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Candidates wooing anti-incumbent Tea Party fervor

Election 2010
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Candidates for the Rocklin City Council want local Tea Party votes. Eight candidates are running for one of two open seats. Teacher and small business owner Gary Lane was one of seven candidates for council who spoke at a Tea Party candidate forum last Wednesday night at Sunset Whitney Country Club. Candidates from Roseville and the state offices also participated. Lane thinks the popularity of the Tea Party movement will help grass-root candidates like himself. “It is good to get their vote,” Lane said. “In this particular election, I think the Tea Party is very anti-incumbent.” Lane said he’s never been to a city council meeting because “they’re boring,” but said he would be a part of the council because of his commitment to the community. Lane proposed term limits for city council members, salary caps for city workers and more intelligent growth plans for the city. Independent candidate Michael Murphy donned a red Tea Party baseball cap being sold at the forum for his speech to the group. Then, without naming names, he condemned candidates who sell out to special interests and said “beware of endorsements.” He said he doesn’t support a downtown plan because “the city doesn’t have the money, at least not in my lifetime,” Murphy said. Murphy vowed not to raise fees and taxes and decried Rocklin’s business licensing fees as “a tax.” Microelectronics Engineer Aman Singh Gahoonia jumped on the anti-incumbent message by pointing out at the forum that he does not accept endorsements and had “fresh ideas” when it came to a pay plan for the new city manager, creating jobs and his vision for downtown Rocklin. “We need to get an incentives plan (for new business),” Gahoonia told them. He proposed a two-year, gross receipt tax holiday for new businesses in Rocklin and he wants the city to hire a lobbyist to influence the state to relocate state offices to Rocklin. Gahoonia said he was against early retirement buyouts and exorbitant unused sick and vacation leave payouts for city workers and the city manager’s pay should be performance based at $125,000 plus a performance bonus of $25,000. During the forum, Rocklin Recreation Commissioner Diana Ruslin told voters she wants to stop tax increases, demand balanced budgets and spend wisely by increasing public safety staffing, and maintain parks and recreation programs. “We need to reach out to every business considering expansion or relocation and remove any obstacles they face,” Ruslin said. Ruslin listed the positions she holds in various nonprofit educational organizations and endorsements. “In the last two years I’ve attended nearly every city council meeting,” Ruslin said. “I have committed my time to understand the problems facing the city.” She said she would work with the other council members to advance her ideas. Ruslin impressed Tea Party supporter and undecided voter Linda Chappelear with her commitment, but was discouraged by her connection to the status quo. “She is endorsed by three of the council members who are already there,” Chappelear said. “Which makes me think, another good ol’ boy. That kind of scares me.” However, Chappelear was turned off by what she called a “negative attack” from small business man Janda, directed at Ruslin, who called her an establishment candidate. “Mr. Klang (prior to the forum) has described me as part of the establishment,” Janda said. “He’s the only one in town that believes that. Before I entered the race, the establishment had selected their candidate – Diana Ruslin.” Ruslin disagreed with Janda’s statement. “I am not the ‘establishment candidate,’ but I  am established in the community,” Ruslin said.  “I have a long, successful record of community service.  I feel my established record and commitment makes me the most viable candidate for the Rocklin City Council.” Janda listed his 13 years experience as a businessman and said he was a lifelong California Republican and volunteers with his children’s school, sports teams and his church. Janda rallied against the city’s double dipping program and blamed the need to rehire retired annuitants as a lack of succession planning. “It’s time a fresh approach and a business person’s perspective on the council,” Janda said. He said the council needs to change its fees to support and grow business, avoid tax increases and support public safety. For undecided voter Kevin Rhoades, Janda’s attack on Ruslin seemed to work for Janda as he said he was discouraged to vote for her. Rhoades said he also liked Business Development Manager Klang’s views on fiscal responsibility and calling out the city on recent financial controversies. “Our city council has made some very poor decisions,” Klang told the voters. “People who have heard about the pension spiking and the $100,000 part-time salaries have told me that the city council has become arrogant and has a disregard for the voters.” Klang compared Rocklin to the city of Bell that recently had its mayor, city manager and city council members arrested and indicted for corruption associated with their own city salaries. Klang said his experience supporting F-16 programs at the Pentagon and his tenure as a Rocklin Unified School Board member shows he can safeguard taxpayers’ money. “Let’s not forget the city council spent a million dollars on the fake granite along I-80 and Rocklin Road,” Klang said. Klang said he doesn’t accept endorsements and challenged voters to figure out who the establishment candidates are and not vote for them. Right now, the only incumbent in the race is Scott Yuill who is currently serving as the mayor, a largely ceremonial appointed position on the council. Yuill played up the significant accomplishments of the city during his four years on the council while trying to distance himself from the pack by saying he wasn’t popular, in fact “an outsider” when he started on the city council, which he called “the old guard as it’s referred to,” Yuill said. “I voted against the cable franchise fee increase, voted against the crash tax,” Yuill said. “I had nothing to do with the fake rocks – that was well before I was on the council.” Yuill pointed out that some city employees work out of modular buildings and said the city has “no waste here.” Yuill promoted his credentials as a small business owner who employs workers in Rocklin and is committed to the city’s success. Yuill addressed the financial controversies over city manager compensation, city worker pensions, leave cash-outs. “I completely understand,” Yuill said. “Fixing it is going to take some time.” He wants pension reform, supports public safety and to grow business. He reminded voters that cities like Lincoln are hurting, while Rocklin has cash reserves in a bad economy. Chappelear and Rhoades said now that they have met the candidates, they’ll go do research on them. Candidate Mike Rose did not attend the forum. The election is Nov 2.