Decision 2018: The mayor’s race

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In a few weeks, voters in Avalon will go to the polls to elect a mayor and two members of the city council. There were two excellent forums televised this past week and the Islander was pleased to collaborate with the Chamber on one of the forums. In doing so, we worked with the Chamber, and the public, to develop a questionnaire for this year’s candidates.

Avalon and Catalina Island have some very hard decisions to make in the very near future. Nagging problems like water supply and allocations, insufficient infrastructure and, as always, the Council must find innovative ways to raise the funds necessary to maintain the quality of life while investing in urgently needed improvements.

Housing has emerged as a hot button issue as has the island’s transportation system. Bottom line, the officials elected by the voters April 10 will have much to do so voters should explore positions on the issues. Associate editor Charles M. Kelly has gone through the information presented by the candidates and prepared the following detailed coverage for our readers. We have printed the exact, unedited responses of the questions to further inform Avalon voters on the most critical issues facing the city in the years ahead.

This week we feature the candidates for mayor and next week, we will feature all of the candidates for city council. Anni Marshall is the incumbent mayor and is waging a write in campaign. Robert Kennedy is a former mayor of Avalon. They are the only two mayoral candidates qualified for the April 10 election.

Anni Marshall

Q4 Overview. What do you think are the three biggest issues facing the City of Avalon in the next two years and what are your thoughts on how to deal with them?

Issue 1. Quality of Life-The City Council creates policies to meet the goals of the 3 issued in this question. Quality of Life includes affordable housing, habitability, social and recreational programming, a safe and clean environment and a feelof of inclusiveness for all. Working with staff, stakeholders and our contractors we cann address these issues. We are awareof our options to obtain affordable housing, directed staff to research a residential inspection program for rentals to inusre habitability and are discussing employee housing with the Island Company. We will continue to create activities for our entire comunity. Recreation, leisure and social services and promotion of visual and performing arts are a must in maintaining god health and a posiive attitude. Recently, we have developed a strong relationship with Supervisor Hahn, L.A. County Mental Health, Public Health, Long Beach Child Guidance Center, Judge Mirich and the Medical Center to address social service need in Avalon. We continue to workwith our local Sheriff’s in an effort to reduce crime. Making our streets safe for children, residents and visitors, cracking down on drug and alcohol related offenses isimperative. Our fire department is trained and ready to meet an array of calls; fire, medical and more massive scenarios, if needed. Our relationship with County Fire helps to insure success in emergencies. Our public work crews and trash collection providers work to keep our streets clean and work to minimize acciddents like trip and falls. We currently have a grant for recycle bins and researching additional options.

Issue 2. Infrastructure-improvements include but are not limited to, renovation of the Mole (in progress). We have established sewer, trash and salt water rates to deal with emergencies as well as long term solutions for expansion and in the case of the land fill, closure of the facility. We have grants to remodel the mole bathrooms and funding for the under carriage of the Mole as we speak.. We will soon begin remodeling the Casino Way restrooms.Staff will continue looking for funding mechanisms for the Mole’s entire renovation and other infrastructure improvements as necesary. Our strong linkages to County, State and Federal legislative representatives will help to insure success.

3. Municipal finance-Continuing to maintain a balanced budget is paramount, however at times hinders specific projects. The City must balance reasonable taxin and fee setting and avoid what might appear as over taxing. We are studying the Air B&B and VRBO impacts on sales and TOT taxes. We have a small but mighty staff so we are finding it necessary to contract with grant writing consultants to secure funding opportunities where needed.

Q5 A recent uptick in business closures and vacancies has many in our community concerned. What is one thing you would do to support businesses in Avalon?

Concerning to me as well. I am sure the private property owners are missing those rent checks as well. I have my personal opinion about some landlord’s run their business , but it is their business. I do know that long term closures as we have seen in the last 2 years + effects the city’s revenues from lost TOT and sales tax.

Q6 Visitor spending drives the local economy and the City of Avalon’s budget. If elected, what would you do to ensure that Avalon continues to grow in attracting visitors while balancing issues of infrastructural capacity?

