Candidates for Rancho Palos
Verdes City Council faced off Wednesday night at the Point Vicente Interpretive
Center in the first of a series of three debates.
Former Councilman Ken Dyda and current councilmen Anthony Misetich and Brian Campbell are competing for the two seats up for election.
A few dozen Rancho Palos Verdes attended the debate, which was sponsored by the Long Point Homeowners' Associations, and submitted questions for the candidates to answer.
Candidates discussed issues such as the San Ramon Canyon Storm Drain project, the Portuguese Bend Landslide, city staff and the General Plan updates.
The Palos Verdes
Peninsula/San Pedro League of Women Voters will sponsor the next debate. It is
scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. next Wednesday at Fred Hesse Community Park,
located at 29301 Hawthorne Blvd. in Rancho Palos Verdes.
See below for Palos Verdes Patch's live blog of the debate. Entries are in chronological order. Please excuse any typos or misspellings, and remember, this is only a summary of what happened. It is not meant to act as a transcript.
7:40 p.m.: Dave Ememheiser is the moderator tonight. He begins by introducing the candidates. Councilman Brian Campbell, former Councilman Ken Dyda and Councilman Anthony Misetich are present.
Also present are various local dignitaries from different community associations, as well as the entire mayor and current city council.
Ememheiser talks about Long Point, the area sponsoring the debate. It includes five homeowners' associations and Terranea Resort. "It's kind of a unique community and it sometimes has unique perspectives on the issues facing the city," he says.
He thanks city staff.
- Each candidate gets a three-minute opening statement
- All three candidates will be asked a common question, and they have three minutes or less to respond to that question.
- Each candidate will have three minutes for a closing statement.
The debate will be re-broadcast on Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. on RPV-TV.
7:41 p.m.: Campbell gives his introduction. "RPV has term limits now, so if I get re-elected now, this would be my last term in office. I'm in favor of term limits," he says. "This is a serious job."
The best part of his job on the council is helping people and organizations do better, he says. "Mostly what you read about us is some issue that people have different points of view on in the community ... what you don't see is all the good and fun aspects of being out in the community and helping homeowners, helping scouting, helping businesses, helping families, being involved in your schools and being able to use what little influence you have on being on the city council to be a positive influence on the community."
He notes that his past platform is the same as the current platform—keep the area safe, stay transparent, protect open space, common-sense fiscal spending, etc.
He's excited about the next four years.
7:44 p.m.: Dyda is next. He served three terms on the original city council, "which set the tone of the city based on what the people wanted in terms of their goals report." He's served on almost every committee and commission except for traffic.
He discusses some of his achievements, such as negotiating the contract with the Lomita Sheriffs. "My goal right now is really to restore the original goals of the city," he says. "I believe a city that doesn't remember its origin its history its founding principals is like a city without roots. It won't flourish."
He says the city needs more oversight. "Yes, there's a lot more transparency on the city website than there has been in the past ... you need to be a forensic expert to go through that website" to discover how much city employees are paid. "We need to be a lot more transparent rather than translucent."
He asks if the city is willing to lose Palos Verdes Drive South. He tells people to go to kendyda.com.
7:48 p.m.: Misetich thanks the Long Point Homeowners Associations for putting on this forum. He also thanks the residents for electing him four years ago.
"This election is about what we have promised over four years ago when we first came to office, at least I'm speaking from my behalf," he says. He talked about bringing good fiscal management into the city. He brought in a zero-based budgeting concept that the city ended up adopting. "It is a very good transparency tool—a tool that we use vigorously in our budgeting process."
The San Ramon contract was a big election topic four years ago; it will be wrapped up by April of next year, he says. "It's the biggest infrastructure project in the city's history." He's proud to be part of that project.
He also talked about forging a closer relationship with the Sheriff's Department, and he thinks this has been achieved. Misetich praises Capt. Blaine Bolin, saying Bolin is committed to working with the residents to make them feel safe.
"I worked to preserve open space and bring more transparency to RPV," he says. "I'm asking for your vote for another four years."
7:50 p.m.: First question: It seems as though is an increase in crime, especially in property crime, in Long Point. Is this true?
"There isn't just an uptick in ... property crime, there's been an uptick in crime around the city that rises and falls," says Campbell. He says residents want an increase in undercover sheriff's teams. He wants a smarter sheriffs budget.
Dyda: "Yes, crime has gone up, but let's not take it out of context. It's a concern, and it should be a concern." He references realignment, where the county is releasing inmates early, and compliments the council for trying to get more information. "We need to work with that sheriff's department and put specific requirements in so they can measure their performance against that requirement so we know what's happening."
