District 1 city council candidates square off

This newspaper sat down with District 1 City Council candidates Phil Thalheimer and Sherri Lightner to talk about them, their campaigns and their stands on the issues. Here is what they had to say.

Sherri Lightner

Summary
Age: 57
Occupation: Retired mechanical engineer, now a fulltime volunteer/community activist
Residence: Lives in La Jolla Shores
Family: Married, three children
Favorite books/genre: Hot, Flat and Crowded” by Thomas L. Friedman, “Book of the Dead” by Patricia Cornwell and “While America Aged” by Roger Lowenstein.
Hobbies: Reading, crocheting and camping in addition to gardening and cooking.

What are the primary differences between you and your opponent in this race?
I actually show up at public forums. Phil has not shown up. I’ve been going to planning groups now for over a year, talking to people and actually visiting the neighborhoods.

What are your thoughts on the city’s pension crisis?
The City Council and the mayor have been putting money in to pay down the unfunded liability, but that’s a 27-year plan that relies on a stable stock market. The city’s going to have to look again at changing pension benefits. That’s going to require negotiations and meetings with the parties involved to see if there’s some give and take.

How will the current economic crisis impact the city?
We could be in a terrible situation if we have to cut. We’d have to look at the budget line item by line item. Maybe we need to be more aggressive in securing some of the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) funds.

What weight will you give the recommendations of community advisory groups?
Planning groups deserve to have their voices heard. I’d like to see more outreach to the communities … I believe community groups should be notified when a project of concern is actually coming through to be docketed, instead of finding out when the final docket comes out. I’d like to see more town hall meetings, maybe quarterly.

As a city council member, what is your role?
To work for the people in the district.

Do you like the strong-mayor form of government?
There are some flaws. There is some concern that if the mayor doesn’t care for a particular piece of legislation the council has passed they may not choose to enforce it or implement it.

How can the city be a better steward of the environment?
I am proposing we commence building for the future by establishing green industry, getting green jobs here, doing things in a sustainable way. If we could partner the city with universities and attract businesses here with venture capital …we would be able to create a new tax base and a more stable economy.

Where are you on the growth-no growth continuum?
Growth needs to be responsible. It needs to be in accordance with the general plan. It needs to take into account the very severe constraints we have here, the most important being water.

How would you restore trust in local government?
That’s why I’m running. … I’m approachable. I listen. I’m not going to cut a deal. I’m going to stick with what the rules are, because those rules took a long time to develop.

What’s one thing voters should know about you?
I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone tell me they don’t trust me. They may not like my position on some things. I have a very strong, proven track record on where I stand on a variety of issues, and I will do outreach to the communities and be responsive to the communities. I’m concerned about trying to do as much as we can for the neighborhoods, not just the land-use matters.

What is your view regarding the proposal to directly connect I-5 and Highway 56?
That is in the process right now. I don’t want residential homes or property taken by eminent domain for this interchange. Parts of it already exceed federal noise standards. The infrastructure should have been in before those homes. There are four alternatives right now. They’re doing the traffic studies and impact analysis. They haven’t as yet presented their traffic results.

What’s the biggest issue in Carmel Valley?
It’s the financial situation of the city, which has ramifications for all of the city because it deals with communities and the provision of services – fire, life and safety. Our payment for the pension takes money out of the general fund. That affects the quality of services.

Phil Thalheimer

Summary
Age: 50
Occupation: President, San Diego Flight Training International
Residence: Lives in Carmel Valley
Family: Married, two daughters
Favorite books/genre: Tom Clancy-type; history, particularly
modern Jewish history.
Hobbies: Training German shepherds. I love animals. I used to fly airplanes a lot. It almost felt mystical to me. I could clear my head.

What are the primary differences between you and your opponent in this race?
I am in favor of putting city department activities up for bid with the exception of fire and police. She is not. I don’t oppose everything. Look at the number of times she’s opposed things versus the number of times she’s supported things. I’m going to oppose some things. But I’m also going to say, ‘Some things you need to do.’

What are your thoughts on the city’s pension crisis?
My opponent has gone on record as saying the pension system is fine the way it was. I wouldn’t have supported this pension plan from the beginning. It was a mistake to get into a situation where you’re underfunding something on the assumption you’ll be able to make it up on the investment side. That was foolhardy.

How will the current economic crisis impact the city?
Significantly. Obviously, what gains we were getting through the pension system with growth in the stock market, that’s probably evaporated. The other part is credit is going to be much more difficult.

What weight will you give the recommendations of community advisory groups?
A great deal of weight. They’re significant. They should be listened to. I have an open door for that. But understand: That doesn’t make them right either. In La Jolla the community groups don’t necessarily agree on many issues.

As a city council member, what is your role?
I see this as a job. These people are my employees. I want them to be able to get to me.

Do you like the strong-mayor form of government?
I do like it, but I think the eight-member council needs to be fixed. We either need a nine-council district, or an at-large seat.

How can the city be a better steward of the environment?
Use recycled water, grey non-potable water – protect open space to the best of our ability. But we have to balance that. People are coming here. We have to be able to find a way to handle both.

Where are you on the growth-no growth continuum?
In the middle. People need homes and jobs. But you don’t want to take your parks and turn them into parking lots. You’ve got to have a balance.

How would you restore trust in local government?
By being out in the community, making sure people know where I stand.

What are your views on keeping Mt. Soledad cross in place?
I think it will end up with the U.S. Supreme Court. The court needs to take a position on sectarian symbols like that memorial. They need to rule on this. I think the courts will allow it (cross) to stay.

What’s one thing voters should know about you?

That I’m going to tell them the truth.

What is your view regarding the proposal to directly connect I-5 and Highway 56?
I like the hybrid proposal right now that’s on the table that takes no houses. If that’s not going to work, what you really need to do is focus on the other side of the freeway, getting the west to north taken care of. We’ve got to find some way not to take homes. That’s the bottom line. I could support the idea of taking homes if you’re going to use eminent domain on a Shell station.

What’s the biggest issue in Carmel Valley?
Developing a sense of identity. There are sections of Carmel Valley, like Torrey Hills, that are partly old community. Other areas are much newer, new families putting down roots. They’re getting a sense of community. People are stepping up. They’re concerned about their schools, their parks. The role of the council office will be to bring these divergent sides together and work toward solutions.

Related posts:

  1. Two familiar faces missing from City Council election
  2. City Council – Big work, little pay
  3. San Diego City Council OK’s Torrey Hills development
  4. Solana Beach City Council to receive a pay raise
  5. City Council agrees to bank loan to prevent Shores default

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Posted by on Oct 23, 2008. Filed under Archives. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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