With 40 observers in attendance, candidates Susan Vellone, Jim Vreeland, Len Stone, Tom Clifford, Leo Leon, Barbara Arietta, and Mayor Sure Digre fielded questions from those in audience through a moderator. Heather Tanner, another candidate, was not in attendance.
Audience questions were focused on the proposed hotel tax increase, Prop. 22, and other ideas for moving businesses and tourism to Pacifica and decreasing the current deficit.
Though there were differing opinions about development, one item they all agreed on was that Pacifica must fix its budget deficit or it is headed toward bankruptcy. Barbara Arietta, President of the Pacifica Democrats, cautioned all in the audience by saying that "bankruptcy is around the corner if there is no support of the five-year financial plan."
Clifford hopes to erase the deficit by building businesses. His ideas for improving Pacifica's deficit is to create "enterprise zones" where specialists work to find needed areas for development, break those areas into "zones" and then find the appropriate people to develop those specific zones rather than spreading out resources in various areas.
Arietta thinks the deficit would decrease by improving transportation to surrounding cities and in and around Pacifica, building a 21st century library, increasing funding for schools, creating three off-leash dog parks, and continuing the work on restoring the historical buildings for museums and tourist attractions.
Mayor Sue Digre believes that Pacifica's future lies in preserving its past—specifically the Little Brown Church, the Pacifica Historical Society that it houses and other historical sites. The people of Pacifica have underrated its history, she said, and that history is an economic engine. Improvements to the Quarry, Waste Water facility, and parks would bring tourists to Pacifica.
Opinions were divided, however, on the value of the hotel tax increase, otherwise known as Measure R. Mayor Digre, Jim Vreeland, Barbara Arietta, and Tom Clifford are firm supporters, saying that the tax would help union negotiations by lessening the severity of cuts those unions might have to take to balance the budget, decrease Pacifica's deficit, and keep city employees employed.
Susan Vellone, current President of the Chamber of Commerce, is against the tax increase. She stated that it would take money from Pacifica rather than support it. With increased unemployment and decreased tourism in Pacifica, it would only put further strain on suffering hotels and would-be tourists, making other destinations possibly more attractive than Pacifica.
The meeting closed with continued reminders to the public to vote this election and to make thoughtful choices regarding the Measure R and Prop. 22.
Jim Vreeland ended his comments by saying that if elected, this would be his last term in Pacifica politics.
"It's hard to be a politician here," he said.
Vreeland looks toward Pacifica's future optimistically, however.
Len Stone reminded the audience that his age is his advantage, and he sees his youth as an engine to reignite Pacifica's lagging economy.
Susan Vellone is hopeful for Pacifica, and she believes that Pacifica is moving through the economic crisis.
Tom Clifford continued to push for continued building and creating a transit connection to BART, which would increase tourism to Pacifica.
Barbara Arietta ended the meeting rather ominously, restating the prospect of bankruptcy.
The debate will be televised on Channel 26, Tuesday October 12th at 10:00PM.