Dyda thinks the sheriff's volunteers should be used more effectively, such as warning people about unlocked vehicle burglaries.
Misetich tells people to make themselves a hard target—leave their vehicles and homes locked and their valuables out of sight. "Neighbors looking after neighbors in a neighborhood watch, coming out at night ... and seeing if everything is secure at night before you go to bed," he says. "If everybody did that, they would see things happening that are suspicious."
He notes that there is an undercover deputy working in high-crime areas. "He says that he goes in these neighborhoods, looking around, peeking around all the windows ... nobody calls the sheriff's department!" Misetich explains. He says people should remain vigilant, and the city should make sure the sheriffs are held accountable. Furthermore, there's an extra 2,800 hours of patrol time this year over last year.
7:58 p.m.: Question: What is your assessment of the current Capital Improvement Plan? Will you vote in favor of a bond to support any/all segments of CIP?
Misetich thinks the city has done a "great job" with funding the CIP, especially with Terranea. It gives $3.6 million in TOT tax per year, which ends up in the CIP fund. He calls a bond "an option" because interest rates are low and there are lots of projects. "It is an option. It's not necessarily the only option, and we can keep it on the table," he says. The council will consider it within the next few months.
"Let's recognize one thing—a bond is just another tax," Dyda says. "And I think we need to be very careful at looking at that." He thinks that they can avoid the need for a bond "unless something drastic happens."
He wants to know when the city will develop a "real program" to do something about the Portuguese Bend slide area. "We can't empty the tub unless we shut the faucet off," he says.
Campbell's turn. "I
think it's premature to talk about financing options or a bond option—it's a
little bit like shopping for car loans when you're not sure you even need a new
car or need an extra car right now," he says. He wants a data-driven
report card on the infrastructure to figure out what should be prioritized.
"I'm against a bond until we know exactly what we've got."
He wants a "real" infrastructure report card, then prioritization, then community buy-in, and then funding should be looked at.
8:04 p.m.: What are the top 2 things that you've done for the city that are part of the public record?
Dyda: "We trusted the people to tell us what they wanted for the city. They put together a goals report and from that we put together an award-winning General Plan." He thinks the General Plan should be updated, but not revised. "I'm troubled by changing the definition on some of the issues from what was the original intent," he says.
He says the city council in 2002 ignored his request that they look at the goals report before revising the General Plan. He says the goals report was still valid.
He's also proud of changing the whole sheriff's contracting process. "I put together the first performance contract," he says. "It was then adopted by the contract cities." It's what everyone is working under now.
He also put together the geological hazard abatement district, used in both Abalone Cove and Klondike Canyon.
Misetich's turn. "I'll give you three things," he says. Zero-based budgeting financial policies are one that he thinks is working well.
The second thing is that he pushed for the bicycle patrols with the sheriff's department. "The bicycle patrol on Western Avenue has significantly reduced crime," he says, noting that the person in charge is not hearing crime reports when the bicycle patrol is on Western Avenue.
The third thing happened two years ago when he was the city's delegate to Max Transit. "I was looking after our city's interests and found out that the Max organization, even though we had four percent of the ridership in Max transit, was charging us 16 percent of the total budget," he says, adding that the board rebuffed him. He asked for an audit; it was refused, though they asked the city to join an expensive contract. The decision to get out of Max Transit has saved the city $1.2 million.
Campbell says these are terrific answers. He remembers the Max Transit council meeting. "We led the way, by the way, on what ultimately went away, which was that Max Transit," Campbell says, noting that RPV recognized that it was not a stable program. Campbell also says that Dyda has also done wonderful things.
"An awful lot of what a council person does and is effective at is both in public and also behind the scenes," Campbell says. "Very rarely is that one person does something" Because of how the council works. He points to his involvement in expanding the citizen's Financial Advisory Committee (FAC), which brings extra oversight.
Another proud moment was the competitive bidding of the city's banking services, which was enacted 18 months ago, he says. The city has $50 million in the bank, which is spread out through more
He also worked on the Trump lawsuit. He ran on developing a better relationship with Trump. The lawsuit was dismissed.
8:13 p.m.: If you had the ability to make any unilateral changes at city hall, what would it or they be?
Campbell would require that all major projects and decisions be collaboratively addressed between city staff, city council and other commissions. "I think a lot of what ends up being debated in our community could be resolved if we had earlier and more comprehensive buy-in and transparency," he says.
