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See candidate interviews: click on OUR VIDEOS on left

Three vie for two council positions

By: Martha Garcia, Loomis News Editor and Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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In the Nov. 4 election, three candidates are vying for two seats on Loomis Town Council. They are incumbents Tom Millward and Rhonda Morillas and Gary Liss, chairman of Loomis Parks and Open Space Commission. During separate interviews, the candidate were asked the same questions about growth in Loomis, what they would like the next town council to do differently, what the council could do to revitalize the downtown core, and their vision for Loomis during the next to 10 years. In addition to the story that follows, videos of the candidates discussing their vision for Loomis can be viewed on the Loomis News Web site at www.theloomisnews.com. We invite you to express your opinions about the council race on the Myopolis portion of our Web site. Name: GARY LISS Age: 57 Occupation: Recycling and zero waste consultant Offices held: Current chairman of Loomis Parks and Open Space Commission; served on Loomis Open Space 2 Committee “I’m not against growth. I’m for slow, controlled growth that protects our residents, our existing businesses and supports quality schools, public safety, parks and open space,” said Loomis Town Council candidate Gary Liss. Liss believes that growth along the town’s borders is one of the greatest threats to Loomis residents. “Our neighbors are putting a lot of pressure on Loomis from their plans for growth. We need to address that straight on,” he said. Liss said the current “council chose not to comment on the Notice of Preparation … on the draft Environmental Impact Report” for the Rocklin Crossings project and reacted only after Dias Lane residents “adamantly” asked council to fight for them. Liss said the “last-minute” efforts caused Rocklin to believe that Loomis was “playing a game” in preparation for a lawsuit. Liss said he favors development outlined in the Loomis General Plan such as The Village and The Loomis Marketplace, but he believes that “the council should guide the direction of the development, not the developer.” “We need a majority on the council that wants to hold to the general plan vision. We have a great general plan. We need to follow it,” the candidate said. Liss has an extensive to-do list if he is elected to the town council. It includes getting the public more involved in development decision-making, protecting existing businesses and residents from rampant development, designing for future traffic, considering a King Road on and off ramp on Interstate 80 and making the Loomis Marketplace project part of the town center master plan. He wants residents to participate in early scoping meetings on projects in town and would like to see staff reports on council agenda items available on the town Web site prior to council meetings. “The Loomis that we all know and love is about to change. I hope to fight to keep the same type of identify, our agricultural heritage, our historical buildings, our existing businesses – growing and prospering. “New activities require an active council that preserves the ideas of the General Plan and encourages developers that come to town to embody our ideas rather than doing something just like every other town. “Loomis is unique. It is a jewel in this region. Everyone who comes here recognizes that we need to preserve its great attributes,” Liss said. Liss said more information is available on his Web site: www.garyliss.com. Name: TOM MILLWARD Age: 69 Occupation: Retired CHP officers Offices held: Loomis council 4 years, including mayor 1 year. Serves on Placer County Air Pollution Control District and Placer County Community Services Commission. Tom Millward, seeking re-election to the Loomis Town Council, relies on the general plan to mandate how Loomis will grow. “Growth in Loomis has already been calculated out by the general plan,” Millward said. He does worry about increased traffic, fearing bumper-to-bumper traffic such as that in Los Angeles, and closer to home, Sacramento. What Millward would really like the next council to do is get along better. “I’d like to see them work together … instead of bickering,” Millward said. He’d like council members to go to council meetings without “personal agendas” and “with an open mind to what the majority of the citizens might want.” He’d like to see more involvement by the business community and citizens, “so they can have a voice on how their tax money is spent and other decisions the council makes.” He wants the next council to be in the position to accept open space and wetlands when development occurs. “Right now,” Millward said,” we can’t afford to maintain the open space land, that might be given to us, and … we’re not accepting it … we’ve got to change our thinking on this.” Instead, he said, if the town “took it, we can build parks there; we can make trails there.” Events, signage and advertising will help keep the downtown core of Loomis vital, Millward said. Vacant spots can be filled by showing prospective business owners what “we have … and entice them into Loomis.” Competition from new businesses along Interstate 80 could be dealt with by having them contribute to a fund to promote downtown through signage. “We’re gong to have to be careful what comes in … because we don’t want them to run the old businesses out of town,” he warned. Millward sees greater competition coming from outside the town. “I think the most competition we get for businesses downtown, we get from Rocklin,” he said. Millward hopes that in 10 years Loomis will still be rural, the economy will have picked up, and that businesses that come to town will bring tax dollars to maintain roads and install traffic controls as necessary. Depending on the economy, he’d like to hire another law enforcement officer and add parks in the neighborhoods and downtown. He also wants bicycle trails and pedestrian friendly walkways. Millward said the new depot, as well as the new town hall, will have given a boost to the town. Name: RHONDA MORILLAS Age: 57 Occupation: Co-owner of Nelthorpe & Son, Loomis Offices held: Loomis council 16 years, including mayor and mayor pro-tem 4 times. Town clerk for 3 years, prior to council. Serves on Placer County Flood Control District; previously on Placer Economic Development Commission and Air Pollution Control District. Mug of Rhonda Morillas Projects must fit into the community and into the business district in order for Loomis to adequately deal with growth, according to Rhonda Morillas, who is seeking re-election to the Loomis Town Council. Development should be “taken one project at a time,” Morillas said, “because it can make more sense that way.” Morillas would like the next town council to “get along.” She doesn’t like that “innuendos” are made at meetings and “hostility shows through.” To make meetings run smoothly, she suggests council members give questions to staff earlier so that the can be better prepared at the meetings, “if it’s not something they (staff) know off the top of their heads.” Morillas feels it reflects badly on the council when council members say things that appear to “bait” other members into getting angry. “It’s embarrassing to me to have the public see this,” Morillas said. “We’re not professional.” Morillas is excited about the new town hall, scheduled to open in January in the former South Placer Municipal Utility District building. She expects the town hall move to Taylor Road to draw people to the downtown area. It’s just one way to keep the downtown core viable, she said. The town will also hold council and planning commission meetings in the remodeled train depot. She’d like to see more events such as concerts and other entertainment at Loomis Station Plaza, which surrounds the depot. She wants new businesses that come to Loomis to “compliment,” not compete, “with businesses that we have.” Morillas wants to see the projects on both sides of the freeway – Loomis Marketplace and the Villages at Loomis – complete. “They will bring in lots of sale tax revenue to help the town keep a balanced budget, to “maintain the services the residents of the town need.” She cites police and fire services as high-budget items that must be funded. “With both projects finished, there will be places for kids to live, too,” as one project will include affordable housing, she said. Morillas also wants to see the addition of parks as development occurs. “It would be nice to have parks for our kids and grandkids,” she said. One project will also ease traffic on Taylor Road, especially during school hours. It will “open up Doc Barnes Drive to King Road and the freeway … and people will not go have to go through downtown Loomis,” Morillas said.