Candidates vying for Livermore’s mayor and city council positions introduced themselves and their viewpoints at a Monday night forum hosted by the at the .
Three candidates, Barbara Hickman, current Vice Mayor John Marchand and Minuete McKernan, will face off in November for mayor. Four candidates, Bobby Dale Burger, Stewart Gary, current Mayor Marshall Kamena and Laureen Turner, will be competing for city council seats.
For brief background on candidates, read .
Candidates Lay Out Priorities
Dozens of attendees were at the forum, with some posing questions to the candidates. One of the first questions asked candidates to discuss their priorities.
Marchand and Kamena both said the continued revitalization of Livermore’s downtown area was high on their agenda. Marchand also said he intends to prioritize defending the city’s urban growth boundary.
Hickman said she wants to focus on the and increase the number of sworn officers. She also said continuing efforts to keep was important.
“I know they keep saying it will stay there but I will keep fighting to make sure it stays that way,” she said.
Turner said that, along with jobs, a mass transit system reaching the downtown area was among her top priorities.
“Even if BART isn’t there, we still need a way for people to get through town that is both green and convenient,” she said.
Gary and Burger cited jobs as an area of concern, with both saying they want to strengthen local links between education and employers that will benefit residents.
“We should be hardwired to employers that have needs,” Gary said.
McKernan said focusing on technology’s impact on local government would “provide an attentive, friendly place for (residents) to connect to the city council” and “create a more connective community.”
Candidates Talk Money, Business
Many of the attendees’ questions dealt with candidates’ views on finances and ways they hope to stimulate the economy.
Turner, Burger, Gary and McKernan said complicated and lengthy permitting processes should be simplified to encourage more local business.
Local fees also impact the city’s appeal for commerce, said Gary, adding that “a business shouldn’t be broke by a fee before it opens.”
Gary said an option to spread fee payments over longer cycles could ease financial burdens on businesses.
Burger agreed, saying “some businesses aren’t coming to Livermore because they’re putting so much of their money into getting off the ground.”
Marchand and Kamena said they were both involved in recent efforts to streamline the permitting process into a “one-stop shop” center.
“We’re making all this happen and it’s working,” Marchand said.
Another finance-related question asked candidates what they could do to curb rising costs for garbage collection. All candidates said recycling by residents would make the most immediate dent on bills.
“If you get the small can and recycle more, you’ll see your bill shrink,” Turner said.
Hickman echoed the sentiment: “If you want to come up with less garbage, recycle more.”
McKernan said current high costs should be considered in future negotiations of contracts, while Marchand said contract negotiation is “a very complicated process and moving set of pieces.”
“We’re doing our best to keep costs down,” he said.
Gary said waste management is often underappreciated even though it is one of the core concerns in quality-of-life issues. He said he tells residents “what you need to hear instead of what you want to hear.”
“I’ll tell you: ‘suck it up and pay the bill,’” he said. “I don’t want to live in a toxic wasteland and those landfills, the employees, it all takes money.”
Candidates Discuss City Ties with Schools, Parks
Other questions dealt with Livermore’s links to local entities, including its and .
All candidates said shared communication and resources was key in strengthening an already productive relationship between city hall and the school district.
Gary, who currently serves as a trustee on the school board, said he personally saw the current relationship, which he called “at an all-time high,” come to fruition. He also said “we can do far more.”
“The sky is the limit,” Gary said, adding that there could be more collaborative efforts to build infrastructure for the city and school district.
Candidates differed on their opinions of the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District’s relationship with the city.
Posed a question on if LARPD should merge with the city, Turner, an LARPD board member, said she was against it.
“When families are down like so many are these days, we are their entertainment,” she said. “If you look at Sycamore Trails or other LARPD trails, they’re still beautiful right now because we don’t have to fight with our firefighters for money.”
McKernan also said merging “would put LARPD funds at risk” and should be avoided because the two entities “serve fundamentally different purposes and those differences need to be preserved.”
Marchand said more money could be “given back to constituents” if the entities were merged. Other candidates said the opportunity for savings made the merge a viable option and should be studied further.
"It takes two willing partners to go down that path,” Kamena said. “It’s my belief that if the facts are there, both parties would pursue the partnership.”
Gary said the current state’s economic climate brings a spotlight on the possibility of a merger.
“Every study has said that California is drowning in duplicative agencies and services and having said that, this deserves careful economic study,” he said.
Candidates Open Up About Selves
The forum also offered moments of both levity and closeness.
Turner spoke fondly of her native Iowa, rural upbringing and its impact on her first big venture at 12 years old: operating a newspaper route.
“I understand hard work, paying your own way and working until your fingers bleed,” she said, adding that she worked as a waitress to afford her own apartment and move her mother to California as a teenager.
McKernan, the youngest of the candidates, said she'll use her education background in political science to bring a “fresh perspective” to local government.
“I have a genuine interest in listening to and learning from this community,” said McKernan, a graduate and current student at Dominican University.
Marchand said his current position as vice mayor has reinforced his qualities of “experience and effective leadership” and demonstrated his “commitment to Livermore as a city with unique identity and quality of life.”
Kamena said his work as mayor showed “experience and a track record of success,” citing his defense of the urban growth boundary and support from local congressmen and mayors.
Hickman, a local talk show host, said she offered a choice for change from the current city council.
“The character of our city is at risk if the current mindset of the council continues,” she said, adding that one of her top priorities would be to bring “controversial issues to the voters” instead of having the council rule on them.
Gary, a former chief of the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department, said that although much of his life has been in public service, he would not “promise superficial sound bites to get elected.”
Burger said his extensive experience in the military sphere of governmental affairs has aptly prepared him for local leadership. The recently retired U.S. Air Force veteran and Texas native said he served several tours in Iraq and worked on entities of government appropriation.
“I traveled with unit after unit around the world building bases from bare-boned resources,” he said.
Burger joked about his name, which he said, “contrary to popular belief, is not the name of a NASCAR driver.”