He thought Councilman Jeff Duhovic's breakfast with the staff was a terrific idea because it gave the council and staff a chance to get to know each other better. Campbell would have more events like that and a better collaborative working relationship.
Dyda agrees with Campbell in terms of the staff. "We have very talented people," Dyda says. "I don't think we're using them to their full potential." He says the staff at times has more experience than the consultants the city hires. "We've got the talent in-house; we don't need to go out with that."
He also wants to see the city understand how to put a request for proposal and a contract together. "Our RFPs could stand a good bit of improvement to give the city the kind of options it needs so it doesn't get into this kind of (value) engineering later on," he says.
Misetich would like to see a form between staff and the residents to help improve relationships with the residents. "I think that our city is a service organization. We have an obligation to you the residents to give you the best service possible," he says. A form would give people the opportunity to express their desires, needs, challenges, etc. That way, staff could help come up with solutions.
Time for a five-minute break.
8:26 p.m.: Back to the debate.
Question: When will the City Council begin to discuss the General Plan changes, and do you think a public forum with residents should occur?
Dyda reiterates that the first city council trusted the residents. "I don't think our General Plan needs revision. It needs updating to include those things that haven't been done," he says. He says that people should get involved. He thinks workshops should be good throughout the city, such as Western Avenue, Grandview, etc. Find out what the residents really want. "We need the people to be involved. We have to trust them."
Misetich jokes that the General Plan will come before the council when the planning commission is done with it. He says the plan needs updating and needs to reflect the original principals of the founders—a low density, semi-rural city that has open space. "I think the citizens should have input when it's finished," he says. "We want to hear from all of you if what the process has evolved into is consistent with what you feel is the lifestyle of Rancho Palos Verdes."
Campbell is last. He notes that he served on the General Plan update committee about 10 years ago when he was president of CHOA. He says HOA workshops are great ways to reach out to the community. He doesn't think that meetings like this are as effective as sitting down with people in their own neighborhoods. He says that he and Anthony both agree that keeping the horse trails and farming part of the plan are important.
He says there are community input models that work.
8:35 p.m.: Are you for or against a self-funded skate park near the dog park?
Campbell says he is, if you're talking about the city hall dog park. "I think it would be a good fit for where our small, I call it neighborhood dog park currently is," he says. It would get kids off the streets and off commercial properties, and it would probably be safer for them. "It's a great way to meet your neighbors. It's a great way to find out more about your city."
Dyda thinks a "skate park is worthwhile" because it's "a kind of sport that's up and coming." He doesn't think it will take a lot of people off the streets; however, his concern is that it will be a concrete type of structure that is difficult to move, so it should be planned around a proposed civic center.
"Yes, I'm in favor of having a skate park near the dog park," says Misetich. He thinks the location would fit well and that there is enough space. "I'm sure that, ideally, people would like to have a bigger one … There is a definite need for another skate park on the Peninsula, and if it could be done by the dog park, it would be great."
8:38 p.m.: Next question: What is your opinion on the current staff head count and their performance in general?
Misetich says he thinks there are 54 individuals on staff, and that they do "an adequate job for the size." As far as changing that, the city manager would have to evaluate whether she has enough people. An analysis did recommend adding individuals; however, Misetich did not support it because he did not have all of the salaries available to him.
Dyda's turn. "Before we start talking about the adequacy of our staff and their talent," he notes that he thinks the staff is very well qualified. "We need to have better direction from the council in terms of what the staff does," he says. "We have to use our staff in a much better way with instructions and guidance for the council and not just run out on grants when we don't have a requirement for them."
Campbell says he's asked for an analysis of where the work bottlenecks are at city hall. Sometimes the bottlenecks need only a few extra hours a day for a person with certain expertise, not necessarily a full time position. "Right now, we're contract city," he says. He wants to analyze where the bottlenecks are, identify the expertise needed to eliminate the bottlenecks, see if it can be contracted out to fix before hiring a full-time employee.
8:44 p.m.: What is your solution to the Portuguese Bend issue or problem?
"You are not going to get a solution tonight because it is going to take a long time," Dyda says. He explains that water is the problem, and the city has known it for a very long time. The city spends roughly $500,000 per year to keep "Portuguese Bend an E-ticket ride." "We know what's causing the slide; it's time to start dealing with the cause and not keep playing games with Band-Aid fixes."
The water should be stopped, the area should be drained, and then the erosion issue should be addressed. The city needs to come up with a comprehensive list of possible plans and triage them to figure out what works best.
