More than 100 people showed up at the Poway Senior Center Thursday night to hear the four candidates for the Poway City Council make their case for why they should be elected.
The four—Jim Cunningham, Jeff Mangum, Steve Vaus and Gary Vineyard—answered questions screened by moderators from the League of Women Voters.
A sense of disappointment was noticeable from the crowd when moderator Beryl Flom announced first thing that no questions about the controversial bond issued by the Poway Unified School District would be accepted, saying “it was not a city issue.”
During the forum the four candidates agreed with each more than they disagreed and were gracious as they passed the microphone around while they answered the questions, which ranged from property rights to traffic lights and benefits for city employees.
Each candidate strongly supported city employees, noting that the streets and parks are in good shape even though staff levels have fallen and employees are asked to do more with less.
When asked what they would change about Poway, none of the candidates proposed major changes, although an earlier question about traffic started a discussion on synchronizing traffic lights on Poway Road.
While the candidates agreed that the city shouldn’t spend money on a winter homeless shelter, that water lines should not be extended past state Route 67, and zoning shouldn’t be changed in north Poway to allow multiple-family dwelling units, they did share their reasons for running for City Council.
Vaus talked about his campaign against teen substance abuse in Poway and the town hall meeting he organized early this year following the death of a Poway High student, which drew a large audience of residents and community leaders.
“But I believe I can be even more effective in battling this beast as a member of City Council with your help,” Vaus said.
Mangum cited his 16 years as a member of Poway Unified’s Board of Education and watching Poway grow along with his family since moving here 24 years ago. After the 2007 Witch Creek fire burned his family’s home to the ground, the support from the community was overwhelming, he said.
“As strange as it may sound to you, that experience is among the most treasured experiences of our lives,” Mangum said. “We would not trade it for anything, literally not even for the house that we lost.”
Vineyard said his experience as a business owner would be a welcome change on the council, and said he is the only “green” candidate running. He travels around Poway in a Segway, allowing him to talk to people and experience the city from the ground level. He has lived in Poway for 30 years and said he has spent his life helping the communities he’s lived in and believes very strongly in community service.
“I intend to be a parrot, I want to parrot what the people want,” Vineyard said. “I want to hear from you and I want to know what you want to do, then it’s my job to take that to the council and represent all of you equally.”
Cunningham, the only incumbent in the race, recalled the last four years since his election to the City Council. As soon as he joined the council Poway experienced the most unprecedented economic downturn in the city’s history, and the state mandated Poway to significantly curtail its use of water or face steep penalties, Cunningham said. Within one year, water use dropped by 40 percent, and the city was able to revive the skate park, improved two school athletic fields and built Veterans Park with help from community donations.
“In the past four years while other cities are filing for bankruptcy, we were able to deliver four balanced budgets, maintain all of our core services, and build the highest reserves in the entire county of San Diego without raising one penny in taxes,” Cunningham said.
The candidates are scheduled to appear at another forum on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. at the gazebo in Old Poway Park.