The City funds the Chamber around $1,000,000. annually. The Chamber’s responsibility is to “attract visitors”. We will take care of infrastructure. Good customer service on the part of all public and private employees creates good will and a positive visitor experience.

Q7 Last year about 300,000 visitors to the island arrived by Cruise Ship resulting in wharfage fees of over $400,000 and significant additional dollars in sales tax revenue. Below are some related questions. In your opinion, is the cruise ship visitor important to jobs and the local economy?

Yes

Should efforts be made to increase or decrease the number of cruise ship calls at the port of Avalon?

Maintain the current level for t he near future and any future cruise ship increases which would include something like the floating dock should go to the voters.

What, if anything, should be done to enhance the cruise ship visitor experience?

Continue to develop experiences such as zip line, interior tour, boat tours as trends develop. The Chamber and local businesses are doing a fine job. Perceived value is the new buzz word and the Chamber promotes this as seen with the free mini concerts. More of this should be done using local musicians.

Q8 What qualities will you be looking for in a new City Manager?

Good communicator, oral and written, with local citizenry, business, legislators and other government entities. Is responsive and transparent. Understands pubic finance and the general operations of all departments and city contractors. Lives on the Island. Is willing to admit if a mistake is made.

Q9 Hospital Funding. An initiative adding a one dollar per direction surcharge on passengers arriving and departing the island has been placed on the April ballot. There are concerns in the community that adding the fee may cause cruise carriers to reduce or eliminate calls at Avalon. In the event the initiative passes, what would you propose in response to keep cruise ships calling on Avalon?

The Medical facility is a work in progress. Perhaps they may feel they do not need services for their passengers however when the golf cart go over the cliff or they crash on a bike, they may find the facility is needed. I believe there are discussions going on now with those involved. A $2.00 hike does not seem unreasonable to me

if I were booking a cruise. In the event the initiative passes and cruise ships reduce or stop calling on our port, do you think there is a viable alternative means of financing the hospital? Please explain. I am not a hospital finance person. I am confident the CIMI board an CEO are aware of finance options. The City currently funds the medical acilit about $500,000 annually. I do not feel t he City could fund more at this time and placing the debt on property owners is not a viable option. Do you have other concerns regarding the initiative? A medical facility must be build by 2030.Retrofitting is not an option. The fact that no site has yet to be established is unsettling. However I do believe money must be raised to continue moving forward: plan development and site fees whether lease or purchase need to be amassed. 12 years comes mighty fast.

Q10 How do you view our current water situation? What three things would you advocate be done to address the water issues on the island? How would you suggest we pay for them? Please state them in order of importance.

Not solved but a work in progress. A 2nd desal unit is installed. We have supported SCE’s appli ation for Proposition 1 funds,(Total request $23 million) If granted we would be in great shape. The 2 wells funded by the Island Co. on their land we be helpful, if all engineering studies come up positive. The City completed a reclaimed water study which would cost approx. $14 million. If we had a grant or bond it may be do-able. There are other possibities such as air to water that are being considered and that takes the cooperation of SCE and at a minumum, the Conservancy. The disheartening news is that any option will take 2-3 years. We shall continue to pray for rain and encourage residents and visitors to conserve whenever possible.

Q11 Availability of quality and affordable housing is often cited by business owners as being a significant deterrent to attracting or keeping qualified staff. What ideas do you have in mind for helping to address this issue?

The Island Company is proposing 150 units of employee housing which may open up other housing options for the public. The City is researching affordable housing options using our $4 million (approx.) I salute those landlords who set reasonable rents and appalled by those who gouge their tenants and renting “space” that have no heat, leaky windows and doors and no kitchen.

Q12 What are your thoughts on the inevitable issue of the landfill reaching capacity? What would you propose be done to address the current waste stream?

Once again, I am not an engineer but know our landfill operators are working on the long term solutions. We have enacted the plastic bag and stryrofoam ban which will be somewhat helpful.

