Westfall, Holley, Sutton and Gastineau attended Tea Party event
Four out of six candidates for three spots on the Crescent City Council spoke Tuesday night at a forum hosted by the local Tea Party Patriots.
Incumbents Donna Westfall and Rick Holley and challengers Ron Gastineau and Dennis Sutton answered a series of questions posed by moderator Aaron Funk. Two candidates, Joseph Aliotti and Kathryn Murray, did not attend.
Questions covered topics ranging from the city’s budget to the local economy and jobs, much of which was also covered at the City Council forum hosted by the Triplicate last week and reported in Tuesday’s edition.
Most of the candidates stated they were for projects that increased tourism and touted the importance of public safety. The audience was also given an opportunity to ask questions. Here is additional input from each of the candidates at the forum:
• Holley: He said the local business climate has been significantly impacted by public land ownership. There were active logging operations and mills when Holley first came to Del Norte County in 1979, he said, adding that taking public lands out of circulation has decreased tax dollars.
“I would continue to advocate for mitigation of those lands,” Holley said. “As we all know the Forest Service funds that fund so much of our services, especially when it comes to our schools, have pretty much run out. We know the financial impact we have has not diminished. We need to advocate for increased mitigation for those lands.”
Holley stated that he is an advocate of the U.S. Highway 199 expansion, adding that it would be easier to move goods into Crescent City.
If elected to the City Council, Holley said he looks forward to creating a culture and a climate that would increase the tourism industry.
“We need to continue to actively plan and pursue projects that would hopefully result in visitors choosing to stay in our fair city and enjoy our natural, cultural and historic offerings,” he said.
Holley added that improved signage would increase tourism in the downtown area and would not be financially burdensome. He also brought up the city’s efforts to create a master plan for Beachfront Park, a new project design for Front Street and the award of $777,690 grant for the improvement of the Shoreline RV Park.
• Gastineau: Improving the local business climate should come from within through entrepreneurship and eco tourism, he said. He added that the redundant Internet line and a new bill that allows home-based food businesses also creates opportunities. There are also 30 new jobs to be had at Walmart, and AutoZone is looking to build next to Home Depot, said Gastineau, a member of the Crescent City Planning Commission.
Gastineau said that one of his main goals if elected is to get to know the city staff. A councilman should know every aspect of City Hall and to be informed, he said. The second thing Gastineau said he would do is have the city communicate better with the community.
“Instead of being adversarial they would be more of a mentor,” he said. “And then also keep up the good momentum the city’s having.”
Gastineau said increasing educational opportunities is important. One thing lacking in the area’s schools is learning life skills like home economics and how to balance a checkbook, he said, adding those lessens should start at home.
“At the Workforce Center we do a lot of youth training. On the job training with businesses,” he said. “We try to make it so (kids) actually can go into that business and work for it. Mentorships, pairing those kids up with people in the community to help them become better citizens. There’s lots and lots of opportunities for the kids to take advantage of these programs.”
• Westfall: Stiking a different note than the other candidates at the forum, Westfall said, “I don’t believe we’re a tourist destination. We’re a pass-through town. So I want to see our locals put to work. You put our locals to work, we’ll have money to spend.”
Westfall said her goal is to see the city run more efficiently and effectively. She pointed out that four years ago on the Council she advocated hiring a private company to operate the wastewater treatment plant. Westfall said she repeated that on the witness stand when she sued the city to keep the sewer rates repeal off the 2010 ballot. Now city staff is going to look into that option, she said.
“What did our mayor say?” Westfall asked. “She said she’s against it because a private company is in it to make a profit. Give me a break. Do you care if they make a profit if they can run it more cost effectively and more efficiently than the city can? Do you care if a private company runs it and we aren’t faced with any more sewer rate increases? You want to see, again, more bang for your buck here. So my goal is to see the city run more efficiently, more effectively, and I think that will help our whole economy.”
When Funk asked Westfall what she would do to regain local control of the area’s natural resources, she replied that she believes the influence of the California Coastal Commission should be reduced. She said she would slash its budget in half if she could.
“No money, less influence,” Westfall said. “They just kill just about every project around here. .”
• Sutton: He said one of his goals is to see the Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber of Commerce and the visitor’s center relocate to Highway 101 with better parking, restrooms and better signage.
“If they were on the highway I bet we’d pick up another 20-30 percent just from that,” he said. “There’s no parking. We need something that promotes the area. We have some pretty neat things here. Stout Grove, we need to do work to make it one way so they could bring busses in there.”
When it comes to regaining local control of the area’s resources, Sutton said the city should partner with local businesses and legislators to try to regain what it can. He added that he would like to see bamboo planted around Crescent City.
“Bamboo grows in three to five years to harvest,” he said. “It doesn’t take a lot of property. It’s a renewable resource. It’s a hardwood. There would be a mill and give us some income. Plus the bamboo would give us oxygen with the trees growing. They are renewable in three to five years instead of 30 to 40 for fir or redwoods, which isn’t as quality as it used to be.”
When Funk asked him what he would do to facilitate opportunities for children in Del Norte County, Sutton answered that Crescent City should have its own two-year college that would allow students to get a degree and transfer to a four-year college. A satellite campus for College of the Redwoods isn’t good enough, he said.
“My kids all had to go out of the area because they couldn’t get enough education here to get an AA or get enough to transfer to a regular college,” he said. “They had to go to either Eureka, or Redding or San Jose. I’d really like to see us have a good one and the only way it’s going to happen is if we take over College of the Redwoods and do our own.”