Merced City Council, mayoral candidates talk platform issues

Public safety, employment on minds of contenders for seats.

08/13/2011 1:08 AM

11/08/2011 6:15 AM

Bring more jobs and businesses to the city of Merced and bolster public safety.

Those were the main issues candidates agreed on in their race for Merced City Council this year.

The four-year terms of council members Noah Lor, John Carlisle and Michele Gabriault-Acosta ended this year, creating three spots on the City Council.

Gabriault-Acosta is termed out for her City Council position but she is running for mayor in the November election.

Lor and Carlisle are running for re-election this year. Other City Council candidates are Mike Murphy, Tony Dossetti, Charles Bolin, Richard Cervantes, Carl Pollard and Alex Gallardo Jr.

Bolin, 25, said that in the past five years, the community has spiraled downhill.

"I want to bring jobs back to Merced so that our families have the income needed to survive," the security officer said. "Open doors of the city, so to speak, so businesses want to come here."

He maintains the city isn't doing enough to encourage business owners.

"Merced isn't business friendly," he said. "You have to have a permit to repaint your door or repaint your building or put in a sink in your business. Requiring permits is red tape. Red tape like that needs to go."

Employment an issue

Murphy also wants to make the city more attractive to employers. He wants to coordinate with UC Merced to get ideas from the classroom or the lab into the marketplace.

"Work with professors and graduate students. I work with some that come up with patents and other development things," said the small business attorney, who grew up in Merced. "We need a way to market those."

Murphy said public safety was also important to him. Increasing the employment rate in Merced will allow the city to fund the police officers and firefighters, the 31-year-old said.

Incumbent Lor believes there are still a lot of projects that need to be done in the city. Lor, 48 and a clinical therapist, has already held a couple of fund-raising events.

"I want to bring more jobs into Merced and make it easier for business to start in Merced, and provide adequate safety for our seniors and youth," Lor said.

Carlisle said it was important to have a voice on the council for those people who deserved to be represented.

"I think we need somebody who can think independently and look at it with a little more introspection into the facts," Carlisle said.

Quantity and quality of jobs

He said it was important to bring in a quantity and quality of jobs to the city. Carlisle, who was a probation officer with the county for more than 35 years, said public safety was a top priority.

"A big problem we have is gang problems. One of the many reasons is there isn't anything for kids to do," the 64-year-old said.

The City Council will have to make some tough decisions when it comes to the budget in the upcoming year, said Cervantes, who is chairman of the Planning Commission.

"We are going to have to learn how to live within our means for the time being," Cervantes, 29, said.

When it comes to bringing in money for the budget, sales tax is "king," he said.

As for the city's perceived anti-business stance, "I know working through planning they want every business to come here as much as you and I do," Cervantes said, but added that the city's policies and permit fees are "uninviting to existing businesses and businesses that want to come here."

Cervantes ran in 2009 for City Council and was the runner-up to Councilwoman Mary-Michal Rawling.

"An employer and a business [(are the ones]) who create jobs. Industry is important," Cervantes said. "Industry won't come until we know how to treat the small moms and pops. We are going to have to set policies to help individuals who create jobs."

He plans to stage a "meet the candidate" event this month.

Merced needs sustainable, good-paying jobs so people can afford homes, said Dossetti, who retired as chief of police after 30 years in the department. "We need to get innovative, entrepreneurial and business friendly. We need a plan for not only right now but 10 years down the line," the 61-year-old said.

Public safety is a problem

Merced is a great place to raise a family, Dossetti said. Another reason he wants to run is to have his four children, who all have jobs elsewhere, nearby. He said public safety is more than police and firefighters -- "the rest of the city is geared toward public safety also. It's a complete package," he said.

"Yeah, public safety is a problem," he said. "The city has budget problems, we need to get more fiscally responsible ... but it's not that simple. It's more complicated than just saying we need police and fire."

Pollard was appointed to the City Council to fill a vacant seat in 2005 and served until 2007. Pollard, who didn't return phone calls from the Sun-Star on Friday, said in recent letters to the editor that he supports the Wal-Mart distribution center and wants Merced to focus on attracting jobs. "Because we are losing jobs and not attracting new jobs, we are not growing the economy. We need to put our focus, not on raising taxes, but rather on attracting new businesses," he wrote.

The mayoral race for the November election includes incumbent Bill Spriggs, council member Bill Blake, Gabriault-Acosta, Ken Riggleman and Stan Thurston.

Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or abutt@mercedsun-star.com.

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