City Council candidates discuss top priority

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The four-year terms of council members Dawn Haggerty and Vicki Warren end in November, leaving two seats open on the Canyon Lake City Council. Four residents have announced their candidacy: Kasey Castillo, incumbent Dawn Haggerty, incumbent Vicki Warren and Jeremy Smith.

The Friday Flyer invited the four candidates to answer a series of questions leading up to the November election. During this period, residents will have a chance to hear from the candidates and learn more about them and what they hope to accomplish if elected to serve a four-year term on the City Council.

Last week, The Friday Flyer asked the candidates what their stance is on Measure S. This week, The Friday Flyer asked each candidate to answer the following question in 350 words or less:

If elected to serve on the City Council, what will be your first priority?

The candidates are listed as they appear on the ballot.

Kasey Castillo

Kasey Castillo. Photo by Jill Torkelson

If elected to the City Council, my first priorities would be to ensure there is a contingency plan in place and fortify the relationship with the POA.

The current City Council put Measure S on the ballot in order to have “budget certainty” as costs continue to rise. Without a continuation or renewal of the UUT, Canyon Lake must explore other options.

For this reason, regardless of whether Measure S passes, we need a Plan B in place, whether that be serious discussions about going county or bringing a proposal to a neighboring city for annexation. We cannot be ostriches with our heads in the sand. Our residents deserve a City Council with not just hopes but an actual plan.

Residents should be provided with a real forecast and answers to basic questions related to annexation options. Measure S continues the current tax rate of 3.95 percent. What happens if/when that isn’t enough? Would our fire station stay open, would we continue control of local land use, would the POA keep operating as is? What would public safety services look like and cost? What would the tax measure look like to fund debt needed to merge? As a small business owner, I continually assess viability and options. As a city, we must also. If elected, this will be an immediate focus for me, regardless of whether or not Measure S passes.

I’ve never been involved in politics in Canyon Lake, to include the POA. My every day is negotiating resolutions. If elected, I will meet the POA with open arms, open ears and an open mind. A great asset our unique city has is an involved POA. We should be working together toward common goals. We need to assess what is truly important, where we can join forces, and what fosters division.

I’m ready to put in the work to represent our residents, and that requires the city being involved not at just the local and regional level, but at the internal level.

Overall, my first priority is to represent all Canyon Lakers, not just a portion of the population.

Dawn Haggerty

Dawn Haggerty. Photo by City of Canyon Lake

In my opinion, our city public safety is the top priority. Seventy-five percent of the budget goes toward the police and fire departments. That takes money away from looking at other options to improve the city.

In the past four years, police and fire costs have risen to a point where their current increase forecast shows we will be unable to sustain the cost within a few short years. Approval of the UUT tax allowed the city to reopen Station 60. Without that tax, we would have to close the station. That tax is on the November ballot to be renewed as it expires in 2020.

However, for our police, even with the tax we can only afford one deputy for each eight hours, which is below established standards for overall protection ratio. If our deputy is busy, we have to wait for a deputy from Perris to become available. This could take an hour or more.

Bad News! The county sheriff’s office announced this week that results of an audit of their overall costs indicated cities aren’t paying as much as they should to cover the county sheriff costs and county supervisors will likely have to vote for a significant raise for each city.

As I stated before, we can form our own police department with better coverage at a lower cost. If we join other small cities in a joint program, we can save even more.

After over a year looking at such a plan, I know it will work. It will probably take more than a year to put the plan together but we have had positive feedback from nearby cities who face the same unsustainable costs and are also looking to reduce costs. Cal Mesa has already very successfully created their own fire department and a good example of what we need to do.

If the BLM land (government) becomes available, that will help improve our prospect for increased revenue in the future, but we need to start now to rethink our public safety.

Vicki Warren

Vicki Warren. Photo by City of Canyon Lake

My first priority upon re-election is the same as what my main priority has been while serving on the City Council.

Just off the plane from my trip to Washington, D.C., I am writing this with a renewed commitment to continue to seek the best possible solution for our life services and to building a path to economic growth for our city.

With costs of services continuing to rise across our county, the leaders of Canyon Lake must find a way to protect our way of life while protecting our citizens. This must be a priority for all those who commit to serve the City of Canyon Lake, as it has been mine for the last four years.

The City Council is working with the leaders of neighboring cities toward a mutually beneficial solution for life safety services, with the ultimate goal of getting the best services possible at the best cost possible. This requires a regional approach and I will continue my efforts to build bridges and secure alliances with leaders in neighboring cities to achieve this and other goals.

A necessary element is economic development for Canyon Lake. One of the best ways would be to expand our boundaries and broaden our tax base. Unfortunately, the city currently has very limited development opportunities so we have been forced to do some creative thinking.

One viable option is to acquire the surrounding public land that is currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management which requires additional creative thinking to fund any such acquisition.

Fortunately, during my visit to Washington, D.C., last week, I met with key people, all creative thinkers, that are ready, willing and able to assist Canyon Lake. We opened a dialogue that can greatly boost our efforts. Also, just hours before boarding the plane to Washington, I attended a meeting wherein the city was assured by representatives from Congressman Ken Calvert’s office and the Bureau of Land Management that Canyon Lake is a top priority.

When re-elected, I will continue to be a champion for our “Little Bit of Paradise.”

Jeremy Smith

Jeremy Smith. Photo by Donna Ritchie

I’m running for Canyon Lake City Council because I believe we live in one of the best communities in Southern California and I want to keep it that way.

Throughout this campaign, I have had the pleasure of talking with hundreds of Canyon Lake residents about their concerns and ideas for our city.

As your next councilman, my priority will be public safety. We must ensure that we keep our families and community safe, and I’m honored to have the trust and support of the former President of our Sheriffs’ Association. I believe we can provide the necessary funding for public safety without raising taxes by making City Hall more efficient and responsive to residents.

As a business owner with over ten years of experience in public policy, I’m eager to roll up my sleeves and go to work for our residents. Canyon Lake is a great community and I believe we must maintain local control while also engaging with regional leaders to advocate for more resources.

In addition to public safety, one concern I often hear from residents is the need for more community involvement and transparency. I believe our elected officials have an obligation to regularly talk with residents, attend local meetings and participate in both local and regional discussions.

I will work to build strong relationships in and around our community to deliver results for Canyon Lake residents. I’m passionate about Canyon Lake and I’m dedicated to working hard for every resident of our great city.

I’ve made myself accessible to you, and if you have any questions or would like to discuss your concerns or ideas, please contact me by email, call or text. I can be reached at 951- 391-9109 or smith4canyonlake@gmail.com.

I’ve earned endorsements from our current council members, business owners, teachers, veterans and public safety officials. I would be honored to receive your vote on Nov. 6.

Please feel free to contact me if you would be interested in a yard sign.

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