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Style: Folsom | El Dorado Hills

Q&A with the Folsom City Council Candidates

Sep 27, 2016 03:37PM ● By David Norby

eurobanks@fotolia.com

Five candidates will vie for two seats on the Folsom City Council at the November 8 election. In no particular order, they are...

 

Roger Gaylord III

How are you qualified to lead Folsom? 

Imagine electing a fresh face to city council who actually grew up in Folsom, someone who’s learned a tremendous amount about what Folsom has to offer, as well as to lose; someone who can bridge the age gap, taking over from where our current leaders left off, before they all retire at once; and someone who’s not beholden to any outside influences. I’m that fresh face! I’m the only candidate raised in Folsom and am ready to give back to my community. I’m a Folsom High School graduate and I studied criminal justice at Folsom Lake College. Today, I’m a successful security expert where I secure life and product for major retail chains and higher education. My first entrepreneurial experience came at age 17 when I founded an online store called solutionskates.com. Additionally, I’m a Folsom Utility Commissioner and founder of Lay Away Angels. I know what it takes to keep Folsom number one!


What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Folsom?

Outside influences funding a “growth for growth’s sake” agenda. Folsom’s political infrastructure is a true, good old’ boys’ network, seemly controlled by a fund (mostly developing companies with projects in Folsom) funneled through the Folsom Chamber of Commerce’s Political Action Committee called BizPAC. They run the incumbents’ campaigns and financially strangle the challenger who can’t afford to compete. The city charter seems to protect this cycle by not having term limits. With fast expansion, not only do we start eroding the true family feel of Folsom, we start burdening the infrastructure as we’re expanding beyond our capacity. Another issue I want to address is the seemly lack of online/social presence Folsom has. I want to connect residents with one another and plug them into the city via social media. Need a business permit? Why not just get it done online? It should be that easy. As a graduate of Folsom High, I see an issue with our jobs. Folsom’s unemployment levels are low; however, it’s mostly entry level, retail jobs, which can’t sustain Folsom’s higher housing costs. We have a few “foundation employers” such as Intel but what happens if Intel leaves or continues the lay offs? We need to focus on attracting additional “foundation employers” who can reinvest organically by training within Folsom to create better opportunities for Folsom and Vista graduates.


What is your vision for Folsom’s future? 

My vision is a dynamic, healthy economy and controlled, smart development that benefits all, not just a particular group of investors. Folsom’s already a great place to live with an amazing community—that’s obvious—but how do we ensure Folsom stays this way and doesn’t become San Jose? We have to adapt to the future, but we don’t have to sell our character and Folsom’s pride to do so. I will give residents a voice by creating transparency and accountability and connect us via social media, making sure folks know the objective and can critique or criticize as needed. I’m not looking to become Folsom’s next 20-year council member; I’m interested in giving back to the community that gave me so much while keeping Folsom a city that’s truly “Distinctive by Nature.”

 

Rob Ross

How are you qualified to lead Folsom?

Folsom is amazing—that’s why it has been my home for over 15 years. My daughter was raised in Folsom and is a proud graduate of Folsom High School. I’m often described as a compulsive volunteer because of my involvement in Rotary, Folsom Community Service Day, and the Folsom Leadership Academy, among many other community projects. I have worked as the chairman of the Folsom Parks and Recreation Commission for six years and for more than 16 years I have owned a local technology business, which gives me a unique perspective on how to make our government more responsive and transparent.


What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Folsom?

Folsom is growing, and its incredible amenities and quality of life are attracting a large number of young families to our town. With growth comes a need to balance our priorities of affordable housing, traffic congestion, public safety, an efficient infrastructure, access to quality education and adequate water supply—all while preserving Folsom’s natural and historical resources.

 

What is your vision for Folsom’s future?

My vision for Folsom’s future is based on three core areas:

• The River District. Cities that have direct access to their rivers thrive. I would like to create a special area where people can gather and enjoy the natural resources that are abundant in Folsom and our fantastic proximity to the American River. Public gathering spaces create accidental meetings between neighbors building on the community spirit that makes Folsom special. This district will allow people of all ages to gather and enjoy activities with the river as their backdrop.

