Candidates vying for three open seats on the Lafayette City Council are voicing their support of a countywide $75-per-parcel tax designed to keep some fire stations from closing despite citing concerns about the district's long-term viability.
Candidates Robert Lobron, Tracy Reilly, Yolanda "Jolie" Vega and incumbent Vice Mayor Mike Anderson shared their opinions of Measure Q and other issues at a recent roundtable sponsored by the League of Women Voters and moderated by Contra Costa Times political reporter Lisa Vorderbrueggen. That roundtable will be broadcast on Central County Channel 26 beginning Friday. Candidate Mark Mitchell, a city planning commissioner, was unable to attend.
Carol Federighi and Carl Anduri are not seeking re-election.
Lobron, a finance executive on the Lafayette Parks, Trails and Recreation Commission, was the first candidate to share his thoughts on the measure. The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District has placed the tax on the Nov. 6 ballot in order to keep firefighters employed and its 28 stations open. Critics say the district should be focusing on making changes to their pension system and restructuring.
Lobron said he thinks it's very important that residents vote on the measure and cautioned that if it fails, the city "may need to find other means to ensure the same coverage of service."
Reilly, who is taking another stab at winning a council seat, was more direct about her assessment of the district's situation. Reilly is supporting the tax but has serious concerns about service. She cited Fire Chief Daryl Louder's statistic that 97 percent of calls received by the district are for medical emergencies, and said if the measure doesn't pass, ConFire needs to have "a serious discussion" about the delivery of service. "They also need to try to get their financial house in order," she said.
Vega offered a less critical view of the district. She said the tax isn't about raising salaries or benefits, but about continuing service. She explained that firefighters' duties extend beyond putting out blazes. "We need to stand up and say to them, 'Thank you for it, we support you, keep it up,'" she said.
Although he expressed his support, Vice Mayor Anderson was less than enthusiastic about the tax and said he was concerned about the district. "There's no long-term plan. There's no clear picture of how they're going to work their way out of this situation for the existing long term," he said.
Candidates debated other topics including the recently approved downtown specific plan, which sets guidelines for future growth but was sharply criticized by some residents. They also discussed state housing mandates and sized up police response to a recent spike in crimes, including prostitution and illegal fires.
In a candidate statement, Mitchell -- who was absent -- said that he has listened carefully to residents and consistently voted to protect neighborhoods, support senior housing and preserve hillsides and ridgelines in order to maintain the downtown's small-town character.
Candidates will be taking questions at a forum Thursday at the Lafayette Community Center, 500 St. Marys Road. School board candidates will also be on hand. The event begins at 7 p.m.
The roundtable will air on Central County Channel 26 at 8 p.m. Fridays beginning Oct. 5 and 8 p.m. Sundays beginning Oct. 7