Three candidates are vying to replace disgraced former councilwoman Maggie Gomez on the Daly City Council in a special election in November.
Attorney Raymond Buenaventura was appointed to Gomez’s seat and wants to keep it through the end of her term in November 2014.
With more than 100,000 people, Daly City is San Mateo County’s largest municipality, yet its biggest problem is hardly unique.
The city faces a $6 million structural deficit and millions of dollars in payments to the state to keep its Redevelopment Agency, which the City Council recently voted to save.
To balance the budget, long-term maintenance projects were suspended, library hours reduced, furloughs for city employees instituted and positions eliminated as employees retired. And recently, some employees’ pay was reduced 3.7 percent.
“In this economy we have to cut, and I will cut,” said Buenaventura. “But only if it doesn’t affect services to the public.”
He said he hopes to save money by consolidating services such as libraries and the Parks and Recreation Department.
Buenaventura suggests charging fees on recreational programs and said the city could attract more tourists and businesses by beautifying streets.
Richard Brugger, a retired IBM manager and former Marine, is running again after receiving 15 percent of votes in the 2010 City Council election.
He said the current council is not being accountable to the public. Brugger said the council disregarded public opinion when it approved a cellphone tower next to a school near Westlake Shopping Center and in failing to cultivate a downtown center.
“It’s not a downtown area and they haven’t helped small businesses,” Brugger said.
If elected, the 30-year Daly City resident said he would protect mom-and-pop shops that could be hurt by improvements on El Camino Real.
Brugger called the 3.7 percent pay cut an unfair way to raise revenue, suggesting reductions be made depending on how much a worker makes.
“The person making less is going to hurt lot more,” he said. “Maybe the person making $250,000 to $300,000 should be cut 10 percent and the person making $40,000 to $50,000 should be cut one percent,” he said.
Nick Occhipinti, 31, a substitute teacher for the Jefferson Union High School District who’s a native of Daly City, said he’s running because he doesn’t see eye to eye with the current City Council.
“We need to have people on the council who are actually rooted in the community,” Occhipinti said. “I’ve been involved as much as anybody can be involved in Daly City.”
Occhipinti wants to create jobs and affordable housing, promote existing and preventative health services, protect unions and prevent further cuts to schools and teachers, he said.
“If we’re going to grow our community, then we have to start thinking of how we can develop our revenue, but the discussion usually revolves around budget cuts,” he said.