Last week, we turned our eyes on , but tonight the Fairfax Town Council candidates will be gathering at the Marin Community Media Center for their turn to debate in front of the League of Women Voters.
Again, Patch will be there asking questions – so let us know what questions you would ask the candidates by posting them in the comments below. And, again, for when the debates will air as soon as it’s available. The debate will also be available on On Demand.
But, before you start firing questions, why don’t you meet the three Fairfax Town Council candidates looking to fill two spots in the Nov. 8. Council Member Larry Bragman is running for re-election, while Council Member Lew Tremaine opted to step down. Newcomers Chris Lang and Ryan O’Neil hope to fill one of those seats.
Larry Bragman, current council member and attorney
Running for his third term, current Mayor Larry Bragman, 57, believes that participation in local government is an important tool for democracy. And keeping the local government engaged and responsive to resident’s concerns is a key issue he will focus on.
“It’s an opportunity to improve why people relate to government,” said Bragman.
To that end, addressing the ongoing fiscal sustainability of the town is necessary to balance public needs and services with financial constraints. The town has taken a number of steps, including implementing a two-tier pension system and asking employees to pay a larger share of their pension costs, said Bragman, but it’s necessary that residents understand revenues from the state and property taxes are shrinking.
The town, then, has to find new sources of revenue, he said, in order to maintain the services people are accustomed to in the town. It will take “shared sacrifice.”
Bragman supports that will also be on the ballot in November, though he initially supported a full cent. The compromise around the half-cent tax was a good move, he said, that allows the town to continue to ask the hard questions about what other cuts might have to be made.
The consumer rights attorney and criminal defender has served on a number of committees in his time on the council of which he’s very proud: the Affordable Housing Sub-Committee, Ross Valley Paramedic Authority, Marin Telecommunications Authority, Transportation Authority of Marin, and work with the .
“Serving on the Town Council has been a real positive experience for me,” he said.
Chris Lang – small business owner
It may come as no surprise that bike and pedestrian safety are key issues for Lang, a founder and former President for the .
Too long, he said, the town has talked about how they have no money to get improvement projects done.
“I want to make stuff happen,” said Lang.
The town’s budget problems, he said, are largely of their own making. The money is there, he said, “but they just didn’t spend it well.”
Lang said he would stop spending funds on “frivolous lawsuits,” like . He would reexamine all town expenditures and make budgets more transparent and less complicated. There’s no need to pay a Public Works Director on a consultant basis when the Town Manager could oversee that position, he said.
“Everything’s on the table,” he said.
His focus would be a number of improvement projects, such as decreasing speed limits on surface streets that kids ride to school on, installing more crosswalks on Sir Francis Drake, approving public art projects, and getting the police and fire vehicles on biodiesel.
Though this is his third time running for council, he said his past problems are behind him. He was arrested six times in 18 months. He’s had disagreements with the police, he said, and they’ve given him a hard time, but he’s done fighting about it.
“It’s negative energy, it’s in the past,” he said. “I got overcommitted, burned out, and made some mistakes. I will not let that happen again.”
The former PTA member, Parks and Rec Commissioner, Planning Commissioner, Committee member, and President is happy to be running for council, talking to people about issues and brainstorming ways to make the town better.
Ryan O’Neil – small business owner
Though O’Neil, 40, has been a lifelong Marin resident, he’s only been in Fairfax for nine years. But, in that time the small business owner has been busy: helping found the Open Space Committee, and serving on the Tree Committee and Planning Commission.
“I have two young kids and they’re going to grow up in this community,” he said “I want to help maintain the character of Fairfax so they can grown up and enjoy it.”
When he first got to town, he said, the council was very divided and people didn’t listen to each other. Making sure all opinions are heard on issues will be one of his biggest priorities on the council. If you don’t get all the ideas out on the table, then you’re only addressing the issues of the loudest group, he said.
The proposed Terrapin Crossroads project has ignited passions in town and, while he said he can’t take a position on it because Planning Commissioners and Town Council Members are legally obligated to remain neutral until it comes before them, O’Neil said he would ensure that the process is followed and all voices heard.
“The winners and losers, at the end of the day, are still in the community,” he said.
One of the biggest issues the community faces is fiscal solvency, because “it affects everyone,” he said. As a business owner, O’Neil said he understand there are tough choices that have to be made. He’s gone through the town’s budgets in detail and feels there’s not too much more to cut without changing the services – police, fire, roads – that people expect. Now, it’s time to start looking at how to create revenue.
O’Neil supports Measure D, the half-cent sales tax, because it closes part of the budget gap without passing on the costs just to property owners.
The dad has some ideas for capital projects and is highly protective of open space, but doesn’t want to tackle those concerns until the budget issues are first dealt with.