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Council Candidates on the Budget Crisis

Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items related to the November 2012 election.

Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from Albany City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here. Have more questions? Comment on individual candidate profiles to ask for more information.

The state is broke. We are on our own, as are our neighboring cities. There's not a lot of time. What do we do? 

SHERI SPELLWOMAN (PATCH PROFILE)

The State budget crisis has had a negative impact on our City budget, but effects have been fairly moderate in Albany, compared to other cities. We have a projected budget deficit for next year of less than two percent of our total budget. That is not a crisis that deserves panic or desperate measures. We must continue to be fiscally responsible. Our main source of income is property taxes, which are dependent upon property values. As a City Council member, I will seek to maintain the city’s property taxes by supporting measures that increase Albany’s livability and desirability. I will continue to support what has made Albany great including quality public schools, strong community-building programs and the small city charm of local independent businesses. I will seek to improve our public spaces including sidewalks and bicycle routes. And I will protect our local environment including our waterfront, creeks, open space and agricultural soil. I will also increase our commitment to low-income families. For more information visit my website: http://spellwomanforalbany.org/issues

ULAN MCKNIGHT (PATCH PROFILE)

The state is not broke. Albany is not broke.

What we should always do is what we do best; promote our schools, safe streets and small businesses.

Everything will be just fine. =)

MICHAEL BARNES (PATCH PROFILE)

In order, I suggest:

1) Vote for Albany’s Measure F, a one-half percent sales tax increase in Albany that sunsets after eight years. Requires simple majority.

2) Vote for the Governor’s Proposition 30, which will impose a quarter-percent sales tax statewide. Sunsets in four years. Requires simple majority. Your chidren’s K-16 public education will take a big hit with this one.

3) Vote for Alameda County measure B1. This one is earmarked for transportation, and requires a two-third supermajority. No sunset. If it passes, regressive sales taxes in Albany will rise to 10 percent.

While I dislike regressive taxation in general, our backs are against the wall. In the longer run, there are many reforms that are needed in Sacramento, especially eliminating the supermajority requirement for tax increases.

NICK PILCH (PATCH PROFILE)

We can seek simultaneous short and long term solutions. The city will have us vote on a half-cent sales tax. I support this as this will bring revenues in the short term. However, the regressive nature of sales taxes is problematic. Other, hopefully more progressive taxes may be necessary. In the long term, we citizens and leaders can seek to reform Proposition 13 and seek to restore more a progressive federal tax structure.

TOD ABBOTT (PATCH PROFILE)

We pull together, realize we have more in common than we have differences, and get on with the business of managing the city to the best of our collective ability. In this context, our enemy is not the economy, the state, or budget limitations — our enemy is division amongst ourselves. 

Our strengths are an informed, engaged and active population, a dedicated and talented city staff, a dynamic and committed small business community, and all the gifts we enjoy as residents of this city and this part of the world.

PETER MAASS (PATCH PROFILE)

First off, DON’T PANIC, KEEP BREATHING! Secondly, I would highly recommend that everyone vote "yes" on State Proposition 30. Its passage will give the state and our schools a fighting chance. Locally, we need to pass Measure F, the half cent sales tax increase. Sales taxes are not a particularly good or equitable way to raise revenue, but given the current situation in Albany, I don’t think there are any other quick alternatives. Thirdly, I propose to help re-elect President Obama and a Democratic Congress. This year, much of the Presidential Election seems to be around a basic urban vs. rural conflict. Albany is an Urban Village, not a rural one. We will be in much better shape with Obama in the White House and with a Democrat controlled Congress. The council also needs to explore some alternative options. I believe that as new technology replaces our existing cell towers, there are ways that we will be able to provide needed coverage and provide a new revenue stream to the City. This may be five years away, but now is the time to act on this. And let’s see how we can make our existing commercial zones more business friendly and more attractive to our residents. Smart, responsible growth in these areas will broaden the City’s income base and increase revenues.

PEGGY THOMSEN (PATCH PROFILE)

We need to continue to tighten our belt while we seek revenue from a variety of sources including grants, regional and federal matches, development, and taxes.

Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here.

Trevor Grayling October 16, 2012 at 02:10 PM
So, in other words, no candidate has any idea of how to improve Albany's financial situation. (And note that our current "2% deficit" relies on not hiring a City Clerk, not hiring police and fire, overworking our current staff, and deferring maintenance on roads and infrastructure.)
Alan Riffer October 16, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Trevor, it is worse than you think. Like other low or no-growth communities, Albany has a structural problem that none of the solutions that Pilch, Spellwoman, and McKnight offer begin to address. City of Albany expenses are projected to grow more than 60% faster than revenues next year. That is because employee benefits (now over 20% of the budget) are growing more than four times as rapidly as wages , utilities or any of the other expenses. This was a problem even before the housing bubble deflated. Staff has done the best they can through attrition, downgrading staff positions, and paying more for their benefits. Only the smart-growth policies encouraged by Thomsen, Abbott and Barnes will allow us to maintain the city services we value.
Tatter Salad November 01, 2012 at 08:55 AM
WHY has California's spending exploded in the past 12 years? Our population during the past dozen years has grown from 33.9 million residents to 37.7 million, an increase of 11.2%. During this same time period, our government spending grew from $67.2 billion annually to a peak of $103 billion, a whopping percentage increase of 54%! The big Gorilla in the California budget is Education (and Unions). More than 50% of the bloated budget is educational spending during past 12 years, which grew from $35.5 billion annually to a peak spending of $53.3 billion annually, an increase of 50%! They spent an additional $78.6 billion dollars over what population growth called for! What can WE do? Two things: a) Approve Prop 30 as a bandage to an out-of-control Teachers Union. b)Initiate Lay-offs/retirement of the over-paid in the Albany School System; a District that -theoretically- WE have some control. If you look at Albany's spending our Superintendent of schools earns MORE than the Superintendent of all of Alameda County! She earns $351K, and her assistant earns $244K. Is there someone closer to their '5-school' function we can compare to: Piedmont Unified School District, (which out performed us scholastically) where the Superintendent makes $228k, and the Assistant: $153k. (Cutting just 2 Albany salaries back to 'Piedmont' standards gains enough for 5 new-hires!) WE are the State's budget problem! ref: http://www.mercurynews.com/salaries/bay-area/2011
Steven Brown November 01, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Well, Tatter is right about our overpaid Superintendent of schools. When will the school board and community address this fiasco?
Tatter Salad November 01, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Steven, When I've asked that question to Schools Board members, they gesticulate wildly in agreement, and state that the issue was never presented to them. ANOTHER salary 'got ya' in Albany concerns the rank-and-file salary's of our Fire Department in sharp contrast to those in a similar city doing similar work. Particularly when you consider the LOW wages for our police department in contrast to neighboring cities; that's why the quality of many of our officers is sub-par IMHO. The biggest problem is: OUR City is NOT TRANSPARENT for these issues! (That was a major theme that Emile used to bring-up.) The City Manager, and the incumbent city workers 'bless' the newly appointed Council, and fit them to the bitt and bridle. 'Don't rock the boat' until our pensions kick-in.'

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