city hall.
In addition, the council held four budget workshops. Due to the continuing budget deficits, the council wanted to provide ample opportunity for public comment and participation in the budget process. The council has also now made the draft budget documents available online for more citizen engagement.
The only item I disagree with (in hindsight) was that in 2011, the Council decided to close city hall every Friday to save costs. I think that the lost productivity ended up costing more than the furlough savings.

Given the short notice of the City Manager’s resignation I am in agreement with the three councilmembers who voted to appoint Fire Chief Landeros to Acting City Manager for the time being. Given the circumstances surrounding the City Managers departure, I feel he is best suited to step in the position at this time.
The council made the right decision to not close the park restrooms as suggested by the City Manager.
I do disagree with the council and their lack of leadership in not funding a Community Services Director past December of 2012. This function is vital for our community and the council dropped the ball by not allocating funds to continue this position. The council basically wasted two meetings. The first meeting included a “narrative” of the budget with no serious questions asked and we watched the second meeting where the Mayor then rehashed the narrative. This time would have been best spent listening to public input and asking the City Manager in depth questions on the budget. The council has allowed the former City Manager to outsource duties and responsibilities to outside consultants which used to be performed by former City Managers. She outsourced labor negotiations, staff evaluations and hired a consultant to reorganize city hall. Our tax dollars were not well spent and I disagree with the council for not stopping this practice. Fillmore needs jobs and tax revenue. It’s shocking to hear that the City Manager was allowed to put off talking to and meeting with people who want to invest in Fillmore and provide jobs. This failed practice has hurt Fillmore’s economy and the council should be held accountable for allowing this activity to take place. They’ve said “Fillmore needs to be business friendly”, it’s time we stop talking about and start doing it.

The action taken by the current city council that I agree with most is the acceptance of Patty Walker’s resignation. It was long overdue and I feel that she only ever got involved with city politics for her own gain. Yes, I believe she has devoted many hours of her time attending numerous committee meetings, yet I feel she fell short on listening to the community at large.
The action taken by the current city council that I disagree with most is the decision not to hold a performance review of Yvonne Quiring as her City Manager Contract allowed for. One might still concede that Patty Walker did indeed sideline Steve Conaway from attending the employment interview in Sacramento, California prior to her hiring based upon Patty Walker and Larry Pennell’s recommendation. I feel that had we done the necessary due diligence we would not be looking for a new City Manager or Finance Director at this time.

I don’t feel this current council has taken any significant actions. They have been in reactive mode for the last four years. While walking around talking to the community, it’s clear the public expected more from their leadership. I agree with the council accepting the resignation of City Manager Yvonne Quiring. Her unwillingness to make herself available to the community and interact with the citizens caused the public to distrust city management and to lose faith in elected officials. I disagree with the current council in that their greatest achievement to date is keeping the city open. The public expects more than “keeping the doors open” as was stated in the League of Women’s Voters Forum. I disagree with the current council when the statement is made that they need more time to implement their ideas. When our council is asked about their vision for Fillmore they default to “Vision 2020” a document that was created back in the mid nineties. While at the same time they use the decisions of previous councils as an excuse for the cities current difficulties. The overall lack of vision is very disturbing. That said, I want to be clear that my goal is to move ahead and plan for Fillmore’s future rather than worry about what past councils did or didn’t do. The constant bickering we’ve been witnessing is unacceptable. The council needs to be able to put aside personal disagreements and work together making the best decisions for the community as a whole instead of voting emotionally. Lets collectively take responsibility for our futures and work together to put Fillmore back on track. Vote Rick Neal for city council Nov. 6th.