Saturday, October 04, 2008

Q & A with City Council Candidate Erik Sahakian


Election season is upon us, and there are a number of candidates running for Yucaipa City Council. With that in mind, I've asked the candidates to answer a few questions.

Q&A with candidate Erik Sahakian is the first in the series:

How long have you lived in Yucaipa?
I moved to Yucaipa in 2006.

What do you like best about living in Yucaipa?
What I love most about Yucaipa is that it is a family-oriented community with gorgeous natural surroundings and a "small town" rural feel.

Even though you obviously care about Yucaipa enough to run for office, no city is perfect. What do you like least about living in Yucaipa?
The biggest problem I see with Yucaipa is that we lack the appropriate infrastructure for a city our size. We have far less police officers than we actually need, poor streets, no sidewalks in most of the city, no animal control, a run down library, and few locations to shop. It's painfully frustrating to watch "our" potential sales tax revenue being effectively donated to Redlands, Beaumont, and San Bernardino for them to use to improve the infrastructure within their own city for their own citizens with our money.

Do you currently have children enrolled in the Yucaipa-Calimesa Unified School District?
My five year old daughter is currently enrolled in kindergarten in the Yucaipa-Calimesa Unified School District.

What do you think are the most important issues facing Yucaipa over the next five years?
The most important issue facing Yucaipa is the choice of what direction we're going to take regarding commercial development and sales tax revenue. The choice is whether we're going to continue to focus on our past and resist responsibly developing this community for the benefit of future generations or whether we're going to seize the opportunities before us to effectively ensure that Yucaipa's future is one of economic health, longevity, and success.

How do you envision Yucaipa ten years from now?
I would love to see a "future" Yucaipa that is considered the "crown jewel" of the Inland Empire. My vision is of a "small town" city with good streets, low crime, plenty of parks, high property values, diverse community involvement, a state-of-the-art library, sidewalks, proper animal control, plenty of convenient shopping, and a solid financial foundation for generations to come.

According to the Yucaipa City Budget (http://www.yucaipa.org/cityBudgetCip/index.php) the majority of city revenue comes from taxes. What do you think is the best way for Yucaipa to meet it's budgetary needs for the near future?
As new housing development begins to draw to a close the City can no longer afford to rely so heavily on Development Impact Fees (which are one-time fees) for revenue. Furthermore, cities are on the bottom of the totem pole when property tax revenue is divided up. The time has come that Yucaipa realize what almost every other city in America already knows, and that is a significant portion of revenue must come from sales tax, which is an ongoing source or revenue.

It seems to me that in the current economic climate there is a real risk that new housing and retail developments might be abandoned before completion (hopefully not the case for the Chili's on Yucaipa Blvd.). Do you agree that this is a potential problem? What can the city do to help prevent that from happening?
Unfortunately, this isn't a "potential" problem anymore because it's already happening. There is a large strip of land that is less than a mile from my home which was supposed to be developed as condos but instead has been abandoned by the developer for the last 2 years. This poses an interesting challenge for the City. I'm not sure the City can prevent this from happening but they can certainly do a better job of discouraging it from happening. Any development should be treated as an "interest" of the City since it either positively or negatively impacts our community. Obviously half-built or vacant buildings are a negative impact because they cause blight and are targets of potential vandalism and other crimes. The City needs to take a more active role and see themselves as more of a "partner" when it come to stalled development. By communicating frequently with developers issues may come to light that the City can perhaps help remedy.

Yucaipa is home to a wide range of demographic groups, from seniors on fixed incomes living in rent-controlled mobile home parks to more affluent young families living in Chapman Heights and other recently built housing developments, plus lots of people in-between. How can the City of Yucaipa assure that everyone's needs are adequately served by city services?
For one, by ensuring adequate representation for all those groups. According to the 2008 Housing Element approximately 60% of Yucaipa is under the age of 44. The City does a good job of serving the needs of certain groups of individuals but not everybody. Bringing more diversity to the City Council will be a step in the right direction for actually providing representation for "all" citizens. Once we have a Council which reflects the diversity of our city, we'll be in a much better position to ensure that everyone's needs are being adequately served by city services.

There seems to have been a lot of local crime in the news of late, from drug labs to armed robbery. Do you think crime is becoming a problem in Yucaipa? If so, what can be done to improve the situation?
Crime is most definitely becoming a problem in Yucaipa. One needs only to read the newspaper on a regular basis to realize that criminals are becoming more and more bold and brazen in the crimes they commit. I strongly feel that we have half as many police officers on the streets as we need. Currently, we have one of the lowest crime rates in San Bernardino County but that is no excuse to let our guard down or to pat ourselves on the back. I believe that one of the basic responsibilities of government is to provide for the safety and security of its citizens. This is why we need to hire more police officers to patrol our streets. A stronger police presence will make criminals think twice about committing a crime in Yucaipa.

