Candidate answers questions on a variety of topics
Barry Levinson will try for a second attempt to win a seat on the Fullerton City Council after placing fifth in the 2010 election. He is running for Pat McKinley's seat. An outspoken critic of the leadership of recall targets McKinley, F. Richard Jones, Don Bankhead, he has earned the support of State Assemblyman Chris Norby, O.C. Supervisor Shawn Nelson and Fullerton City Councilman Bruce Whitaker.
What are your thoughts on Coyote Hills?
I have been strongly in support of making it a park and nature preserve. I collected signatures to ensure that the referendum question goes before the people of this city next November 2012. As much as I want the open land to become a park, the council going forward will not have an active role! The people will vote and then the losing side will probably go back to court to argue their respective rights. Anyone who says that as a council member, we will have real power and control over this issue is not being forthright with the public.
What should be the future of the Fullerton Airport?
I believe that having this facility is a great plus for Fullerton and the surrounding areas. I would be in favor of researching how the existing airport could be used to further the economic expansion of Fullerton. I would certainly welcome any ideas on this subject from the public.
How do you feel about Redevelopment Zones?
As of February 1, the State of California has disbanded all California Redevelopment Agencies. This includes the Fullerton RDA! Thank goodness. No more crony capitalism. No more allowing the council to pick winners and losers. That is the job of the free market system, not McKinley, Bankhead and Jones. The city and its General Fund will have at its disposal an additional 2.5 million dollars in tax revenue directly attributable to the demise of our redevelopment agency. Maybe now the city can start taking care of things such as paving our streets, replacing pipes, etc.
What should be done to fix the city's Employee Pension problems?
First and foremost, stop electing former and current city employees to negotiate union salaries and benefits. The Stanford Research Group on Public Policy just estimated that the unfunded liabilities for Fullerton's pensions is approximately 500 million dollars. This is approximately 7.5 times the current yearly General Fund budget amount. I have spoken before the council on many occasions spelling out in great detail what must be done to start getting this massive problem under control. It is clear that I have to become a council member to actually be able to put these ideas into practice.
Are you for or against term limits? Why?
When I ran in 2010 for the very first time, I campaigned on the merits of instituting term limits. It should have been called the "Don Bankhead stayed too long amendment." Seriously, if we had only honorable men and women serving the public, these term limits laws would not be necessary for they would know when it was time to leave public office. Since some of these people refuse to leave gracefully, the next best thing is to force them out via term limit legislation.
How do you see Fullerton's large education community (CSUF, Fullerton College, Western State) working in a relationship with City Council?
I am not aware of any significant relationships that exist now between the colleges and the city. Again, just like the airport, we the city and the public should put our combined heads together to come up with some innovative ways that would be of mutually beneficial to both the colleges and city.With 35+ restaurant and bars in downtown Fullerton, do you feel it is too much or good for the city revenue? What solutions would you propose?
The city itself conducted a study on this very topic and found that the bars and restaurants ended up costing the city over one million dollars more in police overtime costs than it generated in additional revenue for the city. This negative imbalance cannot continue, although the current council has refused to deal with this obvious safety and economic issue.What is your philosophy on the Police Department? Community Policing? Gang Prevention?
I believe that having more presence from the police department in the community is a positive first step in improving community police relations. However, without a more involved council and city manager, it will be difficult if not impossible to really know whether such a plan is effective or not. No oversight leads to little or no knowledge about what is truly taking place. How did I come to this conclusion? All I had to do was look at the circumstances surrounding the Kelly Thomas murder as told by the O.C. District Attorney. All I had to do was go over Officer Rincon's actions of pushing young women into his squad car only to be (allegedly) sexually assaulted by him. I hope you get this disturbing picture.What is your philosophy on development and planning in general? What building projects would you like to get behind?
