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Fremont is weathering the pandemic economic downturn better than many cities, in part because of its strong tax revenue growth in recent years and city leaders’ smart move last year to increase budget reserves.
But the brighter outlook is only relative to other local governments. Fremont officials were forced to cut expenditures in the city’s current fiscal year by about 8%, which they did largely by deferring street, parks and building maintenance. And projections show they will have to trim another 7% next year.
So tough decisions still lie ahead for the mayor and City Council, which means voters should look for candidates who best understand municipal finances, will maintain the current cautious fiscal approach and will bring thoughtful perspectives to the city’s other simmering issues, including future funding for police.
Voters should reelect Mayor Lily Mei. And, as the city in the Nov. 3 election completes its transition to district elections, voters in District 5 should choose Councilman Raj Salwan and those in District 6 should elect Yogi Chugh.
As the council confronts the fiscal challenges ahead, they must not lose track of the city’s huge and rapidly growing retirement debt, which currently stands at about $502 million, about 12% more than when we last checked two years ago. That’s equal to about five years of city payroll.
City officials like to brag about the additional payments they have started making to reduce the debt. Unfortunately, the amount, $3.1 million for the current fiscal year, will hardly make a dent. While it’s more than most cities are doing, it’s not enough to start bragging.
We hope that in the Bay Area’s fourth-most-populated city, with higher property and sales tax revenues than most, they make more progress in the next two years paying down that debt.
Meanwhile, two of the three election choices are clear, while the District 6 race is a tougher choice:
Lily Mei (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)Mayor – Lily Mei
Mei is the only candidate we heard from who has a solid handle on the city’s challenges and finances. She is seeking her second, and under the city’s term limits, final term as mayor. Clear and articulate, showing good leadership, Mei deserves that second term.
We talked with four of the six candidates running for mayor. Marlene Santilli and Chris Hampton never responded. The other three — Vik Bajwa Singh, Naz Mahika Khan and Justin Sha — were no match for Mei.
Raj Salwan (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)District 5 – Raj Salwan
Salwan, a veterinarian and former planning commissioner seeking his second full term, has helped prepare the city for and shepherd it through these fiscally challenging times. He understands Fremont’s budget and brings a measured approach to policy issues.
Challenger Dolev Gandler is a 20-year-old aerospace engineering student who decided to run because he was unhappy with a road-sealing project on his street. While he is to be commended for getting involved, he has a lot to learn about city government and finances.
Yogi …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment