On September 20, the Pleasanton Weekly, Livermore Chamber of Commerce and Livermore Indivisible sponsored a Forum for Livermore mayoral candidates to discuss why they should be elected. John Marchand, Livermore’s current mayor, and contender Joshua Laine participated. As reported last week, council candidates were also interviewed.

In his opening remarks, Marchand stated, “I want to keep Livermore a great place to live, to play and a place that we will be proud for our children and grandchildren to inherit.” He continued, “I understand how important commitment is, whether in relationships or in government. Commitment takes time and effort.” He pointed out that he served on 29 different commissions, which through his efforts, effectively brought back millions of dollars to Livermore. “As your mayor, keeping you and your family safe is one of my top priorities.”

Laine noted, “My focus is to hold government accountable, be more business friendly and focus on our schools and our quality of life.” We need to lower taxes, and redo our services, he said. We need to be more lenient toward our Livermore citizens. Other topics that need attention include teacher salaries and why the fire department is not getting the tools they need. He expressed concern regarding the safety of citizens, and how to make life better.

In the first question from the audience, candidates were asked whether the Livermore council’s downtown plan meets the expectations of the public, as well as their thoughts on the referendum to overturn it.

Laine stated that he supported the City council’s plan, but found it a little disturbing that only approximately 2000 people were involved in “voting” on it in the city’s Outreach Process. He noted that the city council has received a lot of flak from individuals and organizations. Councilmembers worked hard to get this plan through. He asserted that he would push it forward, get the parks done, get them built and get people down there to enjoy it. “We’re not going to make everybody happy.”

Marchand declared, “I absolutely support the downtown plan.” He added that the last three votes on the downtown plan were unanimous. We had competing priorities. Number 2 on the priority list was to maintain and protect Blacksmith Square and the downtown character. The location of the hotel was number 7 on the priority list. No one wanted a large hotel looming over Blacksmith Square. The only way to achieve those two conflicting priorities was to put the hotel on the east side of South Livermore Ave.”

He continued, “As far as the referendum, it is misplaced. It’s time to get this plan moving.”

Question two referred to Measure “U”, the Livermore Accountable and Affordable Healthcare Initiative.

According to Marchand, Measure U is also a horribly misplaced effort. “I absolutely oppose this.” He explained that the cost to set this up is one third of the library yearly budget, and that there are far better things we can put our money into. He explained that the rebates in Measure U do not go to the patients. They go back to the large, multibillion dollar out of State insurance companies. This would also inhibit new providers coming to Livermore and encourage those practitioners here to move out of Livermore. He said with emphasis, “It’s bad policy and I oppose it.”

Laine agreed with Mayor Marchand. “Government has no jurisdiction in that matter. It never should have been even legalized to put on the ballot.” He said that government should not be involved in Medicare.

Question three concerned traffic congestion and commuters cutting through the already crowded Livermore streets. The candidates were asked what they would do to alleviate the problems, and how they would facilitate getting BART to come to Livermore.

Laine replied, “First and foremost, hold BART accountable for the $455 million plus that Livermore citizens have paid into BART.” A public transportation entity should be privatized, he contended, although the government needs to supervise. “Take BART to court,” he concluded.

Disagreeing, Marchand said that those dollars have already been spent for the operation of BART. He reported that he is working now on creating a BART to ACE link to start moving people from the San Joaquin area to the jobs here in this Valley and the Silicon Valley.

In question three, the candidates were asked what new ideas they could bring to address homelessness in Livermore. Marchand responded that four years ago, he convened the first mayors’ summit on regional homelessness. At the time, he discussed the suggestion that the city hire the homeless and remarked that many of the homeless are already working. He also observed that many of the homeless are grappling with healthcare and mental health issues. Therefore, working would not be an option.

Marchand cited a poll that found that 90 per cent of the veterans were not receiving the benefits to which they were entitled. One of the initiatives in progress connects the homeless veterans to these services. The city is building affordable housing specifically for homeless veterans. According to Marchand, the city’s Vineyard-2 project will have wrap-around services to ensure people can be lifted out of poverty, lifted out of homelessness and stay out of homelessness.

Laine mentioned that a few years ago, the City of Livermore laid off approximately 100 people and never hired those people back. He asserted that the city’s first responsibility is to look out for the welfare of the people.

The next question addressed city pensions, whether they are underfunded.

We have a serious problem, Laine contended. We could be bankrupt by 2022. His solution was to go back to the private sectors and reestablish the 401Ks. He said that the push for the whole downtown was because the city needs the revenue, desperately.

Marchand countered, “No, we are not going to go bankrupt by 2022. We are making our annual contributions to maintain our pension benefits. We have set up a two-tiered structure that will ensure the long-term viability of our pension programs.”

In another question, candidates were asked whether the urban limit line should be changed, and more development in North Livermore encouraged.

Marchand reminded the audience that he was one of those who in 2002 created the urban boundary. “That is one of the things that makes Livermore the remarkable place that it is. We have focused on developing within the city versus outside to avoid sprawl.”

Laine stressed that he, too, was a supporter of the boundary. He wanted to revisit the general housing plan and slow it down a little bit.

Finally, candidates were asked whether they would condemn PACs who infuse large amounts of money into elections, although they are legally allowed to do so.

Laine began, “We’re not going to make everybody happy.” He continued, “As the mayor, I would have gotten hooked up with the Chief of Police and went over there and stopped those guys. If they are committing fraud, which is what those petitioners are doing, then we need to enforce the law.” He reminded the audience that Mayor Marchand indicated there were a lot of elements to weigh.

Marchand noted, “This is one of the things about free-speech. You may not like the speech, but we have to defend the people’s rights to free speech.”

In his closing comments, Laine declared, “The City of Livermore is being bullied by the state and county governments by raising taxes, and the whole housing mess and the transit mess. We need leadership right now, real leadership to reestablish the balance of law in this town. We need a strong city council that is going to defend our people and not divide us.”

Marchand concluded by saying, “We are here tonight because all of us have something in common; we love this remarkable community. In a citizens’ survey last year, 95% of the respondents stated that Livermore was a great place to live and raise a family. I have been honored to work with council and a dedicated City staff over the last six years as mayor to keep Livermore a great place to live.

“It is my goal to complete Livermorium plaza, celebrating the relationship between the labs, our city and the world. The number one priority in our budget is public safety.”

Marchand then described the downtown plan and Stockmen’s Park where people could gather and children play.

He mentioned working together to find creative ways to build more housing for seniors, veterans, teachers and first responders so they continue to live in the community. More service for the homeless and senior citizens were also important. He emphasized, “Good government is not a spectator sport; it requires personal engagement.”