Appearing on Bishop voters’ Nov. 6 ballots alongside state elections and the race for the White House will be the five-person contest for City Council.
Three incumbents are facing off against two challengers in the hopes of retaining their seats on the council and earning the right to begin serving new, four-year terms in January.
Patricia Gardner and Keith Glidewell are both newcomers to city politics. Susan Cullen is currently finishing her second term on the council; Laura Smith and David Stottlemyre are both finishing out their first.
The incumbents’ respective terms were actually cut short by virtue of the city consolidating its Municipal Election (usually held in March) with the county’s General Election (always held in November) – a move approved by the council earlier this year as a cost-saving measure. The consolidation shaved four months off the council members’ terms.
The top three vote-getters on Nov. 6 will be elected to the three available council seats.
Only registered voters within the City of Bishop will be deciding the outcome of the race.
In the interest of helping voters prepare for the upcoming Nov. 6 General Election, The Inyo Register has again asked the City Council candidates a series of questions that will hopefully lead to clarification on certain issues and provide additional insight into their goals and motivations.
The candidates’ answers have been divided into two parts; the second part will appear in Tuesday’s edition. As with the other installments in this series, the candidates’ answers appear verbatim and in order chosen by drawing.
1.) What will be (or are) the most difficult aspects of actually doing the job of City Council member?
Susan Cullen: Municipalities across the nation are facing tough economic times. It is the City Council’s responsibility to maintain our vital city services, promote economic development, show fiscal responsibility and replace our aging infrastructure. The challenge we face is creating a balanced budget to maintain the services that the City of Bishop offers. The past few years have been a challenge but with our great staff cutting their budgets, we have been able to maintain our level of services and even added many services in the Community Services Department. The city has been able to do more with less.
Slowly the Cottonwood Plaza is coming back to life. This is an opportunity for the city to work with the Chamber of Commerce to attract new businesses and an opportunity for growth for our unique city.
Serving on the City Council is a full-time commitment. We do meet twice a month but I feel the public does not realize that we also serve on many city-appointed committees. I am currently on the board of IMACA, LTC, LAFCO, Indian Gaming Commission, Desert Mountain Division of the League of California Cities. I have also served on the boards of IMAAA, Inyo Council of the Arts, ESTA and the Housing Action Committee. These committees/boards help us to see the needs of our community.
Patricia Gardner: The most difficult job of a City Council member is to work within the state mandate system. Programs are mandated and sometimes fully or partially funded for a specified time frame. The funding is later discontinued, but the programs are still mandated and must be funded from the city budget. This can happen even mid-year or at any time, which disrupts a carefully prepared and balanced budget.
David Stottlemyre: As council members, our job is to make policy decisions, adopt budgets and legislate. With this in mind, one of the greatest challenges for any City Council member is resisting the temptation to micro-manage our department heads. We’ve been very cautious when recruiting our employees, and searching for the best talent available. We do this because our department heads must manage our city, coordinating the day-to-day activities with respect to the policies set by the City Council.
Another challenge facing the council for the next several years is the city budget. We are adjusting to a “new norm,” a financial re-alignment and it is more important now than ever before that we have council members who understand the budget and the budget process. I have this experience. I want to insure that our city remains solvent and can continue to provide the excellent programs and services that make our community so unique. The effects of a struggling economy dictate that we now move forward with less. Let’s move forward together!
Laura Smith: Our local, state and national economies contribute to the overall challenge of budgeting and planning. The City of Bishop has a devoted and talented group of employees who work very well with the City Council. We have been able to meet the challenge of keeping excellent services and activities while trimming our overall budgets. We even found creative ways to add to the city’s overall services!
The City Council just recently spent much time and effort carefully putting together a fair and responsible contract with each one of the city’s employee groups. There were some issues that came along the way, and in the end both sides have come to equitable agreements.
One of the tasks I took on after being elected to the City Council was to promote more citizen involvement with council meetings and other city activities. Happily, we have seen a large increase in citizen participation. Part of this success has been accomplished with outreaches like “Council on Campus” at Bishop High School and many special community appearances at council meetings. Also well-received were my “Coffee With the Mayor” sessions where many residents were able to share concerns and great ideas in a comfortable setting.
