Grass Valley council candidates field questions at forum
October 6, 2012
Candidates vying for three open Grass Valley City Council seats agree on one thing — the city needs more revenue. But they differ, in some ways, on the solution.
Four of the five candidates squared off in a forum Tuesday night at city hall, fielding questions from residents and members of the media.
Incumbents Lisa Swarthout and Mayor Janet Arbuckle were joined by contenders James Firth, Howard Levine and Patricia Tureaud. Candidate Justin Gross did not attend.
Topics discussed ranged from the city's budget and mining to homeless people and a proposed sales tax that would cushion the city's deflated budget. The candidates tended to agree on many of the questions they fielded. Often, those topics were discussed in relation to their impact on the city's budget or bringing more revenue.
Regarding Measure N, the proposed one-half cent sales tax increase also appearing on the November ballot, all the candidates expressed steadfast support.
However, Firth said he doesn't think it's the only way to increase revenues. He said promoting and boosting tourism and educational opportunities would bring more money to Grass Valley.
Both incumbents were able to draw on their experience to speak precisely about the city's approximate $10 million budget.
Swarthout knew the ballpark number of full-time employees, while Arbuckle said that the city has exactly 86 full-time employees, representing about 46 percent of the budget.
Levine, the former executive director of the Grass Valley Downtown Association, was able to shed some light on a question about the Thursday night market, even using one of his 30-second rebuttals to further elaborate on the market.
Firth, a retired union representative, weighed in on a question about the city's compensation package to its retired employees.
"I think it is important, as citizens, to fund and support a fair compensation package," Firth said. "If we don't do that we aren't going to get quality employees."
Firth and Levine took opposing stances on the prospect of mining returning to Nevada County.
Levine said it is hypocritical for a community with a rich history in mining to use minerals mined from around the world, while being unwilling to mine in its own backyard. Subject to a thorough vetting of compliance environmental regulations, Levine said he would be inclined to support a mining operation around Grass Valley.
"I'm not opposed to mining," Firth said. "It has a place in our economy, it just doesn't have a place in the economy of Grass Valley."
Candidate Tureaud said she had mixed feeling on mining. On one hand, she said it would bring jobs, but on the other hand she said there is a potential for disaster.
"What if it goes wrong, that could be very, very bad," Tureaud said.
Both Swarthout and Arbuckle declined to speak abstractly on the prospect of mining.
"Until all the facts are in front of us, it's hard to offer an opinion," Swarthout said. "If I am on the Council, (a mining company) will get a fair shot. But I would be very hard-pressed to have mining supported in the city of Grass Valley."
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email email@example.com or call (530) 477-4236.
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