Left to right: Jack Walker, Jim Davis, Tara Martin-Milius, Fred Fowler and Bo Chang.

Five of nine candidates vying for seats in the Sunnyvale City Council shared their positions on taxes, housing, energy retrofitting and rent control at yesterday’s Cupertino/Sunnyvale District’s tour meeting. Council seats 4, 5, 6, and 7 will be decided in the November 8 election.

Overall issues that concerned the candidates were the city’s budget, and the planning and development of the downtown area, which they see as a key source of revenue for the city. All of these candidates stated they are against rent control and imposing energy retrofitting at point of sale.

Bo Chang, who is vying for Seat 5, is a REALTOR® and SILVAR member. Having served on the planning commission for the past four years, Chang said bringing downtown to completion is the cornerstone to raising the city’s sales tax revenue. He said raising taxes and imposing fees would be a last resort because this will discourage entrepreneurship. He identified three areas which can economically benefit the city. They include working on fixing the downtown so it can quickly generate sales tax; and the El Camino corridor and Moffett Park, both of which are doing well. Chang would like to see sustainable housing in the center of employment, along transportation corridors and retail services, in order to accommodate residents without transportation. He is for smart growth because smart development is necessary to accommodate residents so they live close to work, which will mitigate the transportation issues. The city also needs to facilitate communication and work with other cities regarding the issue. A longtime resident and having served on the planning commission for the past four years, Chang said he has invested much in the city and would like to continue serving at the council level.

Jim Davis, a recently retired Sunnyvale law enforcement officer, is seeking Seat 6. He is concerned about the city’s finances, especially since it used $13 million of its reserves to balance the budget last year. He said the city did a good job in the past by bringing in businesses, but due to the economic downturn, things changed. The city has not done enough since to bring businesses back. He doesn’t think the city has done much to encourage commercial property owners to improve their property to make the city attractive for businesses. The city needs to invigorate its resources and bring jobs into the community. He said places like Perry Park need redevelopment dollars. He said it depresses him how long the downtown development has been stalled. He believes the city has done a good job keeping the balance but it needs to be aware of where to put new housing. He said it will be a challenge to keep up with the housing balance. He said his 36 years in law enforcement have given him experience dealing in conflict resolution and listening intently. He has followed the city council meetings closely, so if elected, he can hit the ground running.

Jack Walker is also vying for Seat 6. A former Sunnyvale mayor, current board officer of the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce and active resident, Walker said the city’s budget and planning issues need to be addressed and he believes he can help. He said the sales tax structure has been primarily retail based. While Moffett Park has been well developed,  a drawback is businesses there are service oriented. He is concerned planning decisions are discouraging manufacturing. Walker is against housing in El Camino and said it needs to stay commercial and retail. He believes Sunnyvale is rapidly reaching a turning point where there is no available land for housing. He is concerned about infilling the industrial areas with housing, but some open spaces on the edges of the industrial areas make sense. The city needs to be cautious and make sure density does not compromise existing neighborhoods. He said housing, jobs, revenue, density are all related and intertwined and he feels his past experience as mayor has given him perspective on these issues.

Seeking Seat 7 is Fred Fowler, also a past Sunnyvale mayor, a volunteer with the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety, and commissioner on the Sunnyvale Housing and Human Services Commission. Since retiring from office, Fowler said he has seen changes in the way the city works and does not feel it is working efficiently. He likes the way Sunnyvale used to be and wants to bring back the best of past practices. Fowler said the city’s revenues are limited and the best thing is to get the downtown working. He said the city’s current tax structure doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t grow with inflation the way the city’s expenses do. He doesn’t believe the city can survive with a sales tax on goods only and would like to explore taxes on the services sector, but lowering rates overall. Fowler believes Sunnyvale needs more housing of all types, especially rental housing. He sees opportunities for more housing in the old ITR zoning areas and would consider rezoning areas with old office buildings and convert them to housing. He said he has the experience, skills and talents available for the city and is ready to get to work.

Tara Martin-Milius is also seeking Seat 7. She has a business in communications and management consulting, chaired the San Miguel Neighbors Association for many years and is a member of the Sunnyvale Arts Commission. Martin-Milius said she wants to represent residents and be their voice in the council. She said the city’s budget has to be fixed. She would love to see the downtown up and going again to enhance the city’s revenue stream. Her priority is to get businesses into Sunnyvale. She said right now property taxes are the biggest line item for city revenue and should not be. She would like to see businesses help feed the city’s income stream. Martin-Milius wants to keep the balance between residential and commercial. She said residents have complained about transition areas to high density. She would like to see mixed use development on transportation corridors like El Camino, but would make sure transition areas work well. The city can’t support itself as a bedroom community; it needs industrial development, she said. With her experience with residents and teaching career, Martin-Milius said she would be able to facilitate council meetings and bring balance to what goes on in the city council.

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