To the editor:
I wanted to hit on a few points that we did not have enough time for at the candidate forum.
Lou Melendez said that the city spent $450,000 on a Geographic Information System. The city actually spent $161,000. Mr. Melendez is counting the same budget item more than once. There were years when we had put money in the budget for the item but we ended up putting off the expense. It appears several times, but we really only bought it once. This has been explained to Mr. Melendez before.
The GIS is a huge asset to the city. Before, we were making maps with colored pencils. The GIS is a money saver in the long run because it makes our staff more efficient. It also allows us to serve our residents and businesses more effectively.
Mr. Melendez also made the claim that we pay “exorbitant” sanitation fees. In his ballot statement, he said sanitation and wastewater fees have “skyrocketed” 243 percent. Notice he didn’t say since when. The increase he refers to has been since 1997. During the same period, the price of milk and many other basic products has gone up the same amount.
We pay about as much in sewer fees as other cities. We have a Sanitation District and it must pay for itself without drawing the money from other places. It is not a “hidden tax,” as Mr. Melendez claims. It is a bill that users pay. What people pay for sewers reflects the cost of the sewer system. I do think we should continue to look for ways to lower the costs.
I could give you more examples of where Mr. Melendez is making statements that are mistaken, out of context, or unrealistic. Readers need to know that our city staff has tried to explain these items, and other items, to Mr. Melendez. Our Mayor has given detailed responses to many of the concerns he mentioned, on behalf of the Council.
I do not doubt that Mr. Melendez has some good ideas, and we should listen. If Mr. Melendez wants to make progress with his ideas, he needs to also be listening.
I also want to clarify my position in regard to the Little League team. As I said at the most recent City Council meeting, I believe the city can support the team if we do it in the right way. We do have a track record of supporting community groups. The key is to keep in line with our stated objectives as a city. For example, we can help them maintain the fields they use, which actually belong to the city, as long as those fields are for public use.
Also, we can continue to help organize community events, such as the parade this summer, to honor organizations that serve our youth. This type of activity raises their profile and helps them raise money from local organizations, individuals and businesses.
When it comes down to it, I am willing to bet the voters will want leaders who have experience making realistic budget choices. In my 10 years on the school board and four years as a council member, I have worked hard to make the wisest choices possible.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to add to what I said at the forum.
Lemon Grove City Council member