Editorial by Doc Souza
Elk Grove mayoral candidates squared off in the first of two town hall forums earlier today. Steve Ly, Darren Suen and Tracie Stafford took turns answering written questions from the audience in the forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters. The entire video can be viewed on the Elk Grove Laguna Forums Facebook page.
Stafford portrayed herself as the outsider, going so far as to say in her opening remarks that she is not a politician. To be honest, Stafford is not an elected politician, but she is a a politician. She has been attending leadership conferences sponsored by the democratic party and has been actively involved in political issues since running for mayor in 2016. She played on that throughout the town hall and and at one point Steve Ly drew audible groans from the crowd when he said “It’s real simple if you like the way Elk Grove is going, you will vote for me. If you don’t, you will vote for the outsider, and that would be Tracie.” Ly assumed those were the two options facing voters. Voters can be happy with the way the city is going but also choose who think may be a better leader.
Steve Ly: choose me or the outsider
Stafford is an outsider to the system, but also to how planning and development works. Stafford said the city has done nothing to improve the infrastructure since the 2003 General Plan. Since then the city has added new interchanges at Sheldon and 99 and Grantline and 99. There are plans to add an interchange at Whitelock and 99, but it will need additional funding. Widening Grantline and Kammerer Roads has been in the planning stages for years, but they also are waiting for funding. Bond Road was widened between Elk Grove- Florin and Bradshaw. Roundabouts were added at Sheldon and Bradshaw and Sheldon and Waterman, resulting in a significant decrease in commute times. An overpass was added on Grantline to go over the railroad tracks. These are just some of the improvements made by the city since 2003 and there have been other improvements as well. She also spoke of rent control, lack of housing for first time home buyers. Both of those are market controlled issues. She lamented the lack of affordable housing, but then complained about too much housing. Housing prices are based on supply and demand. Without new housing, prices will be higher.
Stafford on traffic and infrastructure
On the topic of fundraising, Ly talked of how he receives the majority of his money from the residents. He left out how in the 2016 elections he received thousands of dollars late in the campaign from local unions. Ly also received money from Pappas Investments, developer of the Costco parcel. In 2016 Ly also held fundraisers in other states and areas outside of Elk Grove. You can view the 2016 fundraising totals on the City of Elk Grove website. Stafford made it clear she has not taken developer money or large sums from any groups. That may be because she is not being offered any money from developers or business leaders. She said she is “unbought”. She too has held fundraisers out of Elk Grove. Suen said fundraising was a necessary evil in order to reach more people. He said all candidates reach out to people with a vested interests in the community. He said he thinks that there should be a talk about campaign financing. Suen also mentioned “dark” money, which is money that comes in that is harder to track because it is donated to PACs (Political Action Committees). Fundraising for all the candidates can be found here
On the topic of leadership and on issues affecting the city, Suen appeared to rise above the competition. Suen has experience with housing, transit and flood control. After Ly had talked about relying on city staff for information and working on projects, Suen responded with a pointed barb towards the other two that set him apart from the other two.
Who won and who lost? That will be up to the voters. Stafford played the outsider, but lacks knowledge of the city’s history and her claim the city has done nothing to improve traffic flow is false. Prior to the 2016 election I am not sure that she had any knowledge of how the city is run. I still don’t think she does. Ly has been essentially a lame duck Mayor on the council the past 2 years. While the other four city council members have shown an ability to work together on issues, Ly has tried to distance himself in some ways on some issues such as by district voting, a police commission and diversity. He has numerous times been on the end of embarrassing moments at the council meetings when the other four shot him down. Suen proved to be more knowledgeable on most of the issues raised. While the other two tried to use rhetoric to distance themselves and appeal to voters, Suen time and time again answered thoughtfully and didn’t pander to the voters.