Keith Glidewell: Without the benefit of hindsight, I anticipate that budgeting time and being thorough in executing the abundance of City Council member duties can, on occasion, be difficult on top of having a busy full-time job. For example, reading (and understanding) the binders of materials from the various related committees and following through with the multitude of necessary research, participation and oversight tasks can be challenging, but a challenge that I look forward to! While there is always more a City Council member could do in any given task, I feel that persistence and consistency is the key to making efficient work of the homework and reading that comes with the position of City Council member.
2.) Is there a way for the City of Bishop to encourage or even enforce business practices that promote a healthy downtown commercial district (i.e., attractive storefronts; cleaner lots; more reasonable, Recession-era lease rates; shared parking lots; etc.) without trampling on business owners’ rights to free enterprise?
Cullen: The City of Bishop has always encouraged businesses and residential areas to strive for more beautification. The City of Bishop has in place a Beautification Program and acknowledges businesses and residents on improvements they have done to their property. Years ago the city received a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to improve storefronts. Several businesses took advantage of this funding. We are always looking for opportunities for additional funding for the betterment of our community.
As we upgrade our streets, the city is planting trees as part of all projects. The upcoming Warren Street project will include trees, benches and attractive street lights.
Gardner: I will always be willing to listen to ideas for improving the business atmosphere of the city. As a city government, there are zoning requirements, building codes and restrictions for safety that usually need to be followed. There have been incentives for storefront remodeling in the past. That was a popular program. The city does keep track of lots that are not maintained and issues warnings and citations if necessary to keep our town looking clean. Vacant storefronts are unfortunately a common sight in all cities with the current economic downturn. I am not in favor of the city establishing rental rates for commercial property. I don’t feel that it is desirable to have the federal, state or city governments dictate too much of how a business is conducted.
Stottlemyre: The city has promoted a healthy commercial district by making low interest loans available to businesses for the purpose of “Storefront Revitalization.” The money for this program came to us from the Community Block Development Grant. This program has been very successful in making the downtown area more attractive. My understanding is that this program ran out of money, but we are always seeking new ways to help our downtown merchants with beautification projects.
Using our safety code, the city has managed to gain cooperation from other property owners to keep their properties clean. Our most recent information from the new owners of the Cottonwood Plaza is that they are moving forward with their plans to improve their space.
The old Kmart property has been maintained by the owners. This is evidenced by the upkeep of the large parking lot, as well as the landscaping surrounding the area. It is in the owners’ best interest to keep these properties attractive if they want to sell or lease them.
Smith: It is to the benefit of all our citizens, business owners and visitors that we continually promote a healthy downtown commercial district. The city has used a variety of promotions and activities including a successful Main Street improvement program and the Retail Coach analysis. Additionally, the City of Bishop’s planning and permit fees offset only a portion of the cost of those documents, and remain some of the lowest of any other city small or large. Along with these low fees comes the excellent service the city provides to residents and businesses. Applicants receive one-on-one support from city staff from start to finish.
Government has to be careful it does not unduly intrude into private business; however staff has found success at times by applying gentle pressure when needed. The city does have authority over anything involving public safety.
I have spent much time in collaborative efforts with the Bishop Chamber of Commerce, private businesses and many local agencies in promoting healthy commerce. A few of these efforts include volunteering during Mule Days, the California High School Rodeo Finals, Chamber of Commerce outreaches and Inyo Council for the Arts activities such as Fabulous Fridays and the Millpond Music Festival.
Glidewell: I believe that business people have a vested interest in determining and pursuing favorable business practices of their own accord, as staying in business is the fundamental goal of any business entity. As such, I am not particularly in favor of enforced business practices that mandate business people to conduct business or places of business in one way or the other. Meaning I think that the marketplace, and a business’ subsequent adaptations or resistance to it, should and will determine sound and healthy business practices where any failures or successes are their own.
Where problems or unhealthy business practices occur, I believe that the City Council’s role is to be proactive in facilitating and promoting dialogue between businesses, citizens, organizations and government departments. Through diplomacy and communication (before enforcement and lawmaking), I think City Council members may work collaboratively and cooperatively with business people in finding solutions to business problems and concerns.
On the topic of business promotion and health, I believe the City Council’s role is to approach the business community in an effort to learn and understand what their needs, concerns and ideas are, after which we must work consistently and seriously in a collaborative effort to turn ideas into on-the-ground realities.
3.) What leadership role(s) have you played locally with community and/or volunteer organizations, for how long, and what accomplishments can you point to as a result of your participation in the community and/or volunteer organization(s)?
