KING CITY — Voters in King City will soon be choosing two city council members in the upcoming Nov. 6 Statewide General Election.
Though current Councilmember Darlene Acosta and Mayor Mike LeBarre are running unopposed for council seats in Districts 1 and 2, respectively, King City Rustler sent out a questionnaire to both candidates to help voters learn more about them and where they stand on city issues.
Read their responses below:
What qualifications do you have that make you a good candidate
for city council?
Acosta: I was elected to Greenfield City Council, serving two terms as mayor pro tem before moving to King City during the late 1980s and 1990s. My former tenure of council duties would serve me well as I endeavored to run for King City Council in 2014. The towing crisis had just come to light and our city was thrown into a critical quagmire that I felt demanded accountability, transparency and fortitude. We needed to change the regime from the top down to begin the process of true reform, and thankfully that (and nothing less) happened.
LeBarre: I was first elected to council November 2014 and currently serve as mayor. I represent King City as chair of Monterey-Salinas Transit, and as director for the Transportation Agency of Monterey County (TAMC), the Monterey County Water Resource Agency (MCWRA) and the Consolidated Oversight Board of Monterey County (COB). I also serve as a committee member for: Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities TAMC; Rail Policy TAMC; Finance MCWRA; Personnel and Administration MCWRA; Planning MCWRA; Monterey County Mayors Association; Leadership Council; Coast Rail Coordinating Council CRCC; Hartnell Measure T Oversight; Transit Board Members Legislative APTA; Rail Standards and Planning APTA; Transit Board Members APTA; and Emerging Technologies.
What do you hope to accomplish as a city council member?
Acosta: I bring my experience as a social worker and community leader into quality of life issues. The ever-increasing gang activity of that time and frequent murders were unacceptable to me, and the constituency we serve. I felt we needed more than just an effort of suppression — we have added prevention and intervention services into that equation. We needed and fulfilled a comprehensive assessment and approach. A 24-member community advisory group from all segments of our city was formed and became the committee of Comprehensive Gang Violence Task Force. I was honored to be a city representative. The Pro-Youth Program has been an excellent tool to deter violence and provide after-school programs that includes focus on values, learning, nutrition and opportunities in STEM projects. Secondly, we have the addition of 100 more street lights and a city-wide camera system that is bettered by a partnership with homeowners and businesses that allow fuller access than just the city system. We partner with both school districts to help fund a full-time school resource officer, and started a pre-diversion program that mandates that parents become part of the solution. As an example, we had 15 shootings that resulted in death in 2017 and only one as we near the end of 2018. We cannot rest, we need to keep the focus and intensity, remaining proactive as a unified city.
LeBarre: It is my goal to be an effective representative that solves problems and improves the quality of life for all.
How do you feel about the cannabis industry in South County?
Acosta: It is widely known that I had serious trepidation regarding the cannabis industry having a foothold into our community, and not superficial reasons one may think because of my long-term employment in substance abuse and addiction. I have access to empirical data and proven statistics on underage use of marijuana, and the actual rates in which social and public safety numbers have risen in both Colorado and Washington since the legalization of recreational use of cannabis. Even before Prop 64 made recreational available to adults, the California Healthy Kids Survey in all four South County cities and the latest statistics released by Monterey County Health Department list marijuana use among our youth considerably higher than the county average (by double digits) and nationally higher than average use among high school juniors and seniors. Neurological evidence has shown that adolescent brains are adversely affected by cannabis use as the frontal lobe (impulse control and problem-solving abilities) is not fully formed until age 25. I have experienced this first hand as much of the population I work with are referrals to services by Monterey County Juvenile Justice Department, where a high percentage of my clients were dealing with phycological addiction to marijuana. Yes, the job creation and additional tax money are important to our economy — and I will be a strong voice in finding solutions to the public health and safety conditions that will need thoughtful and experienced navigation — but nothing is worth the cost of our young people, and I believe my voice is needful.
LeBarre: I believe our council made good decisions balancing all interests to bring the industry to our city in a regulated and effective manner. Economic development, creating jobs and providing new revenue sources for needs in the community were also important priorities. Being a new industry, it is important to continue to work with businesses to ensure safety, compliance, and their long-term success.
When you hear about concerns from the community, what steps would you take to see that they are resolved?
Acosta: I feel a great importance in making sure our constituency can access us when they have questions and concerns. Directions are on the King City website that allows personal and direct access by email to each district council member and the district police officers. I love having the direct access approach and it has been increasing in use, which is exactly why it works well and is important. I personally respond and often let the community member know that the head of the department or the city manager will be contacting them with the answer to their question, and to resolve the issue if it requires more input. I love the opportunity to invite people to use these helps, and be welcome in doing so. Also, bi-annual District Block Parties and District Community Meetings have been good for those who come. I’d like to see attendance grow and I also feel that consistency in being available to our citizens is an honor and will grow.
LeBarre: Listen and understand the concern. Identify what the community member would like to see happen to address the issue and communicate that to our city manager to see what options are available. Then, follow up with the community member. You can never guarantee that all issues can be resolved, so it is very important to explain what we can or cannot do.
What are the top challenges the city is facing in the next five years?
Acosta: I am very happy with the progress that has been made in refurbishing our downtown, and it is still in the beginning stages. What a difference it has made finding solutions with the business owners on low interest ways to enhance the look and needed repairs of their businesses. We need to continue to spend our time on the attraction and retention of businesses that truly meet the needs of our community, and is reflective of our intended growth of business and retail solicitation. It’s good news that the housing market is gaining momentum again, and while we need to respond to the housing needs of the community, I am a proponent of good ole common sense and a healthy amount of pragmatism. We have come a long way in paying down debt and paying off so much, as we work in agreement on debt reduction and being cautiously conservative in spending.
LeBarre: Housing, strengthening our economic base, and ensuring a structurally sound budget that matches consistent revenues with the programs and policies that are important to the community.
Vote-by-mail ballots have already been sent out to local voters, and early voting has begun at the Monterey County Elections Department, 1441 Schilling Place, North Building, in Salinas. Office hours are Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Polling place locations will also be available Election Day, Nov. 6.