The Light sat down with District 1 City Council candidates Phil Thalheimer and Sherri Lightner to talk about them, their campaigns and their stands on the issues. Here is what they had to say.
Occupation: Retired mechanical engineer, now a fulltime
Residence: Lives in La Jolla Shores
Family: Married, three children
Favorite books/genre: “Hot, Flat and Crowded” by Thomas L. Friedman, “Book of the Dead” by Patricia Cornwell and “While America Aged” by Roger Lowenstein.
Hobbies: Reading, crocheting and camping in addition to gardening and cooking.
What are the primary differences between you and your opponent in this race?I actually show up at public forums. Phil has not shown up. I’ve been going to planning groups now for over a year, talking to people and actually visiting the neighborhoods.
What are your thoughts on the city’s pension crisis?The City Council and the mayor have been putting money in to pay down the unfunded liability, but that’s a 27-year plan that relies on a stable stock market. The city’s going to have to look again at changing pension benefits. That’s going to require negotiations and meetings with the parties involved to see if there’s some give and take.
How will the current economic crisis impact the city?We could be in a terrible situation if we have to cut. We’d have to look at the budget line item by line item. Maybe we need to be more aggressive in securing some of the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) funds.
What weight will you give the recommendations of community advisory groups?Planning groups deserve to have their voices heard. I’d like to see more outreach to the communities. … I believe community groups should be notified when a project of concern is actually coming through to be docketed, instead of finding out when the final docket comes out. I’d like to see more town hall meetings, maybe quarterly.
How do La Jollans perceive themselves and their place in the city?I know that some council members in the past have alluded to “La Jolla Tuesdays,” claiming La Jollans are by far the most demanding citizens. I don’t know that I agree ... More development goes on in La Jolla than other portions of the district.
As a city council member, what is your role?To work for the people in the district.
Do you like the strong-mayor form of government?There are some flaws. There is some concern that if the mayor doesn’t care for a particular piece of legislation the council has passed they may not choose to enforce it or implement it.
How can the city be a better steward of the environment?I am proposing we commence building for the future by establishing green industry, getting green jobs here, doing things in a sustainable way. If we could partner the city with universities and attract businesses here with venture capital …we would be able to create a new tax base and a more stable economy.
Where are you on the growth-no growth continuum?Growth needs to be responsible. It needs to be in accordance with the general plan. It needs to take into account the very severe constraints we have here, the most important being water.
How would you restore trust in local government?That’s why I’m running. … I’m approachable. I listen. I’m not going to cut a deal. I’m going to stick with what the rules are, because those rules took a long time to develop.
What are your views on paid parking in La Jolla?I do not support paid parking in the Village of La Jolla, Bird Rock or the beaches.
What are you views on sand dredging of Children’s Pool?The court ordered us to get on with it.
What are your feelings about third-story development in La Jolla?The La Jolla Planned District Ordinance has specific requirements on height. If you want to change those height limits relative to the number of stories, I believe you need a variance. I don’t support putting three stories in two-story zones whatsoever.
What’s one thing voters should know about you?I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone tell me they don’t trust me. They may not like my position on some things. I have a very strong, proven track record on where I stand on a variety of issues, and I will do outreach to the communities and be responsive to the communities. I’m concerned about trying to do as much as we can for the neighborhoods, not just the land-use matters.
Occupation: President, San Diego Flight Training International
Residence: Lives in Carmel Valley
Family: Married, two daughters
Favorite books/genre: Tom Clancy-type; history, particularly modern Jewish history.
Hobbies: Training German shepherds. I love animals. I used to fly airplanes a lot. It almost felt mystical to me. I could clear my head.
What are the primary differences between you and your opponent in this race?I am in favor of putting city department activities up for bid with the exception of fire and police. She is not. I don’t oppose everything. Look at the number of times she’s opposed things versus the number of times she’s supported things. I’m going to oppose some things. But I’m also going to say, ‘Some things you need to do.’
What are your thoughts on the city’s pension crisis?My opponent has gone on record as saying the pension system is fine the way it was. I wouldn’t have supported this pension plan from the beginning. It was a mistake to get into a situation where you’re underfunding something on the assumption you’ll be able to make it up on the investment side. That was foolhardy.
How will the current economic crisis impact the city?Significantly. Obviously, what gains we were getting through the pension system with growth in the stock market, that’s probably evaporated. The other part is credit is going to be much more difficult.
What weight will you give the recommendations of community advisory groups?A great deal of weight. They’re significant. They should be listened to. I have an open door for that. But understand: That doesn’t make them right either. In La Jolla the community groups don’t necessarily agree on many issues.
How do La Jollans perceive themselves and their place in the city?People in La Jolla feel like they have been neglected, that they are sort of a stepchild viewed as cranky and rich. They don’t feel represented. La Jolla needs to make sure it gets the benefits it deserves. La Jolla is vibrant. People are passionate. These people care.
As a city council member, what is your role?I see this as a job. These people are my employees. I want them to be able to get to me.
Do you like the strong-mayor form of government?I do like it, but I think the eight-member council needs to be fixed. We either need a nine-council district, or an at-large seat.
How can the city be a better steward of the environment?Use recycled water, grey non-potable water - protect open space to the best of our ability. But we have to balance that. People are coming here. We have to be able to find a way to handle both.
Where are you on the growth-no growth continuum?In the middle. People need homes and jobs. But you don’t want to take your parks and turn them into parking lots. You’ve got to have a balance.
How would you restore trust in local government?By being out in the community, making sure people know where I stand.
What are your views on paid parking in La Jolla?It’s a dead issue. We’re not getting paid parking. Whether it was good, bad or indifferent, it’s just not something a majority of the community appear to want and they’re vehemently opposed to it.
What are you views on sand dredging of Children’s Pool?The city has to do this. The seals need to move. It’s a court order.
What are your feelings about third-story development in La Jolla?There are places where it’s appropriate and places where it’s not. I don’t think there’s one answer here. We need to set up some kind of criteria to work through.
What are your views on keeping Mt. Soledad cross in place?I think it will end up with the U.S. Supreme Court. The court needs to take a position on sectarian symbols like that memorial. They need to rule on this. I think the courts will allow it (cross) to stay.
What’s one thing voters should know about you?That I’m going to tell them the truth.