Seven of eight candidates looking to fill three seats on the Lake Elsinore City Council showed up at Tuscany Hills Recreation Center Thursday night to make their cases as to why they want to serve the community.
The nearly two-hour long Candidates Forum hosted by the nonpartisan Lake Elsinore Citizens Committee gave voters a chance to hear the candidates talk about their qualifications and their perspectives on issues facing residents.
Nearly 60 people turned out to watch the forum that was moderated by Viet Tran, region manager for Southern California Edison.
Between opening and closing statements, Tran delivered six questions to the candidates; each candidate got a two-minute timed-opportunity to respond.
The seven candidates onhand Thursday night were: City Council incumbents Bob Magee and Peter Weber; Jerry Carlos; Natasha Johnson; Steve Manos; Lake Elsinore Planning Commissioner Rick Morsch; and Craig Turner.
Candidate William Park did not respond to repeated invitations to participate in Thursday’s forum, said Donna Franson, who spearheads the Lake Elsinore Citizens Committee.
Below is the gist of each question posed by Tran along with candidates’ answers listed in order of their turn to respond during the forum (the questions were submitted by the community prior to Thursday night’s event):
1. Given that three city council seats are on the Nov. 6 ballot, should existing council members wait until after Election Day and allow the new council to hire a permanent city manager? (Currently, Tom Evans serves as “interim” city manager. He was appointed to the position earlier this year after city manager Bob Brady was fired by the council in a 3-2 vote.)
Peter Weber: No. “There’s no reason to wait for the new council to be elected.” Offered that several quality city manager candidates are currently being looked at. Weber voted in favor of firing city manager Bob Brady.
Craig Turner: No. “It’s not something we want to do.” Stated that if the new council is not happy with the hiring decision, they can address it later.
Rick Morsch: Expressed confidence in the current council’s ability to select a new city manager, but stressed council members must set forth realistic expectations, goals and objectives for the new hire. Morsch showed support for former city manager Bob Brady.
Steve Manos: Offered that before or after Election Day is fine, provided it’s the right person for the job.
Bob Magee: Wait until after the election. Voted against Bob Brady’s firing, but said Tom Evans is “a star” and would like to see him fill the position on a permanent basis. Will not vote in favor of a big severance package for the next city manager.
Natasha Johnson: Wait until after the election. Opposed Bob Brady’s firing.
Jerry Carlos: Wait until after the election. Otherwise, “It’s a recipe for disaster.”
2. Should Lake Elsinore taxpayers continue subsidizing the cost of providing fire protection services for the City of Canyon Lake?
Jerry Carlos: Expressed a desire to see greater cooperation between the two cities.
Natasha Johnson: Not in favor of subsidizing, and believes that if Lake Elsinore tax dollars continue to be used, Canyon Lake must offer something in return.
Bob Magee: Contends 40 percent of all calls for service into Station #94 in Canyon Hills are for Canyon Lake. “Lake Elsinore has become a donor community.” Not in favor of subsidizing and believes the county system must be revamped to ensure more equitable cost sharing for fire protection services.
Steve Manos: “What we have is completely unfair,” but careful negotiation with the county is important.
Rick Morsch: It’s “totally unfair,” but “I think a careful formula [of cost sharing] can be worked out.”
Craig Turner: Unfair. Lake Elsinore should not pay.
Peter Weber: Canyon Lake doesn’t have the money to pay for fire services, so something has to be worked out.
3. How does Lake Elsinore make up for the loss of RDA money historically designated for use in blighted areas?
Peter Weber: Rely on the private sector to partner with the city, but first clean up Lake Elsinore in order to attract suitors.
Craig Turner: Rely on the power of volunteers. “Let’s harness them.”
Rick Morsch: We need capital venture to energize our community. “We don’t need RDA.” Believes that with rebranding and cleaning up of Lake Elsinore’s image, new businesses and industries will come. “People don’t want to be left out.”
Steve Manos: Glad to see RDAs go. Now is the time to look for private partnerships and “begin engaging” and setting goals to clean up the city.
Bob Magee: RDA had been abused statewide, but the money is missed in Lake Elsinore. Projects like Pottery Court affordable housing near downtown and the La Laguna Resort were built on Magee’s watch using RDA money. “Our city put the money back into the community.”
Natasha Johnson: Look to private money to fund key projects. City must establish its niche industry and then brand it. Simultaneously the city must improve its appearance and its reputation.
Jerry Carlos: Work with outside groups; build relationships.
4. Do you support extreme sports for Lake Elsinore, even if it means increased traffic, noise, etc.?
Steve Manos: Yes. “I believe we should continue.”
Rick Morsch: Exploit it to the max, but be cautious moving forward to ensure that quality of life in the community is not forsaken for the “almighty dollar.” Do the research to mitigate any negative impacts on the community.
Craig Turner: Supports extreme sports in the community but stressed things can’t be done “willy nilly." "We can’t be blowing out the neighbors.”
Peter Weber: Maximize the potential of extreme sports for Lake Elsinore but monitor the trade-off by quantifying how much revenue is generated for the city by these events.
Jerry Carlos: Supports extreme sports but would like to see more family friendly events. Agrees the city should quantify the monetary benefits of extreme sports in Lake Elsinore.
Natasha Johnson: “Absolutely” supports extreme sports for Lake Elsinore. “We have to support it full force,” but cautioned that guidelines must be established and enforced.
Bob Magee: Supports. “This is what we are in Lake Elsinore.” Extreme sports are part of the city’s history. Keep the events safe and family friendly.
5. Do you support the city’s moratorium on medical marijuana?
Rick Morsch: Yes. Has compassion for patients who benefit from medical marijuana, but doesn’t think dispensaries/co-ops are a good thing for Lake Elsinore. “I see no positive that can come from [them.]”
Craig Turner: Supports the moratorium. Believes legal drugs should be dispensed through a traditional pharmacy.
Peter Weber: Supports the moratorium. Believes dispensaries/co-ops contribute to illegal activity and that legal drugs should be obtained with a licensed doctor’s prescription via a traditional pharmacy.
Jerry Carlos: As a retired deputy, believes in following the letter of the law. Will follow whatever the courts decide on the issue.
Natasha Johnson: Supports the moratorium. “We have to get it away from our children.”
Bob Magee: Voted in favor of the moratorium as a city council member.
Steve Manos: Pointed out the legal uncertainty surrounding medical marijuana, and does not support the idea of co-ops or dispensaries in Lake Elsinore. However, for patients with legitimate need and a valid doctor’s prescription, feels there is a moral issue with preventing access to the drug.
6. Should the city continue to give tax dollars to local non-profits?
Craig Turner: “It behooves the city to provide for certain programs.” Money gets redistributed back into the community when it’s carefully allocated to certain causes. “I have no issue with it.”
Peter Weber: Supports the city’s current annual allocation of monies for local worthy causes.
Jerry Carlos: “If we can afford it and the residents want us to do it, then yes.”
Natasha Johnson: Yes.
Bob Magee: Yes. “It’s humanity here.”
Steve Manos: Yes
Rick Morsch: Yes, but stressed that recipient non-profits should be held accountable to show how taxpayer money is being used.
The next Lake Elsinore City Council Candidates Forum is scheduled Oct. 11. Click here for more information.