The Lake Elsinore Citizen’s Committee hosted a candidate forum at the downtown Cultural Center on Historic Main Street Oct. 12. The City Council portion of the forum introduced incumbent candidates Steve Manos, Natasha Johnson and Robert Magee, and challenging candidates Steve Martin and Edwin Castro to the community. Each of the candidates had ample opportunity to answer a wide array of pre-published questions that were delivered by moderator Dane Wunderlich.
The questions that were posted in advance on the LECC website, were designed to address a variety of hot topic items that represent potentially decisive concern to voters in the Lake Elsinore Valley. Each candidate on the panel was allowed the opportunity to randomly select one of the pre-published questions, to which they had a select time to articulate their responses, followed by counter points and statements from each of the remaining candidates on that particular topic.
Specific questions dove into the drawbacks and benefits associated with bringing underground power lines into the Lake Elsinore Valley and how those power lines would impact local Lake Elsinore tax payers, and the growing problem of homelessness and blight within the community. Broader issues with regards to understanding and managing the city’s Annual Operating Budget, Public Safety, City Staff compensation and the candidates’ positions on Street Maintenance Planning were also addressed.
The proposed La Laguna Campgrounds upgrades and the Alberhill Development project were discussed extensively among the candidates.
“The campground is currently an embarrassment that’s pulling down the surrounding areas,” Councilman Manos said. “It can be turned around into a source of public pride.”
Councilwoman Johnson also supports funding for the campground as she expressed her satisfaction that the bond had been recently passed through city council. Though she agreed that the cost concerns raised are valid, she nonetheless believes that the risk is outweighed by the potential benefit to the community.
Both of the candidates challenging for a seat on the council indicated that they disagreed with the proposed plans for campground upgrades. Candidate Martin indicated that although he believed the lake is “our gem,” he nonetheless felt that the La Laguna campground project “is a waste of money and a waste of time.”
Candidate Castro expressed his concern that funding could be better spent on the health of the lake itself in the face of a historic drought. “Without Lake Elsinore, there is no Lake Elsinore,” he said.
Councilman Magee agreed that the campground is in need of upgrades, but he believes that more cost analysis needs to be done before the city adds to its current debt burden. He agreed that the health of the community has always been directly linked to the health of the lake and acknowledges the resources in time and dollars that have gone into continued lake management through the years.
Likewise, the Alberhill Development project is an ongoing matter of concern for the greater Lake Elsinore community. All three incumbent council members agree that the Alberhill Development should move forward, but only as the Alberhill Specific Plan was originally approved by City Council back at the beginning of the year. The current change initiative that is being proposed by the developer, Castle and Cooke, is unacceptable by current city council members in its revised form, as the incumbent council members all seem to be in agreement that it is not a good deal for the tax payers who will have to bear an undue burden as a result of changes proposed in the developer’s initiative. Councilwoman Johnson indicated that she believes
“The project is a great idea if it happens.” Manos said, but he was adamant that there are major disagreements between the city and the developer on how the project should proceed. Manos emphasized that a project of this size and scope has the potential to change the size of the city forever, but due to the many challenges associated with building above an existing mining site, he believes the developer’s initiative is akin to “The 7 Deadly Sins” for taxpayers in Lake Elsinore.
Councilman Magee believes that the Alberhill Development project will continue to be unanimously supported by the council in its original form, but only “if it doesn’t become a financial burden to taxpayers.”
Both of the two candidate challengers, Martin and Castro, support the developer, Castle and Cooke’s, initiative and believe that the Alberhill Development should move forward without further delay.
Candidate Martin expressed his opinion that the project will be “unbuildable” as it was originally submitted and approved. Candidate Castro said that he supports the initiative, but that “You guys have the ultimate voice”
Following the City Council Member forum, Lake Elsinore School Board Superintendent Doug Kimberly delivered a presentation in support of Measure V on the upcoming ballot. If passed, the measure will provide much needed funding for local area schools. Doug also accepted Mr. Steven Wood’s withdrawal from candidacy for School Board Trustee and recognized Mr. Harold Striker as the sole remaining candidate for Trustee running un-opposed.