All six candidates for City Council appeared at a forum Tuesday night in Banning.
It was the first of at least two Banning Council candidate forums. The next is scheduled Oct. 8 at Sun Lakes, Joni Taylor of the Banning Chamber of Commerce said.
Running for three seats on the Banning City Council are Adam Buchanan, Edward Miller, Don M. Peterson, Don Robinson, Larry L. Tucker, and Art Welch.
The Tuesday forum was moderated by David Berkowitz, retired publisher of the Record-Gazette, and Art Reyes, Record-Gazette general manager, in Council Chambers at 99 E. Ramsey St.
Each of the candidates was allowed time to answer six questions:
'As a Council Member you would represent the entire city. How would you elicit the views of the community?'
'How would you obtain necessary funds to hire additional police officers and support staff?'
'What would you do to ensure the preservation of Banning's historical resources?'
'What would you recommend as the next step in downtown revitalization?'
'What would you do to attract businesses such as Target, Costco, Sports Authority and Marshalls?'
'How will you help the council develop a concensus on the direction of the city?'
The forum was expected to be televised live on Time Warner Channel 10 and Verizon Fios Channel 29.
In closing remarks, Peterson went first.
Peterson: I had a closing statement prepared, but I think I'm gonna change it and go off the cuff, just on what's been said. Tonight I've heard several comments about a balanced budget.
A balanced budget to me, and coming from the business world, is a CPA term and it really doesn't mean a whole lot. When I see that well, we've balanced the budget and we've had to cover, correct a five million dollar loss, whatever, and balance this five million dollar deficit, well that five million dollar deficit comes from the interest that we're paying on bonds that we've hocked the city in.
But when you take five million dollars of tax base that's no longer now going into the fund as revenue, yeah, then you know what, we need to make five million dollar cuts. In law enforcement, in whatever, parks, recreation, infrastructure, repairs, underground utilities, whatever that five million was going to go to, and keeping city hall open five days a week.
So for me the balanced budget doesn't really mean a whole lot other than the fact the CPA said 'You know what, we move these figures around and we've got us a balanced budget.' But the fact remains is that we're still five million dollars short on revenue. And the city's going to remain five million dollars short until like Art Welch says, that we get tax revenue and the tax base back in there.
The redevelopment agency took out a lot of money. You know, it took out a lot. The water bond issue, we can't count that, but the utility bond issue, that took out another two-and-a-half million per year in interest payments. And the city's coming into a shortfall. We're going to end up now having to pay interest on bonds at a higher rate than what we're getting for our money, which means that possibly with the shortfall we're going to have to dig into the general fund and bring that money out in order to pay . . . .
So we're not out of the crisis. The city's in a crisis, and I think really the people need to look at this. Thank you.
Robinson: Yeah, I'd like to clarify one point, is each city council member meets with the city manager once a week, so we go over a lot of these issues and it's not just reading eight hundred pages on a Friday afternoon and through the weekend. We have a pretty good idea what's going on in this city, from day one, and we continue those conversations with the administration here, which is our city manager and our staff. They're very good at it.
And with my experience as a veteran, college student, cable television engineer, manager, grant writer, paid call firefighter, executive director and owner of a business here in Banning, I have the ability to start projects and see them through to completion and within budget.
Budgets are very important. It's not a CPA's wave of a wand. It was very hard, we spent some very difficult times, going from eighteen million dollar general fund budget to thirteen million. A lot of us struggled with that. It's a deep concern. You're laying off people. Nobody likes to do that, especially if you're a business owner.
The past four years as a council member here in Banning has given me the opportunity to work together with the rest of the council and continue the progress started to have a viable downtown area that is bringing new businesses and sustaining existing businesses.
We also have growth starting in our residential properties. I want to help guide the prosperous tomorrow through the next four years. My wife Katryn and I are the proud owners and innkeepers of Renaissance Pet Resort. The Renaissance Pet Resort and Spa has created a safe environment and a full line of pet services. This brings over five thousand pets to the city.
And why is that important? Only 23 percent of those pets are from Banning. They're coming from outside the area. All these new businesses that are coming to town are bringing people to town. Along with Fire Memories Museum, which I helped to get here a year ago. Thank you.
Miller: I'd just like to thank Don for his wonderful Renaissance Pet Resort. Our pet was there all those years and they took wonderful care of him. So thank you Don. But our city itself is in very serious trouble. As I mentioned before we have a hundred and fifteen million dollars in bond debt which was not necessary. And that bond debt has to be paid for by us and by the future people that live here.
We have a balanced budget. That doesn't mean anything. You can always balance a budget, by cutting and cutting and cutting. We don't have enough police. We don't have enough, our utility rates are too high, and so on. You can always balance a budget. How do we solve this? We can't solve it in a rapid fashion.What long-term plan do we have?