• Higher education. We have an outstanding community college in Folsom. I will work to create partnerships with a four-year university, which will offer baccalaureate degrees on the Folsom Lake College campus by sharing resources. As enrollment grows, high paying jobs will be created—expanding our local economy—and could spur the expansion into a separate university within the Folsom boundaries.

• Smart cities. A technology-savvy city is no longer a fantasy; it’s an expectation from our residents. We live in a time where inexpensive technology embedded throughout Folsom can and should make our environment more efficient in terms of land use, energy reductions, transportation and government processes. This type of technology will greatly reduce traffic congestion while we grow into South of 50. Folsom’s leadership needs to embrace the implementation of technology, giving Folsom an opportunity to reap the benefits and reduce the direct expenses.

 

ERNIE SHELDON

How are you qualified to lead Folsom?

I believe that my 22 years of community service as a park, planning and library commissioner and an additional eight years as a Folsom councilman gives me a very accurate evaluation of what issues the city must confront and resolve in order to keep Folsom a quality city. I remember the past, but I live in the future. I am not just a dreamer, but a doer. My agenda is to sustain and improve the quality of life for every child, parent, young adult, senior and veteran in Folsom. I will not let special interests in development and over commercialization disrupt the quality of life in Folsom. We will only accept the best!


What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Folsom?

Folsom’s biggest challenge in the future is to retain our quality of life and living and working to improve it. One example is to protect the last 17 acres of riverfront from over development. The acreage is for the benefit of all the folks and residents to enjoy. There’s more to be done on water, traffic, etc.; we need a doer to attack these challengers and not a dreamer.


What is your vision for Folsom’s future?

Working together, we will preserve the quality of life in Folsom and see that the following challenges facing the city are met:

• Protect the riverfront

• Discourage further Folsom site development South of White Rock

• Do not minimize water concerns

• Traffic concerns

• Folsom South monitorship

• Protecting our quality of life

• Community college enhancements

• Continue to monitor city fiscal responsibilities

• Continued K-12 school enhancements

• Finish 10 undeveloped parks and 10 unfinished parks


I continue my pledge to you. “I will not pander to any special interests or promise the universe to get re-elected. I will simply continue to work hard for you, doing what I’ve always done, fighting for the people of Folsom with honesty and integrity.”

 

JEFF STARSKY

How are you qualified to lead Folsom?

I feel my 16 years of experience as mayor, vice mayor and city councilmember uniquely qualifies me to continue to lead our wonderful city. I know governmental processes and continue to work to improve efficiencies in the city’s systems to deliver cost-effective services that our residents expect. I bring 35 years of business, legislative and legal expertise, as well as 20 years of public service experience to Folsom. My fiscally conservative approach to government has resulted in a balanced budget for 16 straight years. Folsom has one of the lowest unemployment rates of any city in California, because of my efforts to recruit and retain both large and small businesses in Folsom. I’ve helped shepherd this city through the worst recession in its 70-year history and have been part of the team that has built a city that today stands as one of the best places to live, work and play in California. Folsom is recognized nationally for the quality of life and livability of our great city. In the last two years alone, it’s been named the Best City to Raise a Family, Best Suburb, Best City for Young Families, Best City for Young Professionals, and Best City for Job Seekers in Northern California; and this year we were named one of America’s 50 Best Cities to Live by 24/7 Wall St. and the 33rd Wealthiest City in America by NerdWallet. These awards do not happen by accident. I am part of a great team of city leaders who worked hard to make this happen.


What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Folsom?

