City finances, growing pains, traffic woes, decaying infrastructure and a community’s ambitions were among the issues put before four candidates competing for two seats on the Angels Camp council Wednesday night at a forum at Bret Harte High School.
An audience of about 75 people watched and listened to incumbent Amanda Folendorf and challengers Alvin Broglio, a purchasing agent; Caroline Schirato, a school administrator; and Mike Darby, a business owner/humorist.
A fifth candidate, Sarah Lunsford, a writer/journalist, announced she was withdrawing from the City Council race earlier Wednesday, Melissa Eads, city administrator, and Debbie Ponte, executive director of Destination Angels Camp, said Wednesday evening before the forum started.
Tim Oskey, an advisor-consultant with Edward Jones Financial in Angels Camp, moderated the event, hosted by the Angels Camp Business Association.
At the start of the forum, Eads was a designated neutral speaker to give a brief presentation on the city’s finances and why the city is pursuing Measure C, the half-percent sales tax increase that will be on Angels Camp ballots Nov. 6.
“We’ve been barely getting by, and we’ve been barely getting by for some time,” Eads told the audience. “Like so many other rural communities we are experiencing increasing costs without increasing revenues.”
She said the city was solvent.
“But we are heading for a cliff unless we do something differently,” she said.
The city needed to increase revenue for long-term sustainability, she said.
Eads emphasized the current sales tax in Angels Camp is 7.25 percent, lower than Sonora, Jackson and Lodi, with 7.75 percent each, Modesto at 7.88 percent, Riverbank at 7.87 percent, as well as Oakdale, Manteca and Stockton, which all have sales tax rates over 8 percent.
Asked about the city’s 2020 general plan, first approved in February 2009, a vision for Angels Camp, and how to get the public involved, Darby was asked to respond first and he said, “Have you seen the plan? It’s a book this thick,” and held his fingers apart several inches.
“I haven’t read it,” Darby said. “A lot of Angels Camp is not broken and it doesn’t need to be fixed. Some people want to get grants and improve things. But will that change the character of Angels Camp? I would like to be a liaison between the city and the public.”
Folendorf, elected to the council in 2014, became the first deaf female mayor in American history earlier this year. She said the current general plan identified infrastructure that needs to be repaired and traffic issues, but without revenue and capital improvements, she asked how the city will mitigate these issues.
“We need to figure out the community’s priorities,” Folendorf said. “Is it growth, traffic, housing, infrastructure?”
Broglio said he has looked at the general plan and he said it is huge. He said his vision for Angels Camp includes more affordable housing and more decent-paying jobs. He also suggested combining the city’s police and fire departments to save money.
“To get the public involved you could create a historical district or a community district,” Broglio said. “People who visit Angels Camp, too, their opinions count. What do they want to see here?”
Schirato said she went through the 400-page general plan and what she found interesting was a top 25 list of businesses wanted in Angels Camp. She said the list dated to 2002 but it felt like it came out of 1960.
“I’d like to see that evolve,” Schirato said. “Infrastructure, our wastewater management, a $500,000 deficit. How are we going to add development if we have an antiquated wastewater management system?”
To get people involved Schirato said she’d like to start a youth commission to partner with the city and tap into talented local students at high school and junior college levels.
Three of the four candidates said they are in favor of Measure C.
“”Yes we need it,” Broglio said. “Taxes are not a good thing but the city needs the money.”
Schirato said she agrees Measure C is needed and she’s spoken to local business owners and she doesn’t sense they are in shock or fear of a half-percent sales tax increase.
Darby said he opposes the tax increase and he thinks Angels Camp could instead bill itself as having one of the lowest sales tax rates in the state.
Foldendorf said she believes the question is do people want police and fire and infrastructure and city services. If so, the answer is yes on Measure C.
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.