Q13 According to the 2010 census, just under 60% of Avalon’s population were identified as Hispanic. Of those many are primarily Spanish speaking. What would you do to engage the Spanish speaking population of Avalon in civic matters?

First, there are numerous hispanic business owners and managers. some may or may not be Chamber members. Their participation is of their own choosing and perhaps the Chamber could reach out to encourage their participation on the Board. I have a good relationship with the Hispanic community. Business owners do hire “illegal residents.” Owners should assist their employees with establishing citizenship. I am working with Long Beach City College requesting they conduct ESL and citizenship classes. I believe the Public library can also be helpful in this regard. I support DACA and the “Safe City” resolution.

Q14 Drug and alcohol abuse are often cited as being recurrent sources of problems in Avalon, especially with regard to youth. What plans to do you have to address the problem?

The City Council has directed the Sheriff’s Dept. to get tougher on crime. I do see some improvement. Busting the adult drug community is a must, they buy the booze and sell the drugs. We recently started Short Stop in school which works with “troubled youth.” CHOICES is working hard t o provide drug-alcohol counseling and positive experiences for our youth. Parenting and anger management classes are needed. I would like to encourage employers to give time off to their employees so they may make a more acitive role in their children’s lives. Time off with pay so they may go to a parent-teacher conference, watch their child’s sporting event. Latch key kids can be troubled kids. This is a quality of life issue.

Q15 Golf cart generated noise and pollution (predominantly from older model vehicles owned by residents), along with traffic and parking problems, are often said by both residents and visitors alike, to be creating a negative experience. What would you recommend be done to improve these aspects of the visitor experience and Avalon resident’s quality of life?

The City completed golf cart noise testing. Many were cited and improved. The City with the Sheriff’s Dept. has created a citation for noise. The Sheriff must get involved. We had great momentum on vehicle discussions however lack of staff has put this on hold. This will be a goal of the Council!!

Q16 There has been long-term discussion of building a community center, community pool and/or performing arts facility, but for many reasons, no significant movement forward. What do you see as being the obstacles to moving ahead with these important community projects and what would you do to address those obstacles?

LAND and FINANCING. The same dilemma as the hospital. I know that with the Island Company’s plan for housing, recrational facilities will be in the mix. I would hope the City and CIMI would get together since both want a pool and gym facility.Perhaps the land negotiated for those 2 projects would accomodate both sharing facilities and expensesexpenses.e size

Q17 Is there anything you would like to add as a closing statement?

Even though we are a small community, we are not MAYBERRY. Our issues are the same as other beach front communities however we do not have the resources other cities receive based on population. That being said I want to continue working on large and small solutions to the many issues listed above and more, as they arise. I have been a member of the Chamber for 29 years..

Robert Kennedy

Q4 Overview. What do you think are the three biggest issues facing the City of Avalon in the next two years and what are your thoughts on how to deal with them?

Issue 1. Water

Issue 2. stakeholder relations and participation

Issue 3. infrastructure

Q5 A recent uptick in business closures and vacancies has many in our community concerned. What is one thing you would do to support businesses in Avalon?

I have been a business owner in Avalon forover thirty years . Recent business closures are a concern. I would think that new business would occupy these recent departures. I have always supported business activities and promotions. As a example I supported the motorcycle grand pre which brought major economic benefit to Avalon. I also personally support the birthday ride to Avalon as well as the exceptional music venue. It is through these business efforts and visitor services that drive our tourist based economy. We need to keep promotions and new ideas in the minds of new and recurring visitors. There is a great deal of destination competition out there.

Q6 Visitor spending drives the local economy and the City of Avalon’s budget. If elected, what would you do to ensure that Avalon continues to grow in attracting visitors while balancing issues of infrastructural capacity?

I believe that my prior question response speaks well for business support and growth however, lets not forget the decay of infrastructure and most importantly water. The real focus needs to be on not just short term forecasting of infrastructure decay and growth capacity. We need to also forecast expected life of infrastructure and plan for retrofit and replacement.

