Election 2012: Magnuson seeks sixth term on council

Five-time mayor promoting his years of experience in local government
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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If Rocklin City Council member George Magnuson is re-elected on Nov. 6, he will be the council member with the most seniority. And that’s something he’s promoting during his campaign. “I’m supportive of new council members being elected to the council because they bring new ideas, but I am concerned that there is a potential in this election that we could have a majority of the council with no experience in local government,” Magnuson said. In fact, Magnuson is the only incumbent in the race for three open council seats. Long time council members Brett Storey and Peter Hill have chosen not to bow out. Magnuson was first elected 1991 and has served as mayor five times. “I try to watch what we have and be frugal and try to maintain the status quo in the city. The last few years have been tough because of the recession,” he said. Since 2007, the city has reduced its workforce with early retirements, layoffs and attrition – losing 77 full time employees. It now has 224 full time employees on the payroll. Magnuson said recessionary cuts like eliminating swim lessons were painful, but necessary. At the same time, he agrees with the current salaries being paid to Rocklin’s Police and Fire Chiefs. “We try to be competitive within the realm of other cities,” Magnuson said. He was involved in the hiring of the current City Manager, Rick Horst, who accepted a salary that was less than his predecessor. Magnuson applauds Horst for having a tough job and being frugal with the city’s funds. “He made some major (personnel) cuts; some I didn’t agree with. But he did what he said he was going to do,” Magnuson said. In just over a year, several department heads have left, including, the fire and police chiefs as well as the director of Parks and Recreation, director of Administration Services and Information Technology. “That’s one of the reason I wanted to stick around. I want to see how those replacements work out,” Magnuson said. “There is a lot of experience gone.” He defends the city’s controversial decision in 2010 to rehire retired annuitants, the so called double-dipping, which allowed senior city officials — like the former city manager and police chief — to retire and collect their pension through the California Public Employees’ Retirement System while collecting a part-time salary from the city. “It’s two different pools (of money) and it’s hard for people to understand that,” Magnuson said. “If they came back to work for us part time, we’re not going to have to pay for the retirement or health benefits. We get the people at a much reduced cost.” The city reportedly saved $600,000 in salary costs during this process. Magnuson takes pride in not only his volunteer work in the public safety sector, but also points to his voting record. He’s been a volunteer with the Rocklin Fire Department for more than three decades and served on the National League of Cities’ Public Safety Policy Committee. “I’ve been a longtime volunteer in the City of Rocklin. When I drive around town I’m pleased with what has gone on,” Magnuson said. In April when the City Council was poised to approve the second reading of a new fence ordinance that would allow homeowners greater flexibility in placing fences on corner lots, Magnuson changed his vote. “I voted, ‘yes’ the first time. The more I thought about it, it didn’t seem right to do that,” he said. Magnuson explained his change because of his concern pedestrians, particularly children, would be at risk. Under the proposed ordinance change, drivers would have less visibility with fence lines placed closer to the sidewalk. Magnuson is also in favor of the controversial roundabouts planned for Rocklin Road. “Once people get used to them it will be a lot better for traffic flow,” Magnuson said. “There is a safety factor involved.” In February, Magnuson cast the lone dissenting vote on the proposed LED billboards to be placed on Interstate 80 and Highway 65. Magnuson thought keepings drivers’ attention on the road rather than on billboards was worth more than the $100,000 projected annual revenue to the city. “I hope nothing happens. I just voted my conscience on that one,” Magnuson said. He also is critical of the Rocklin Historical Society, who he claims charge too much for the use St. Mary’s Chapel on Front St. “If I had extra funds I would be more inclined to reinstate the swimming lessons than I would to purchase another building or something for use by the historical society. You have to prioritize things,” Magnuson said. Magnuson, a registered Republican, is not concerned that the Placer County Republican Party did not endorse his candidacy during the countywide convention earlier this month. “I did not seek their endorsement,” Magnuson said. “They’re a little bit out of touch.” He has vowed to “cooperate” with Rocklin schools, focus on careful city spending and “bring new business” to the city.