Reading the letters to the editor in the News Mirror, I get the sense that there are numerous teenagers just hanging around and getting into trouble. Do you think the city should provide more recreational options for its teenage residents?
Absolutely. I have heard firsthand from many teenagers who live in Yucaipa that there isn't anything to do here. It's good that we have a skate park, community center, and sports facilities but we need more recreational choices. I would love for there to be a movie theater, a bowling alley, and more focus on cultural development. This is a lofty dream but can you imagine one day having a civic theater with ample seating for plays and concerts?

What would you bring to the Yucaipa City Council that the other candidates do not?
The unique combination of my educational background and work experience makes me stand out from all the other candidates. I have an undergraduate degree in political science/public administration, an M.B.A., and work experience in both the public and the private sector. I have worked for municipal as well as county government, and I have owned my own business. I've been responsible for such tasks as implementing million dollar budgets, supervising employees, successfully managing projects (always under budget), building a new business from the ground up, and managing millions of dollars worth of real estate.

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You can find out more about the Sahakian campaign at www.erik2008.com

All the candidates will be appearing at a candidate forum sponsored by the News Mirror and Yucaipa Valley Chamber of Commerce on Monday at 6pm at City Hall.

Note that I'm still in the process of contacting candidates. If you are a candidate and haven't heard from me, you can contact me at either aroundyucaipa@gmail.com or peggy.kolm@gmail.com

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13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I see that your concerns are the declining tax revenue from new construction in the City, how will you address the decline and re-evaluations af all property in the City from the down turn and many foreclosures that we are seeing in the City. How will this loss of tax mone be addressed if you are elected to the council. where will the City make up this loss, and what services might you have to cut because of this.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Excellent read.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Erik said...

Declining property values and the resulting decline in property tax revenue only makes the case for sales tax revenue even stronger. Developmental Impact Fees are a "one-time" fee and then they are done. Property taxes are unreliable because cities basically get what's left over after everyone else has raided the property tax pot and also because properties can be reassessed downward. The most reliable source of revenue for a city is sales tax. That is the reason Yucaipa really has no choice but to start opening itself up to some high sales tax generating stores. The key is to do that in a way that is both balanced and respectful to the semi-rural nature of our community. In other words, we don't want to go from one extreme to the other. I pledge to protect Yucaipa's uniqueness while we increase our tax base with sales tax revenue.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous wendy mascorro said...

You are definately the best man for the job Erik. You have my vote!!!

4:05 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Erik,
You have my and my wife’s vote and I am recommending you to my friends and neighbors. Because, you were the only candidate to take the time to contact me, you share many of the same concerns we have and you want to improve many of same things we feel the city of Yucaipa needs. The city can not live on Development Fees alone and our cars need new shocks every couple years because of the bumpy streets.
Bob & Robin

7:58 AM  
Blogger Erik said...

I appreciate all your support. Thank you Bob, Wendy, and Jim. Your encouragement, kind words, support, and votes are much appreciated.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Peggy said...

Erik, I was wondering if you had any specific businesses in mind which would both generate ample tax revenue and help maintain the "semi-rural nature of our community." Does that mean big box stores are out of the question?

9:35 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

To generate enough tax revenue we do need "some" big box stores, like a Target or Costco for example. But the way we keep the semi-rural nature of our community is we develop those stores as far away from inner-Yucaipa as possible. The I-10 Corridor is the best and most logical place for such stores because then we keep the traffic and activity south of where we all live PLUS we get the added bonus of additional tax revenue from non-Yucaipians who just happen to pull off the freeway to shop. It's a win-win scenario. It will generate more revenue to improve our community and we don't even have to look at it or think about it except when we go there to shop or we catch the 10 freeway.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

Thanks for the clarification. Sounds great for those of us living in town (I'd love to have a Costco nearby), but maybe not so great for people living on the Live Oak Canyon side of the freeway. I guess most of them aren't actually in Yucaipa, though.

11:48 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

You're correct. I'm not sure of the exact boundary line but I do know that almost all of the Live Oak Canyon side of the freeway is Redlands.

1:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like what you said about developing I10 corridor in lieu of in-town. For sure the street layout around Yucaipa Blvd. can't support more traffic. The Taj mahal (city hall building) and all the islands just seem wrong. I see the merit in adding a Lowes or Home Depot, because all the local hardware stores have parent companies anyway. I like being able to buy hardware from the local stores that are specific to the local buildings but any major project forces me out of town to load up on materials.

There also needs to be better promotion of local businesses. I find neat places all the time that I never knew existed, but they are dying on the vine because everyone goes elsewhere rather than doing a grid search of the town.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Erik said...

Excellent points Anonymous.

12:41 PM  

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