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City Council candidates weigh in on issues

  • Updated
  • 7 min to read
Council candidates

The five Galt residents running for City Council responded to questions on the issues for The Galt Herald. Although candidates Kevin Papineau, Kami Martin, Randy Morton, Jay Vandenburg and Keith Jones have similar views on several topics, the five candidates had differing ideas on growth concerning business, housing and annexation.

On Top Three Goals

Although candidates each expressed a number of differing goals they would address if elected, several answers were similar to their fellow candidates. Candidates all touched on the budget, especially when it came to maintenance for parks and landscaping. Papineau and Vandenburg specifically mentioned making sure taxpayer money was spent responsibly and in a transparent manner.

Both Papineau and Martin put public safety in their top three goals. Both candidates expressed they would make sure that both the police and fire department had adequate funding.

Included in the top three goals of candidates Morton, Vandenburg and Jones is making Galt a business friendly city and securing new businesses that would complement existing businesses, all while bringing more job opportunities to Galt residents.

Morton and Papineau both listed controlled growth as a priority, both wanting to keep the “small town feel” closely associated with Galt.

Although candidates agreed on many goals, Martin and Jones had differing priorities.

Martin specifically mentioned that one of her top priorities would be to listen to the will of the people.

“While I have my own opinion, I am being elected to represent the constituents and promise to always do so,” Martin said.

Martin also said she would assist with making the Galt Market an attraction for both locals and out of town visitors, “while ensuring the city maintains ownership of the Market Grounds.”

Different than his fellow candidates, Jones said a priority of his would be to work closely with the schools.”

“(I will) continue to work with the schools to provide the best education we can for our students,” Jones said.

On Growth

When the candidates were asked their position on growth, Martin said she thought too many homes have already been approved. Vandenburg believes business and industry needs to grow but is concerned about “sprawl.” Both Jones and Papineau believe housing, industry and businesses need to increase.

“I believe that growth must be shaped to encourage economic development,” Papineau said. “Diverse residential development for all income levels and preservation of appropriate commercial space is needed to allow our existing businesses to thrive and develop new businesses in Galt.”

“Growth is inevitable,” Martin said. “We need to be smart and calculated about how we grow. We have approximately 3,200 homes on the horizon, which is almost a 40% increase in rooftops.”

“We need growth in business – existing, startups and industry,” Vandenburg said. “Housing growth needs to match the community needs, without sprawl. Building homes to pay bills puts the city at the mercy of developers.”

“I believe growth in our town is a delicate issue,” Jones said. “The city’s General Plan provides for and allows for growth. I believe we do need smart growth in the commercial and industrial areas, along with housing to provide jobs and service opportunities for the community.”

On Galt’s Quaint Community

Protecting the “small town feel” was important to all five candidates, while Martin felt growing too fast would diminish the charm, Jones said building more homes would not be a detriment.

“Yes, the small town charm of Galt is important and growth, within the General Plan, should be shaped to maintain that feel,” Papineau said. “The design of development should incorporate public spaces for community gatherings and events to bring people together. Development and traffic handling should be designed to foster a slower pace.”

“This is why I moved here to raise my boys,” Martin said. “The sense of community that we have will not continue if we grow too big for our britches. Forty percent in the next few years is not reasonable.”

“Galt’s small town feel is the heart and soul of our community,” Vandenburg said. “To preserve the small town feel, we need to keep growth in check, have town hall meetings on important topics, promote entrepreneurship of local businesses, maintain an open-door policy and communicate at a personal level so that we stay approachable.”

“The sense of community is not based on the number of homes we have, it is based on the people within the community that make Galt a great place to live and how they raise their family,” Jones said. “Galt‘s small-town feel is what attracted me to raise my family here.”

On Recent Controversial Council Decisions

Candidates were asked about the Notch Annexation/Development, the Fairway Oaks Annexation/Development and the Summerfield Annexation/Development projects. Both Jones and Papineau were in favor of all three and, as current sitting Planning Commissioners, voted in favor of the projects. While Morton said he thought growth should slow down, he was in agreement on passing the Summerfield project. Martin is opposed to Summerfield but agreed with the two in-fill projects. Vandenburg was also opposed to Summerfield, saying it did not meet the city’s needs, and felt the city did not handle Fairway Oaks well.

“Fairway Oaks annexation development did not adequately address the portion of land that will not be maintained, leaving a potential fire hazard, and the cutting down of 40% of the Heritage Oaks,” Vandenburg said. “The city did not work with the community in the county island annexation. The city made commitments, but when the citizens in the county island asked for those items to be written down so that they could hold the city accountable, it did not happen.”

Martin’s message was clear regarding the Summerfield project.

“No, this is sprawl and is deviating from the General Plan,” Martin said. “The project approved by Planning and Council drastically increases the number of lots by reducing their size and completely changes the area’s landscape. While the project is an interesting and desirable concept, this location is all wrong.”