Folsom continues to experience tremendous success in recruiting new businesses. What we as city leaders have to be careful to monitor is the impact of businesses that are growing in our new retail centers like Palladio and Broadstone on our older business sectors. We need to assure that the Central Business District remains vibrant. Just like the $10 million dollar investment our Redevelopment Agency made to the Historic District, we need to assure that a similar investment is being made in the Central Business District to assure its vitality. Stores like the recently opened Dick’s Sporting Goods will help revitalize some of the older shopping centers in the center of Folsom. We need to continue to look at zoning and all potential uses for these older retail and commercial locations. Maintaining an appropriate balance of retail locations throughout the city is critical and will require attention in the coming years.


What is your vision for Folsom’s future?

Folsom’s future is very bright. Folsom is and will continue to be one of the most desirable places to live in California if I am re-elected. Our strong employment base and my plan to bring more diverse employers to the city will guarantee our tax base for years to come. Our actions to develop the Folsom Plan Area over the next 25 years will assure Folsom’s financial stability and will also provide our residents with over 1,000 acres of additional recreational amenities. My conservative fiscal approach to government will assure that the city staffing levels will not exceed our budgets and our city government will remain efficient and effective. Public safety will remain my highest priority, and I will commit the necessary resources to keep Folsom families safe. My careful approach to growth will assure that our existing property values will remain high and the cost of public services will remain low. I will continue to bring new parks and recreational opportunities to Folsom, including the development of the Johnny Cash Park, an international tourism opportunity. I was instrumental in bringing the Amgen Tour of California to Folsom and will continue my efforts to promote Folsom as a tourist destination for cycling, rowing and running.  Folsom’s opportunities are limitless. With the right leadership, Folsom will continue to be the best city in California. 

 

CHAD VANDER VEEN

How are you qualified to lead Folsom?

I’ve spent a decade working directly with the best state and local governments across the country. I’ve researched and studied what makes good government and what makes a city smart. Many candidates say they are for smart city strategies. I am the only candidate who served as editor of a magazine that exclusively covered smart city technologies and best practices. Today, I lead the communications department for Purchase Green Artificial Grass; we’ve helped Californians save over a billion gallons of water. I have real, practical experience in understanding how cities can best prepare themselves for the future. 


What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Folsom?

The biggest challenge facing Folsom is a serious threat to our quality of life. Our current city council has been successful in the past and credit to them is due. Yet, looking forward, they continue to offer 1970s solutions to 21st century problems. We cannot continue to give in to developer sprawl. We cannot continue to let our water be a bargaining chip. We cannot keep building more homes without building adequate infrastructure first. If we do allow these things to continue, sprawl will increase, traffic will worsen, crime will grow and education opportunities for current Folsom children will diminish. This is not the Folsom we love 

 

What is your vision for Folsom’s future?

As councilman, my vision is:

• Infrastructure—delivering more transportation options (including a Folsom Streetcar using existing track); diversifying our water sources and protecting against future drought; slowing growth so we build the proper infrastructure as we grow, not afterward; speeding up sustainability programs such as streetlight LED modernization, solar energy and battery storage.

• Economy—working with state and federal agencies to develop attractive business incentive programs; working with existing business to create a technology incubator/entrepreneur community; bringing water and energy technology companies to Folsom; consulting with experts to make opening a business in Folsom as easy—and expeditious—as possible.

• Education and Public Safety—meeting regularly with education and public safety officials to understand their needs; fighting to make sure South of 50 does not put existing Folsom students at a disadvantage; working to make STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education more commonplace; working with local technology partners to help get the best equipment in the hands of Folsom educators and public safety officers.

• Tourism—continuing the tradition of great events in Folsom; seizing the opportunity to ensure the corporation yard includes vast, open access to the waterfront; working with state partners to facilitate more events on Folsom Lake (such as the powerboat races from a few years back); working with state and other agencies to improve accessibility and recreational opportunities on both lakes—after all, not everyone can afford a boat or wants one, but almost everyone enjoys the water.

• Representation—creating five election districts in the city and working with city staff on the appropriate means of implementing the change; ensuring every resident is not only listened to but heard, ultimately better engaging every resident in their government process.

Photos courtesy of candidates. Compiled by Samuel Mailey

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