Merced City Councilman Lor wants to finish what he started

Councilman's made Hmong more comfortable in dealing with city.

10/22/2011 2:08 AM

10/22/2011 3:39 AM

Incumbent Noah Lor wants to stay involved in city politics so he can continue to steer Merced in the right direction.

In the past, he said, the economy had become so bad, nobody wanted to do anything or build anything.

"But now it's time and I want to continue into the right direction so that Merced can become a prosperous community," said Lor, who already has four years of experience on the City Council.

Lor, who also has had community service experience in Merced, decided to run in 2007 because he said he knew a lot of family members and friends who couldn't find jobs in Merced. "So I decided to run and make some changes," he said.

During his campaign to run this year, a Hmong supporter wrote on Lor's website how before Lor sat on the council, the Hmong in Merced didn't have the courage to come to the Civic Center or talk to staff or the mayor.

"After I came on board, it (was) much easier for them to come and talk to staff, request needs from the community and express their concerns, needs for local government. That's a very positive thing," Lor said.

Born in Laos during the "secret war" in 1964, Lor moved with his family to the United States in 1979 to Missoula, Mont. In 1983, he made Merced his home.

The Hmong clinician said in 2007 the vision of the city was "growth pays for growth."

That really put a barrier up for businesses that had to pay a lot of fees, he said.

When he got on board on the council, he said he and some council members and the former mayor were able to work together and reduce impact fees on development.

The city's on its way to a better future, according to the 48-year-old.

It's able to accommodate more commercial and industrial development. And it recently upgraded its wastewater treatment facilities. There's the G Street underpass project; the 18th Street reconstruction; and the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center, which will bring in a lot of jobs if legal and administrative rulings go its way. "We have a good start and now we just really concentrate about getting business to come here," he said.

Lor wants to re-examine the fee structure. For example, if a new business was coming into town, he proposed changing the fee structure based on the employer's staffing size. And he also wanted to provide incentives for small businesses that could pay small increments in fees for a couple of years.

Lor also wants to consider vacant lots for development before expanding the city's footprint.

For the last four years, the council's been working on streamlining all the employee union bargaining units, he said. "We can work with everybody," he said.

Laying off staff would be a last resort for him. "I prefer that everybody would come to win-win resolution. Our staff is well aware of difficulties we are facing," he said. And he said public safety is important to keep the city safe, residents safe, especially seniors and youth.

At the same time, the city doesn't have money so it'd be hard to maintain current work-force levels, Lor said.

"It's important we look at the quality of service we have and whether we will deliver quality of service for the community," Lor said.

Lor hopes the Wal-Mart distribution center can break ground in the next couple of months so people can work and start spending money in Merced. "I want to move Merced out of this difficult situation," he said.

Lor will participate in a live chat at 6 p.m. Tuesday at www.mercedsunstar.com/live.

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

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