Elk Grove’s new mayor, Steve Ly sat down with the Citizen last week at City Hall to discuss some of the projects and issues that he feels are most important to the community.
Ly, who was elected to the City Council in 2014 after serving on the Elk Grove school board, defeated six opponents in last October’s mayoral race. He was sworn into office on Dec. 14.
Among the issues that Ly feels strongly about is having The Outlet Collection at Elk Grove mall completed at Highway 99 and Kammerer Road.
He mentioned that part of the problem with the future mall is that it is a privately owned project.
“We’re in a position where we can constantly ask questions as to what is the status of it, but if we’re getting the same answers, our hands are kind of tied,” Ly said. “Honestly, I’ve seen that mall kind of be in the same position for about 10 years now and I’m quite tired of seeing it (not completed), and I’m certainly going to do anything and everything possible to motivate the owners to try to complete that.”
In recognizing that new construction on the partially completed mall will not begin until at least 50 percent of its leases are obtained, Ly stated that it is his understanding that about 42 or 43 percent of those leases have been acquired.
Ly noted that he desires that the proposed Wilton Rancheria Indian casino-resort be constructed on the tribe’s selected site adjacent to the future outlet mall.
“My opinion – I’ve made it public already – I struggle with it,” he said. “But from a mayor’s standpoint, we need to have this rancheria resort developed. If you look at it as a whole, 10 percent of it is gambling. But it’s not about gambling; it’s about making sure this mall is completed. And it becomes imperative that this (casino-resort project) becomes a catalyst to get the mall completed.”
As for a petition aimed at establishing a city ballot referendum on the casino issue, the Elk Grove City Clerk’s office is currently verifying the validity of 14,800 signatures.
Ly described the number of signatures as “impressive,” but noted that a personal experience has him concerned.
“When I walked up to Franklin Library to drop off my ballot, I was approached by one of the individuals that were asking for signatures,” he said. “He didn’t know I was a member of the council and his pitch to me was, ‘Sign here to stop the casino from coming next to the university.’”
Ly noted that he asked for information about this mysterious university.
“(The petitioner) paused and he changed the subject quickly,” he said. “So, I don’t know what the other individuals that stood in front of grocery stores and other polling places told (people). But if that person told me that, I wonder what other stories did they tell.”
In regard to the revelation last month that the petition was funded by an Emeryville-based gaming and entertainment company, Ly expressed his concern.
“It’s different when it’s being pushed by residents in our community,” he said. “But it’s being pushed by some wealthy gambling guru somewhere. I think that’s of a concern, as well. You don’t live in our community and because of your money you have influence over our community.
“As someone who’s on watch in making sure that Elk Grove is protected, I am concerned…I would say this: If the question was posed to the constituents that this resort may be the one thing that will save the mall, how would they answer that? That is the number one thing that’s on my mind. This may be our last chance to be able to save the mall.”
Ly mentioned that he is looking forward to the completion of the civic center, which will include aquatics, community and senior centers and a veterans’ hall.
“(The civic center) is one of those things that our community has been wanting for a long time,” he said. “Having the aquatics center is going to be groundbreaking. It’s going to help our schools.
“We’re going to bring something that’s needed, and no different than the senior center, no different than the community center and the veterans hall. These are all things that we need in the community.”
The civic center is scheduled to be completed in early 2019.
Ly described Elk Grove’s greatest challenge as transforming the city into “even more of a job magnet.”
“We as a City Council have pushed for being job friendly and we have been recognized at that and delivering and making sure the jobs come to Elk Grove,” he said. “It continues to be a challenge. There’s infrastructure that needs to be in place, amenities that need to be in place to attract jobs.”
Four-year mayoral term
Although Ly stated that he is eager to share his ideas and make progress as mayor, he expressed some frustration with the position’s two-year term.
“That’s part of the problem with this short of a term: In one year’s time, I’m already worried about re-election, and so you don’t really get a chance to breathe,” he said. “And quite honestly, I’m not sure what the genesis of this (two-year term) was in the initial design.
“I think it’s pretty clear that I would be in support of a longer term, so that I can deliver some of the ideas that I have into reality. Two years is enough to solidify some of the ideas, but to really deliver, you need more than that.”
Ly added that in working with a shorter term than the four-year terms of council members, he is dedicated to being a team player.
“Being mayor is great, but being mayor is also being a team player and making sure that the council and the administration share in the same vision, so we can actually proceed at the table,” he said.