However, Morton had a different perspective on Summerfield.

“This is the one project that I like the most,” Morton said. “It adds larger lots and larger homes than almost all of our current approved projects … I like the idea of our current residents having a high end neighborhood and bring professionals to Galt and, likely with the proposed development, stay in Galt long term.”

On the Galt Market Plan

Although details for the plan are still up in the air, possibly selling at least a portion of the property to a multi-use developer has been discussed. Neither Papineau nor Jones indicated whether or not they’d be in favor of selling a portion of the land; however, Martin, Morton and Vandenburg were against such a sell.

“At this time, there are no proposed concepts,” Martin said. “That being said, I am open to reviewing proposals, provided they do not include the sale of the market grounds. I believe that we need to retain ownership and create a revenue stream that will continue for years to come. I look forward to seeing the creative ideas that are brought forth.”

“This land was gifted and I believe it should not be sold,” Morton said. “I am open to ideas on effective ways to use the area.”

“I have no desire to sell the flea market property,” Vandenburg said. “It produces $2.5+ million to the city budget annually. Selling it would only give the city a one-time, short-term gain.”

“We need input from the public and other stakeholders to develop multiple options to reinvigorate and maintain the market while maximizing the benefit to the city seven days/evenings a week,” Papineau said.

“Until I see a more comprehensive plan for the market, I do not know what decision I would make,” Jones said. “I do not want to see the loss of any amenities the Galt Market area provides, such as the softball complex, swimming pool and market.”

On Carillion Boulevard Redesign

The revamping of Carillion Boulevard brought a design for 11 roundabouts, which many were opposed to. Here are the candidates’ thoughts.

“If the plan is adopted, roundabouts would be the form of control installed only when traffic volume dictates,” Papineau said. “I believe the plan will calm traffic, increase bicycle and pedestrian safety and be an asset to the city.”

“The primary intent of the Climate Action Plan and the Carillion Boulevard Project is to reduce carbon emissions … which will be unnecessary given Californians will only be allowed to purchase zero-emission vehicles,” Martin said. “Additionally, based on the traffic studies, the project is unnecessary and will serve to push traffic to other arterials.”

“On the north end of Carillion, cars simply get going too fast,” Morton said. “I fear for people being rear-ended and, worse, people crossing the street. Now is the time to plan ahead and explore many options.”

“I would have voted no,” Vandenburg said. “Coming into a roundabout you’re watching the car in front of you and looking for cars coming around the corner. This puts pedestrians as your third priority. This is a recipe for trouble. A couple of stop signs and a stoplight at the school so people can push the button to stop traffic is a much safer option.”

Jones said he looks forward to hearing new ideas for a “hybrid” layout.

On Lighting and Landscaping Districts

The Lighting and Landscaping Districts are a constant drain on the General Fund. Contributing to the lack of funding is that many city residences don’t pay into a district. The candidates were asked if they would consider a citywide Community Facilities District (CFD) that all residences would pay into.

Papineau, Martin, Vandenburg and Jones all said they would support a citywide CFD. However, Vandenburg and Martin would only support it, if it were voted in by residents. Papineau said he would support a citywide CFD once the current budget was revisited. Jones was also for a citywide CFD.

“We must get our parks back in order so our residents can enjoy them,” Jones said. “It is unfortunate, when some of the districts were formed, there was not enough foresight to have built in escalators to help with increasing cost. As a community, we must maintain our parks for our residents and sports programs. Well-maintained parks show the pride of the community.”

Morton was the loan wolf opposed to a citywide CFD.

“I strongly disagree with citywide CFDs,” Morton said. “I agree that all new developments need to have CFDs in order to keep up and improve our city’s services. If you want to move to our Great American Little Town, new residents will have to help pay for the development costs, and city services cannot be sacrificed.”

On Transparency

In the past few years, the city experienced a large sewage spill and a new contract with CalWaste. The sewage spill was not disclosed to residents for months; and the details of the contract with CalWaste were not understood by most citizens and, admittedly, most seated Council Members until after it was a signed deal. Many residents were upset over a lack of transparency. The candidates were asked what “transparency” means to them.

All the candidates said they believe there should be a better way to keep citizens informed. Papineau said more explanations should be given at Council meetings. Martin said it should be easier to find information and documentation on the city website. Jones said citizens should be strongly encouraged to be more involved, and the city should find a better platform for information. Vandenburg also said information should go out in many forms and posted on more Facebook pages.

Lack of Landscaping Maintenance

When asked about how to resolve the problem with the lack of maintenance for landscaping, Papineau, Martin and Vandenburg said the problem could be solved with a good business plan for the Galt Market to make it more profitable. Jones said working to attract more businesses would bring in the needed money for maintenance issues, and that the city needs to be more fiscally responsible.

Editor’s note: To see the candidates’ full answers to these and additional topics, log on to The Galt Herald website at www.galtherald.com.