My philosophy on city spending is simple: We must stop spending more than we take in. This means getting unfunded pensions and retiree medical costs under control. It means having a city that is run efficiently with internal controls and the proper oversight by its city manager. I think it would be totally irresponsible to start a new major building spree now with the city in such dire financial situation. The only monies we should be expending now is to fix our infrastructure. I want to see fixing our dilapidated streets and our crumbling sewers and pipes to be our first major undertaking in the near future. When we get our economic house in order and are well on our way to solving the crumbling infrastructure problems then it will be the appropriate time to consider other worthwhile building projects. As a city we are worse than broke. We have an estimated 500 to 600 million dollar shortfall staring at us due to the unfunded pension, unfunded retiree medical care, and soon to be owed tens of millions of dollars in police-related lawsuits. These dire problems must be placed at the feet of those in charge during this time. I give you Councilman Bankhead, (25 years), Councilman Jones (16 years) and Councilman McKinley (16 years police chief and 2 years councilman).
Are you for or against the Mayor rotation formula? If not, how would you change it?
What I was against was having the council vote for a rotation policy and then the very next year they totally ignored those same guidelines. Rules are never worth the paper they are printed on if the people in charge feel that they can break those rules arbitrarily. That was one of the very first things that newly elected Pat McKinley did when he placed a motion to have Don Bankhead be the next Mayor Pro Tem, when by the guidelines they set it was supposed to go to Council member Sharon Quirk Silva. We now know that Pat McKinley has a hard time following rules and policy even when they emanate from his old unit, the Police Department.
Do you think the overnight parking restriction is effective or archaic? What is your solution?
I believe that in neighborhoods where there are plenty of residential parking places, it makes perfect sense to have an overnight restriction. The obvious exception is those neighborhoods where the residents do not have that luxury. I do not have a ready solution to this problem but it does deserve the council's attention going forward.
How will you encourage more businesses to come to Fullerton?
First, by demonstrating by the actions of our council and the behavior of all our police men and women that Fullerton is a city of laws to be respected and followed by all.
Second, I have heard some isolated but disturbing stories of how new businesses coming into Fullerton were poorly treated by the city and its staff. These stories must not be disregarded by the city council members.
We must as a council (and I certainly pledge to do so, individually) learn about the various business permitting processes and then compare them to other cities best practices to ensure we as a city are a model for those best practices going forward. We owe it to those businesses wanting to make Fullerton their new home; we owe it to all existing businesses when they need our services; and we owe it to the Fullerton taxpayers to do everything possible to increase business and the associated tax revenues it will bring to the city.
Do you think decisions at the City Council level can improve or hurt the health of the community? And if so, how will you go about implementing your ideas of a healthy community philosophy?
Absolutely, they can both help or hurt the economic and moral health of this city. We have just witnessed in great sorrowful detail how a renegade police chief can almost single-handedly bring the moral, legal and economic foundations of a city to its knees. On the other hand, good government which demonstrates to the business community that we are a model city for new business and for old businesses to expand will help the health of this community greatly.
When I am sworn in after the June 5th election, we should discuss the formation of a new task force of local business leaders and other knowledgeable citizens to come up with workable solutions to get this city economic engine moving forward again. We must not and we cannot afford to just sit around, hoping that any improvement in the Southern Californian economy would raise our economic boat as well. This approach is too little too late.
What are your ideas to improve the Downtown area further and do you feel Downtown is safe?
Obviously, downtown was not safe for Kelly Thomas. Downtown was not safe for all the women who came forward to accuse Officer Rincon of sexual abuse while on duty. Downtown is not safe when bar fights routinely break out on weekends. These problems are serious. Studies done have shown these bar fight issues have cost the city upwards of one million dollars in overtime pay to cover this area. I believe we must look into ways to greatly reduce the drunken brawls between Fullerton bar patrons. We should look into ways to have both the bar establishments as well as those patrons guilty of these unlawful bar fights to have to pay the brunt of these additional city costs. This should help reduce these problems. Then we can safely encourage families to visit downtown Fullerton because we know they will have a good experience. Again, the silence about this issue by Councilmen McKinley, Bankhead and Jones has been deafening.
What are your ideas to cut city costs and increase city revenues?
First review the first 14 questions, and if you follow my common-sense solutions, we will be on our way to both increasing revenue and decreasing costs at the same time.