"Ken is essentially right," Misetich says. He points out that both the water and the soil are an issue. "What we need to look at is how to reduce the slide from the top and support the bottom. The de-watering wells that we have there in Portuguese Bend do need to be moved up higher so we can remove the water up higher in the slide." The "toe" of the slide also needs to be supported, whether through an artificial reef or something else. "Addressing the top of the slide and addressing the bottom of the slide will help slow it down to a trickle, but the key is removing the water."
Campbell says he would first expand the dewatering wells—only six are still functioning. "It's pretty well established that they are effective," he says.
Midterm, he wants to expand the GPS monitoring of the movement that's out there because of how complex a slide it is—it moves at different paces. "One solution isn't going to do it all," he says.
Long-term, he's supportive of supporting the toe of the slide to keep it from eroding away and investing the money used for Palos Verdes Drive South for a permanent or semipermanent solution.
"If you can slow down the slide, it saves you money," he says.
8:50 p.m.: The area benefits from wonderful views of the ocean. How does Long Point protect against overdevelopment?
Misetich says the owners of properties have a right to develop them. There's a conflict when somebody's had an open-lot view of the ocean and they don't want to see an obstruction there. People are going to build on the property they buy; the plans have to be balanced to try to preserve views while still allowing the development.
Dyda: "If you own a piece of property and you're going to do something that's consistent with the zoning, you can do that." He says the Planning Commission should not act as a landscaper, an architect or a builder. "We need to give the owner the opportunity to do that, but clearly define what was passed and what wasn't passed with respect to the findings."
He also adds that the view ordinance should be applied more rigorously. If the citizenry doesn't want that, the ordinance should be changed.
"Let's enforce it properly so that both sides of that issue are treated fairly," he says.
"Protecting views in the Long Point area, I think what we do down there pertains to everywhere in the city where there's still potential development to be done," Campbell says. He advocates a strict compliance with the neighborhood compatibility standards.
He would study requests for variances more. "You've got to be careful at looking not just what you're granting now but on the long-term impact," he says. "We've got to have plenty of community input. We don't want surprises. We don't want something to be built and have people come out of the woodwork and say we weren't aware of that."
8:58 p.m.: Last question! Who do you rely on for advice on city-related issues?
"My first advisor is my wife," says Dyda to laughter from the audience. His other advisors are the community. He still gets calls from people telling him their problems, even though he is no longer on the council. "You get a sense of what the people are concerned about."
Misetich agrees with Dyda. "No. 1 advisor is my wife," Misetich says. She's in the community on a daily basis; their children are going to school in the community; and she is always giving him feedback. He also says that people in the community are his advisors. They let him know what they feel and what they're recommending. "In council meetings, we get big binders—a lot of data to go through. And it's really good when we have the public comments because some items that people bring up, some advice, some piece of information that they give us really helps us with our decisions."
Campbell jokes he already knows how he starts this answer off, else he'll be looking for a couch to sleep on. In all seriousness, he relies on community members. He says he came up through the homeowners associations. He talks to a lot of the people he met there; he has two young children; parents and families. He also relies on city founders and seniors. He's aware that he wasn't around when the city was founded—"I came here out here after the really heavy lifting was done … Your history, your knowledge is important to me."
He notes that he likes to listen and to hear about the history because he thinks it keeps the council on track. He also talks to the commission members, as well as people who are very involved on single issues.
9:05 p.m.: Time for closing remarks. Misetich says serving on the council has been "both an honor and a privilege." He reads from a prewritten statement that reiterates a lot of what he said in his opening. He recaps his accomplishments over the past four years—the zero-based budget, the bicycle program, etc. He says the city has made significant progress on its goals.
9:08 p.m.: Dyda tells people to pick up his fliers in the back and visit his website to see his positions in more depth. "There are certain things that I believe need improvement," he says. He notes that there are challenges in how the open space is managed. "We have goals. I have a different approach to a goal. A goal is not merely a statement of which you wish to achieve." His goals require specific guidelines, funding, endpoints, etc.
9:11 p.m.: Campbell is running for re-election to continue to fight for quality of life and public safety. He reiterates his accomplishments, spotlighting San Ramon Canyon, working with LASD, ensuring the safety of residents who live near the butane and propane tanks off Gaffey, expanding the FAC, working with the Trump organization. "I like the job, I'm good at it, and I hope to do it for the next four years," he says.
9:15 p.m.: We're done! The next debate will be hosted by the League of Women Voters.