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Council candidates square off at St. Mary’s

Business dominates forum for council hopefuls
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald correspondent
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The Rocklin historical community put together a forum Oct. 2 to find out where the City Council candidates stand on issues facing downtown development and the preservation of Rocklin’s past.

While history may have been the focus for organizers at Old St. Mary’s Chapel on Front Street, business was topic No. 1 for the candidates. Most of the candidates – Greg Janda, Dan DeFoe, Julie Millard-Stadel, Ken Broadway, Jack Lento-Edrich and Dave Butler – expressed the need for business development in the city as the most pressing need in the city right now.

“We’re in a chapel and I feel like I’m in a choir,” Butler said. “I agree we need to grow our economic base without raising taxes.”

He went on to suggest the city needs a retail recruiter to fill vacant business pads and needs to work on a more competitive fee structure and customer service, and the city needs an overall plan.

Incumbent George Magnuson said what the city needs most right now is his experience to get the city through the state budget cuts and tax grabs affecting the city.

“It’s going to be important to have someone with experience in there,” Magnuson said.

Downtown resident Michelle Lorenzo said she liked what both Butler and Magnuson had to say.

“Butler was well-read and very articulate. I appreciate Magnuson’s history. He’s got tenure and knows the ins and outs of what’s been going on over the years,” Lorenzo said.

For resident Smokey Bassett, who wore period clothes representing Joel Parker Whitney, candidate Janda’s experience in community volunteerism shined through.

“Greg Janda has been very, very involved with the community,” Bassett said. “People who are involved in the community impress me.”

As many of the candidates struggled to come up with solutions for the transportation needs of seniors, Butler got high marks for offering to ask seniors what they need before offering solutions that they may not need.

Gene Johnson, a member of the Rocklin Heritage Committee, which sponsored the event with the Placer County League of Women Voters, said he wanted to hear what the candidates could do for the historical community to support preservation efforts and revitalizing the downtown.

“The main thing I wanted to hear, and I did hear it, was that they will be looking to use the community (historical) resources and communicate with organizations as they make the decisions,” Johnson said. “It seems like that didn’t happen (with the council) in the past.” 

Last year the Heritage Committee threatened the city with possible litigation over its handling of the preservation of Big Gun Quarry – what is considered the last relic of Rocklin’s mining past. DeFoe was a member of the committee but resigned to run for council.

“The city should work with the community and listen to all the stakeholders to establish an identity and it should be centered on its heritage, coring and railroading past,” DeFoe asserted.

His focus on preservation and advocacy of the Big Gun Quarry resonated with some who attended, but not for longtime resident Ed Lawson, who came to the forum dressed as Abraham Lincoln.

“DeFoe, the professor, was very knowledgeable, but I didn’t like him,” Lawson said.

Many of the candidates expressed a need to partner with developers to save the quarry and revitalize downtown. Lawson said he is looking for candidates with new ideas, like Millard-Stadel and Butler.

“(Millard-Stadel) is new and she is ambitious. That is someone I’d like to see in there,” Lawson said.

Lawson thought Millard-Stadel was creative by suggesting that charging strip mall owners for vacant properties would encourage them to recruit businesses. Rocklinite John Booth, who is not a member of the Historical Society, favored DeFoe.

“Dan DeFoe stood out. He just has the right kind of vision for the city,” Booth said. “I think he’s done things for the city and he will carry on in that same manner.”

Historical Society member David Baker favored DeFoe because he would “bring balance” to the council, who he called “clones.”

“They all seem to be all the same people saying the same thing,” Baker said. “Dissenters are important for a democracy.”

Rocklin native and co-owner of the Ruhkala Monument Company Paul Ruhkala declared he was undecided.

“They need someone who can bend with the council and pay attention to what’s going on,” Ruhkala said. “All of them are compatible, right down the same alley. I’m undecided until I know them a little bit better.”

Candidate Wijaya Perera did not attend the forum. For past articles on the candidates, visit www.placerherald.com.