Four candidates are competing for two open seats on the Millbrae City Council in next month's election. Appointed incumbent Anne Oliva will seek to keep her seat on the five-member council Nov. 5 while going up against Doug Radtke, Reuben Holober and Ann Schneider.
Among the key issues in Millbrae this election season has been the effort to bring more businesses to downtown.
Oliva was appointed to fill a council seat several months ago after the death of Councilwoman Nadia Holober. Mayor Gina Papan is termed out, leaving the second seat vacant.
Oliva -- who's received endorsements from Papan as well as City Council members Wayne Lee and Robert Gottschalk -- touted her experience serving on the council, which she said sets her apart from the challengers.
She said she has long been concerned with business development in Millbrae -- a major regional transportation hub where travelers come through on BART and Caltrain and pass through the city on Interstate 280. The issue has also been a concern for candidate Radtke, who noted there are as many as six vacant buildings near the BART and Caltrain site along El Camino Real, known as Site One.
Other candidates, including Schneider, say they would like to see a greater diversity of uses -- retail, dining, residential -- near the site as well as in downtown Millbrae along Broadway. Radtke and Holober hope that their youthful perspectives will help draw tech companies to the community.
All four candidates are in agreement that Millbrae, a town of about 22,000 people, should encourage more businesses to develop there. Oliva hopes that with the economic upturn, the council and the city will be able to consider several promising development projects. Drawing in more businesses, Schneider believes, will help increase revenue for the small city, allowing officials to improve city services and address infrastructure issues such as crumbling roads.
Radtke, who is only four years older than the youngest candidate, 25-year-old Holober, said his experience as a municipal auditor would enable him to manage funds wisely as a council member. He is unimpressed by the city's handling of funds, and blames a lack of fiscal reserves on "indiscriminate spending" by the council.
The candidates have each expressed support for building partnerships with nearby cities and sharing public services. As an example, they said, a merger of the Fire Department that is well-managed would help save the city money while providing quality services to the public.
Holober, whose mother, Nadia, served on the council before her death last year, currently works at a biotech company and has been endorsed by the San Mateo County Democratic Party. He draws inspiration from both his parents' community involvement, he said, and hopes to get his "foot in the door" as a representative of Millbrae.
The city has faced challenges with construction development in its recent past, where some projects along the main drag of El Camino Real were considered by some to be below standard. Radtke claimed that such problems were caused by conflicts of interest in which City Council members had received "gifts" from developers.
However, his belief was not echoed by any of the other candidates, who have favored a more modest approach to correcting such issues. Oliva said an increase in collaboration and communication will help resolve the city's concerns with construction, pointing to a recently completed Safeway building as an example of success.
Council members are elected to four-year terms.