With the November election just a month away, six candidates vying to become Elk Grove’s next mayor participated in an Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee (PAC)-sponsored candidate forum on Sept. 30.
Those candidates were Elk Grove Vice Mayor Steve Ly, Elk Grove Planning Commissioner Kevin Spease, Joel Broussard, Tracie Stafford, Michael Monasky, and Garrett Smith.
The seventh mayoral candidate, Jrmar Jefferson, was absent from the Chamber luncheon, which was held in a crowded room at the Valley Hi Country Club.
In addition to introducing themselves and their political platforms, the candidates responded to specific questions pertaining to city issues.
Spease, a local businessman who was endorsed by the Chamber’s PAC this August, said that Elk Grove should make a stronger effort to attract business from Silicon Valley.
“Unfortunately, Silicon Valley thinks that Elk Grove is Elk Grove (Village), a suburb of Chicago,” he said. “We’ve got to do better about that, because it’s not happening.”
On the topic of the Wilton Rancheria’s proposed tribal casino and entertainment facility, Spease mentioned possible business opportunities beyond the on-site jobs that would be created if the project becomes a reality.
“Most specifically for us and for business, the casino is going to do a good thing for us and it’s located in a good space,” he said. “We’re going to be getting some residual effects from it. Say for instance, you need to have the laundry done there. We might be able to have local laundries be able to do that.”
Spease, who has called Elk Grove his home since 1976, said that more people need to becoming involved in efforts to reduce crime in the city.
“Reducing crime isn’t just a police job; it’s a community job, and we’ve got to work on that together,” he said.
Ly is a former Elk Grove school trustee and an 18-year resident of Elk Grove. He mentioned education, economic development, and building and strengthening neighborhoods among his priorities.
Ly, who works as a juvenile hall counselor, also expressed his desire to “pay officers well.”
“As your next mayor, I hope that (providing quality wages for law enforcement officers) will be a priority of the council, as well,” he said.
The vice mayor also expressed a need to have school resource officers on elementary school campuses.
On the topic of the proposed casino, he emphasized the project’s ability to bring jobs to the city.
“It’s not about the casino, but it’s about bringing 4,000 jobs – 2,000 construction and 2,000 full-time jobs,” he said.
Ly added that an approved casino project would also assist the long-awaited outlet mall in finally being completed.
Broussard, a 12-year resident of Elk Grove, described himself as an “average guy,” who is not a politician. He currently serves as a district sales manager for The Coca-Cola Co. in Sacramento.
In regard to the proposed casino, Broussard stated that the city did not communicate well with local citizens.
“Were we completely transparent with the citizens of Elk Grove with the casino coming?” he asked. “Absolutely not. A lot of people didn’t know about it, and that’s kind of the hidden agendas.”
Broussard expressed his desire for the police to become more involved with the community by “just being proactive, attending events, engaging the community, being amongst the community throughout the year.”
Stafford, who was raised in the Bay Area, said that Elk Grove is challenged by unemployment issues.
“We talk about unemployment, which is a decent number (at) 4.6 (percent),” she said. “But underemployment is much greater, and those are (employed) folks that can’t afford to pay their bills.”
Stafford, who moved to Elk Grove for its good schools and affordable housing, said that she has an issue with having a casino two miles from her home.
But she added that the city needs to begin planning for a possible casino in the city.
“If we are actually going to have this casino here, we need to get ahead of it,” she said. “We need to make sure that Elk Grove residents benefit by additional agreements.”
Stafford, who identified herself as a third generation domestic violence survivor, mentioned a need to focus on domestic violence issues in Elk Grove.
“We need prevention and we need to be out and knowing what the issues are,” she said. “We need to help our young ladies and young men who are going through (these issues).”
Monasky addressed several of his concerns including the city’s financial health.
“We’re not living within our means and we’ve abandoned our plan for thorough road maintenance,” he said.
He also expressed his disappointment with the City Council’s abandonment of the South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan, and a need to recognize global warming.
Monasky, who desires the creation of monthly district planning assemblies, spoke about a need to increase the minimum wage.
“We need to treat workers better, and when workers are treated better, whether they’re retail or not, and get $15 an hour, they’ll be able to spend more money in your small businesses,” he said.
He added that increasing minimum wage and providing full employment keep people from committing larcenous acts.
Monasky also questioned the concept of having a casino built next to a retail center in Elk Grove.
“It’s not a good mix – retail, gambling,” he said. “There’s only one example and that’s in Maryland. I don’t know. It doesn’t look very good to me.”
Smith, who was raised on a farm in Solano County, said that while growing up as a “pig farmer” he learned the importance of community relations.
He mentioned that he is in favor of bringing medicinal marijuana dispensaries to each district in the city for its business advantages.
Smith, who is an officer with the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said that it is important to assist local police.
“The police need help (and) we need to help them,” he said. “If we see something, we need to say something.”
Smith spoke in favor of the proposed casino project.
“A lot of the same questions came up when they built (Cache Creek) Casino,” he said. “It’s now an excellent part of (Yolo) County. I believe that the location and the casino coming to Elk Grove would help us out immensely and I’m 100 percent behind it.”