Cullen: I have a strong commitment to our community. I have been a past president of the Bishop Sunrise Rotary Club. During which time we partnered with the City of Bishop and a local Eagle Scout to build a community garden for the Bishop Sunrise Mobile Home Park residents, helped to raise funds for the City Park Arboretum, laid pavers, painted the gazebo in the City Park and we also partnered with Altrusa, Owens Valley Contractors Association and other community members to help with improvements to the Girl Scout Building.
As a Laws Railroad board member, I have coordinated the annual Good Ole Days event, the annual Benefit Concert and the LOCOmotive Geocache event. These events bring visitors from outside our area.
Gardner: I was a member of the Bishop Union Elementary School Board for 15 years, from 1990 to 2005. During that time we dealt with many budgetary issues. When I came onto that board there was an unfunded liability of over $1 million in retirement costs. That funding became a priority for our board to prevent budgetary shortfalls in the future. I believe that living within your means is as important for a city as it is for a family. I have served as a volunteer board member for Ombudsman/Advocacy Services of Inyo/Mono for 22 years and dealt with yearly budgets, hiring of directors and fundraising to cover budget shortfalls due to state cuts. As Bronco Booster president and Jr. Women’s Improvement Club president, I worked cooperatively with the city, schools and local and state agencies and organizations to bring activities and programs to our area in the 1990s.
Stottlemyre: With regards to leadership roles in our community, I’ve been very active. Since March of 2009 I’ve enjoyed the rewarding experience of being a council member, and currently your mayor. I am the chair of the Eastern Sierra Council of Governments (ESCOG), the vice-chairman of the Eastern Sierra Transit Authority (ESTA), the city’s representative to the Bishop Airport Task Force, the City/Rural Fire District liaison and the alternate representative to the Indian Gaming Local Community Benefit Committee (IGLCBD). Additionally, I am a member of the Elks, the Bishop Chamber of Commerce and the vice-commander of the American Legion Post 118.
I’ve participated in numerous local organizations activities in addition to the positions I’ve named above. Some of these are: BUHS Boosters; Everest Challenge; VFW breakfasts; VFW Thanksgiving dinner program; American Legion Boys State selection program; CHSRA; Mule Days; and others.
All of these activities are important to our community and it has been my pleasure and honor to be a part of them. I am especially proud of two programs that are relatively new. The first is this City Council’s “Council on Campus.” In 2011 in an attempt to expose local government to our students, we held a council meeting on campus. This was so successful that we are doing it again this year.
Finally, I established the “City Council Scholarship.” This scholarship was established for three important reasons: 1) It introduces students to the way city government works; 2) It exposes students to the various opportunities for them to become involved in the community; and 3) It is an investment in our youth, and will prepare them to give back and engage in our community as adults.
Several of our local businesses have helped with the funding of this program. This will be the third year for this program, and I only see it getting better.
Smith: My leadership roles in our community include being a current City Council member and former mayor, current Inyo Council for the Arts president, one of the original First 5 Commissioners, Children’s Services coordinator, current Local Transportation commissioner, former member of the Toiyabe Health Advisory Council, Child Care Council coordinator, Senior Programs board member, and a life-long career as a registered nurse in our local hospitals as well as a credentialed teacher for many local adults and children.
Because of my love of people I enjoy the following volunteer activities. Currently I am a supervisor for the Soup Kitchen, an American Red Cross volunteer and CPR/First Aid instructor, a Care Center volunteer and therapy dog handler, as well as time spent volunteering for Mule Days, Little League, Youth Football, Chamber of Commerce, the Booster Club, Teen Youth Group leader, Tri-County Fair, the Community Garden, and a wide-variety of fundraising events.
All of these activities help to promote a better quality of life for the people I love to serve. As Winston Churchill once said, “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.”
Glidewell: My primary leadership interests and efforts have been in the domain of education, where I have worked with a whole range of ages, grades and academic subjects over the past five years. My professional and personal objectives have been to try to affect positive changes in our institutions and practices as a whole, where I might more effectively and sustainably assist those who have been disenfranchised or are in danger of becoming so. This kind of community effort is slow going and not altogether as visible as other volunteer or community efforts, but highly relevant nonetheless. My work with various students whom I have tried to help find direction and hopefully taught them something, whether about algebra, botany or themselves, stands out as some of my most valuable contributions. I look forward to being able to serve my community in a more public forum through the City Council, as it is a great instrument through which I will be able to connect to more people and hopefully play a greater role in public service work.