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Fountain Valley City Council candidates discuss constituents’ concerns in forum

Candidates in the  Fountain Valley City Council race pose during a forum held Tuesday.
Shaun Diamond, from left, Glenn Bleiweis, Kim Constantine, Jim Cunneen, Steve Nagel, Dwight Shackelford, Darrel Mymon-Brown, Michael Mau, Eugene Murray, Patrick Harper and Rudy Huebner pause for a picture during a candidates forum Tuesday for the Fountain Valley City Council election. .
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Candidates vying for seats on the Fountain Valley City Council addressed residents Tuesday night, each hoping to make the case for election in November.

The forum, held inside council chambers at Fountain Valley City Hall, was split into two parts, although the same line of questioning was implemented for both sections.

For the record:

12:49 p.m. Oct. 3, 2022

Fountain Valley City Council candidate Glenn Bleiweis did not support high-density housing in the rapid-fire questions round of the candidates forum held on Sept. 27. On the same question, Mayor Patrick Harper did not provide a definitive answer.

Memory Bartlett, president and chief executive of the Fountain Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the candidates did not have access to the questions beforehand. The candidates who participated in the second half were sequestered in another room prior to being brought out for their turn in front of the audience.

A rapid-fire round, during which the candidates held up green paddles to show support or red paddles to signal opposition to an issue, followed opening statements.

All the candidates said they were opposed to short-term rentals in the city. The council rejected an ordinance that would have permitted short-term rentals in the city at its last meeting on Sept. 20.

Of the 11 candidates who took part in the forum, Shaun Diamond and Eugene Murray set themselves apart from the others in saying they would be in favor of allowing marijuana dispensaries in Fountain Valley.

The candidates proved to be more divided on allowing addiction recovery homes (incumbents Patrick Harper and Kim Constantine, along with Michael Mau, Diamond and Murray were in favor) and on their support for high-density housing projects in town (Rudy Huebner and Jim Cunneen said they were in favor). Harper could be seen spinning his paddle regarding high-density housing, as he did not provide a definitive response to the question.

Candidates for Fountain Valley City Council take part in a forum on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Panelists were asked to give detailed responses on topics such as fiscal issues to be addressed, zoning code and the approach to satisfying the city’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment, for which the city has been tasked with planning for an additional 4,839 units by the end of the decade.

“One of the fiscal issues that’s really at the forefront that’s affecting the city right now is the unfunded pension liabilities,” Huebner said. “When we’re looking at actions that the city can take to pay down our debt, I think that we need to be mindful in identifying revenue streams that will bring revenue to the city and allow us to pay down this debt at no cost to residents.”

Huebner added the electronic billboard proposed near the Fountain Valley water tower is one such way she believes the city can pay down debt without subjecting residents to further taxes.

Darrel Mymon-Brown said the city could increase its percentage of the transient occupancy tax as a revenue producer, which she argued could prevent the need for a sales tax increase by passing the cost on to visitors.

Jim Cunneen, who has been a trustee for the Fountain Valley School District since 2014, suggested that developer fees could also reduce the need for sales tax increases.

“One of the benefits of new projects in our cities are that developers have to pay the city millions of dollars,” Cunneen said. “In fact, the Slater apartments has nine conditions, of which that breaks down to many different permit fees.”

Although only a few candidates were asked to answer each question, the Slater Investments project was mentioned multiple times as a council decision within the last year that some candidates disagreed with.

Steve Nagel, a three-time mayor of Fountain Valley who was among the naysayers for that project, said the city should focus on local control when it comes to zoning code.

“A lot of our zoning is dictated by the state,” Nagel said. “Those are the things we have to try to get past and get through, and it causes a lot of grief at the local level. I don’t always agree with how these things have come down, but we’re losing some of that. The R1 residential areas are being changed, and we have different zoning requirements that we struggle with to make sure that we can make it fit to our general plan that we used to have.

“Now, we’re upgrading our general plan, and we’re going to see some changes in that we’re going to have to adapt to, so we have to try to fight to keep what we have but also make sure that we’re flexible enough to see the future change a little bit.

When asked what they believed the most important part of a local government was, Dwight Shackelford, Bleiweis and Mau all said public safety should come first.

Thirteen candidates are in the race for three seats on the Fountain Valley City Council. Candidates Cindy Cao and Nancy Dugay did not participate in Tuesday night’s forum.

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