Saturday, October 19, 2013

Oct. 2013 League of Women Voters Candidates' Forum - Seat 1

Summary of Candidates Forum for Seat 1 - Frazer vs. Larsson

See also Seat 2 - Hendricks vs Hoffman vs. Magana - at:

and Seat 3 - Griffith vs. Merrick - at:

The League of Women Voters Sunnyvale City Council candidates’ forum on Oct. 15th, 2013 is available here:
At 1 hr 25 min 45 sec on video: Seat 1: Frazer vs. Larsson
1.       Intro:
a.       Frazer: 20 year resident, sustainability commission, engineering manager
b.      Larsson: Planning commission, worked on PA Medical Facility and took Sunnyvale Leadership course.

2.       1 hr 28:58 - Downtown
a.       Larsson: lives nearby and really wants it finished.  Favored talking with parties but found CC tried that to no avail.  Wants CC to report every meeting on status of Downtown with more attention.  Use this as a chance to look at city plans – less retail more open space.
b.      Canvassing neighborhoods and it is the number 1 issue.  Original developer went bankrupt, Wells Fargo took it over (ed. note - and finished some of the buildings) and now developer Peter Paul (sp?) is suing to get it back to complete it.  At this point there is one more lawsuit the original developer has lodged and honestly there is not much you can do at this point except wait out the one remaining lawsuit.

3.       1:31:35 - Pension and employee costs:  Is the city on track to have sustainable employee and pension costs?
a.       Frazer: this year $30M to subsidize employee pension costs + $5M to pay for lifetime health benefits. (Editorial comment - General Fund budget is $150M) Pensions got me into city politics.  Tap Merrick and I (Frazer) co-founded Sunnyvale Pension Reform to educate people about the issue.  The city is moving in the right direction to pay down the unfunded liability of about $250M.  It is still 5 years out until employees pay the 8% employee share.  Our costs will go from $30M to $35M so costs are still going up.  Can’t take away benefits – not fair & not legal.  Employees need to carry a lot more of the pension costs than current plan.
b.      Larsson:  We are on track.  Pensions are part of compensation.  On track but not there yet.  City has started a two tier pension system where new hires come in at a lower pension plan and city has hired an actuary to tell how much to pay down the unfunded liability.  The $30M is only 22% of overall pension costs.  On my own 401K total of my contribution and my employer’s it was also around 21-22% so it is on par with what private sector contributes if they are saving enough.  Need to look at overall compensation view.
c.       Frazer:  City Council and employees are saying they will be paying their full share.  What they mean is the minimum 8% state mandated “employee” share which they should have been paying all this time.  Full share means half of all pension costs like social security – I pay half, my employer pays half.  Should be closer to 30-35%.
d.      Larsson – full share is not necessarily a 50-50 split.  Really about total take home pay.  How much city pays directly to employee or indirectly to pension funding all works out.

4.       1:36:50 – High density development is planned along Mathilda and elsewhere like Butcher’s Corner and at the intersection of Mary and Fremont.  Do you support this trend?
a.       Frazer – My opponent and I disagree on this.  The city has a general plan encompassing all aspects.  There has been steady stream of developers over the last few years asking for general plan amendments to exceed the limits to building.  I am not anti-growth but high density office buildings require state-mandated housing to provide for all these new workers.  This impacts traffic, schools and parks.  Like CM Moylan’s plan to require all large development to come before the council.
b.      Larsson - Most general plan amendments are shot down by staff.  General Plan dates to 1997 so plans need to be flexible.  High cost of land is driving high density land.  Consider young families and older people who can’t drive.  They need cheaper housing which suggests higher density.  Some development provides parks and amenities so there are benefits.
c.       Frazer – as Steve Hoffman pointed out (ed. note – In Sept. COOL Forum see item 4), if denser housing lowered rents, then NY, Shanghai, Moscow, and Hong Kong would be the cheapest places in the world.  Higher density brings in more people who wouldn’t otherwise move here.
d.      Larsson – those high housing costs are about supply and demand and there are an incredible number of jobs there (in big cities mentioned by Frazer).

5.       1:41:40 – Mixed use development (commercial and housing): For it or against it.
a.       Larsson – Support mixed use like Santana Row – mutual benefit to residents and businesses. – share parking – needs retail to be sustainable in that area.  Opportunities to downsize from house to apt and stay in neighborhood and walk to shopping.
b.      Frazer – favors mixed use in certain areas – traffic concerns.  Concern with Lawrence Station plan in the core it is intended to be 70-80 foot high buildings (ed. note - size of Nokia Building on Mathilda about size of 8 story apt building ) which is too dense for that area.
c.       Larsson – How does Mr. Frazer determine what is too dense? I (Larsson) am on citizen’s advisory committee for Lawrence Station.  That group has been nearly unanimous in support of the plan. 
d.      Frazer – I do support the location – just concerned about density – 3,000 jobs and 2,000 housing units with 1-2-3 bedrooms per unit.

6.       1:46:20 – Revenue – Sufficient or new taxes or fees?
a.       Frazer – revenue growth is extremely good, but employee costs have gone up even faster for over a decade.  City finance dept. told me that in past 12 years, employee costs have gone from 62% to 72% of revenue while eliminating 150 full time positions.  Want a city policy that won’t let employee costs grow faster than revenue.
b.      Larsson – Sunnyvale has an AAA credit rating - one of 8 in CA due to well-run financial management by Moody’s estimation.  Good position with 20-year budget process to keep us on track.  Supporting local business a growing economy will bring in more revenue. Redeveloping properties brings in raises property values which bring in more taxes.
c.       Frazer – Bond rating only means how reliably we pay off their debts.  We have been paying off our debts at expense of city services.
d.      Larsson – we are restoring services and expanding services.

7.       1:49:45 – Campaign finances: how much total spending and can campaign contributions lead to conflicts of interest.
a.       Larsson - I expect to spend about $32K so far from about 40 individuals and 25 volunteers – 11 last weekend.  I can’t keep track of all those people who gave me money so I can’t say they influence my vote.  The largest is $3,000 and the smallest is $100.
b.      My budget will be $8,000 of which $6,000 is my own.  All the other money is from residents and I do not accept contributions from developers, unions or anyone else that will have business before the city council.

8.       1:52:24 – City Communication with residents about developments?
a.       Frazer – Now 300 ft was the former notification radius.  Planning commission voted to make it 2,000 feet and Larsson was the sole vote against it preferring 1,000 feet.  I think 2,000 ft isn’t enough
b.      Larsson – Mailers aren’t that effective – prefer email.  Neighborhood associations work also.

9.       1:54:50 – Why should we vote for you?
a.       Larsson – need politicians who are pragmatic, have tangible results, and that’s me.  I’ve worked on grass roots issues and been through the school of hard knocks and on planning commission – proud of my work there – affordable housing and cap payday lenders in Sunnyvale – park dedication fee.

b.      Frazer – my priorities are the future of Sunnyvale, get employee costs under control, very careful about future development, plan to live here for the rest of my life.  I would have voted against the two recent sales of city land (ed note – referring to Murphy Park expansion land and Raynor Park buildings.)

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