Q7 Last year about 300,000 visitors to the island arrived by Cruise Ship resulting in wharfage fees of over $400,000 and significant additional dollars in sales tax revenue. Below are some related questions. In your opinion, is the cruise ship visitor important to jobs and the local economy?

Yes, cruise ship visits are vital top opur economy.The cruise ship year round visits added to our off season business creating our year round economy. Lets not forget the days avalon was closed in the off season.

Should efforts be made to increase or decrease the number of cruise ship calls at the port of Avalon? Additional visits should be incouraged however lets not have multiple ships each day. We need to recognize the visitor counts we can service and not take away from visitor experience.

What, if anything, should be done to enhance the cruise ship visitor experience? We need to improve tendering and the landing at the mole. we need top eliminate the aparent cattle call effect of the loading and unloading and the added conjestion.

Q8 What qualities will you be looking for in a new City Manager?

Our city manager needs these four traits. 1. The desire to call Avalon home. 2. The skills to work well with stakeholders and staff. 3. The skill set to multitask 4. Small town experience in governance.

Q9 Hospital Funding. An initiative adding a one dollar per direction surcharge on passengers arriving and departing the island has been placed on the April ballot. There are concerns in the community that adding the fee may cause cruise carriers to reduce or eliminate calls at Avalon.

(Respondent skipped this question)

Q10 How do you view our current water situation? What three things would you advocate be done to address the water issues on the island? How would you suggest we pay for them? Please state them in order of importance.

Our current water issue is vital to our Islands stability. Our water purveyor has the responsibility to insure a safe ,reliable And plentiful water recourse to the Island. We need to get the Utility and stakeholders to the table and solve our water issue. As a rate payer we will pay for water we did not use or pay fro water we create.Lets start by creating viable SOLUTIONS.

Q11 Availability of quality and affordable housing is often cited by business owners as being a significant deterrent to attracting or keeping qualified staff. What ideas do you have in mind for helping to address this issue?

Lets first solve our water and infrastructure issues and then work with community stakeholders to provide quality housing.

Q12 What are your thoughts on the inevitable issue of the landfill reaching capacity? What would you propose be done to address the current waste stream?

As mayor the council a I hired a new trash prevayor to expand the lifespan of the landfill. Amoung other improvements to the facility and operations they expanded the life of the landfill. The reality is that eventualy we will become a imort and export of landfill products. We need to be prepaired for that day and need to be concous of the items we bring to the Island.

Q13 According to the 2010 census, just under 60% of Avalon’s population were identified as Hispanic. Of those many are primarily Spanish speaking. What would you do to engage the Spanish speaking population of Avalon in civic matters?

In my walk of life l have not encountered the inability to communicate with a Hispanic speaking individual. Speaking and understanding Spanish is not difficult for me. I find the Hispanic population of Avalon engaged involved and supported.

Q14 Drug and alcohol abuse are often cited as being recurrent sources of problems in Avalon, especially with regard to youth. What plans to do you have to address the problem?

I plan on supporting Choices as I have done in the past and encourage all citizens to help guide our youth in life decisions.

Q15 Golf cart generated noise and pollution (predominantly from older model vehicles owned by residents), along with traffic and parking problems, are often said by both residents and visitors alike, to be creating a negative experience. What would you recommend be done to improve these aspects of the visitor experience and Avalon resident’s quality of life?

In my tenure as a elected official efforts were made to address these concerns. I do not kknow why these efforts ceased. My electric golfcart works well for our needs.

Q16 There has been long-term discussion of building a community center, community pool and/or performing arts facility, but for many reasons, no significant movement forward. What do you see as being the obstacles to moving ahead with these important community projects and what would you do to address those obstacles?

I felt we were close a few times to starting a community project that included a pool and community center. Currently we have a poor relations between stakeholders. Lets get our relations mended and get back to the table to address these quality of life issues.

Q17 Is there anything you would like to add as a closing statement?

Elect those that have the ability to lead. We must solve our water issue, community stakeholder relations, repair and replace our infrastructure and improve our quality of life in Avalon

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