I believe the long-term plan, the one thing that makes Banning unique is that we have a city college, a community college here. Now the community college is controlled by the San Jacinto college board but the city that this college is in has a tremendous influence on it. And if we get that college to be expanded the students will come, they will bring business with them, businesses that like students will be attracted here, the students that graduate will have the education that will encourage new businesses to come here, they will have the income to have retail businesses come here.
So I think it's vital for us to do everything we can to encourage that college here. I think it's outrageous that some of the classes are held in Beaumont High School. This is a Banning city college and we should have every class here. We have high schools. We could have classes held in the high schools.
Now last year, two years ago, there was a proposal to have a bond issue. Our city people cannot afford another bond issue and there is no necessity for another bond issue. The way the colleges always expand is to have the classes held in the local high schools. When they get enough students the state is required to give the money to build that college. And the state may not have the money now. But it will. So that college is our future and we should do everything we can to encourage that future.
Buchanan: I'm running on solutions and not just complaints. I'm here to, anybody up here can sit up here and complain about the past. That doesn't do anything for our future. The future generations are going to be struggling here in Banning if we don't do something. And that is why I decided to run.
We need a, the bottom line issue behind most of these questions came to funding. Well the city doesn't have funding. The way to get funding is to produce more businesses in this community so that way we can get revenue off of them. So we have to do those things like fee ordinance reform, as well as code reform. And make this place a more accessible community for businesses.
I have a lot of people I grew up with that are still struggling right now. I just got out of the military. It took me almost six months to find a job in this area. With my resume, being a manager, being a leader, as a first lieutenant in the military, if I had a hard time, what is that saying for the rest of this community? And that's what made me decide to stand up here today.
Now I know I'm young and I still have a lot to learn. But I'm willing to learn. I spent countless hours with Andy Takata and Bill Manis, our city manager and economic advisor. I talked to previous council members, to get their sides and to figure out how this works. I'm here to make this place better for the future of Banning. I'm not here to complain about the past. And I'm a candidate with solutions and I know I will be able to work with the current council as well as whoever's elected for these next four years. Thank you.
Welch: Well there's been an awful lot of important statements made up here this evening. And I think all of them are sincere and all of the candidates want to see Banning succeed. It's a long process. We have handed ourselves challenge but one of the things that I view as very necessary is for us to prepare our residents for the future.
One of the things we have been very short on in this part of the world is higher education. We now have an opportunity to better equip, train our people, our residents, and equip them for future jobs. This also, in and of itself, is what invites industry to our community. They're looking for more skilled labor. We don't have that.
When the housing market, the building market went south, we lost an awful lot of jobs in Banning, because that's what our people were doing for a living. It doesn't exist. We need training and further education for our residents. The other thing is we need to make the most prudent use of our available monies for the next several years to come so we really don't get ourself into an unrepairable position.
Things that have been done with our dollars over the last six, eight years has actually added to the city. It may not have worked out to be the best use of some of the funds but at the time it was. Now, we need to be very prudent with what we have. Filling our empty buildings, producing more tax revenue for the betterment of our general fund and our reserves.
I think I'm equipped to do that with my experience both at the local and the state level. And I'd like to represent you here on the city council. Thank you.
Tucker: Keep in mind, I'm the only disabled person running for council, and I've been on the city buses. I've talked to a lot of people, they can't get to their jobs at night when they've got to go to work, they can't come from their jobs at night.
Banning's not looking into this thing at all, based on the taxpayers' words to me. I have a petition to close the electric company down here. Signed. I went out and got signatures. About eight thousand people. And I don't think there's eight thousand voters in this town. Alright.
So when you come right down to it, somebody don't like what's going on here. I sure don't. Whether you're a vet, or whether not a vet, you should not be treated like you're nothing. I went to the east side. The east side says 'We need a grocery store.' They ain't nobody mentioning on the Banning council about putting a grocery store on the east side, that I know of.
They don't want to go all the way to Beaumont and spend their money. They want to spend their money in Banning. But we're not, as a council, looking that way yet. So . . . when it comes right down to it, we're not looking at voters, we're looking at ourselves.
I'm the poorest guy on this panel right now. The rest of these guys got a car. I ride around on a motorized wheelchair to get back and forth to home.
I don't get to spend on gas, to spend money at the gas station to make Banning rich, but I do spend money for electric. And that electric bill kills me. And I found out today, that electric bill . . . is not controlled by Banning, and I think it should be.
So, I'm from Banning, I married my wife, from Banning, and I want to do everything I can for the Banning voters to help them grow and prosper and go on with their lives.
The candidates as they appear on Banning sample ballots are Art Welch, Larry L. Tucker, Edward Miller, Don Robinson, Adam Buchanan and Don M. Peterson.
Every registered voter in Banning will be able to vote for three candidates on Nov. 6.