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Town council candidates disagree at forum

By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Editor
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Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series on the Loomis Town Council Candidate’s Forum held on Sept. 26. The Loomis Town Council Candidate Forum, held last week, allowed the three Loomis Town Council candidates running for two seats to share their views with the public. During the forum, held on Sept. 26, at the Blue Goose Event Center, questions from the audience were submitted in writing and posed to the candidates by a moderator from the League of Women Voters of Placer County. Each candidate then had an equal amount of time to answer the questions. While the candidates – incumbents Rhonda Morillas and Gary Liss, and Loomis Fire Protection District Chief Dave Wheeler – agreed on many issues raised by the audience, they were widely divided on others. The three candidates each said they want to maintain the town’s rural atmosphere and said they want to keep Loomis small, but disagreed on issues such as Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) lanes, Heritage Park, tree mitigation fees, sustainability and town goals. Q: What is the most important issue facing our town? Morillas: “We need to focus on balancing our budget and stop wasting time on things that are not needed at this time. We need to concentrate on fixing the roads around town, safety issues.” Liss: “Development or not. How fast do we grow? What is responsible growth? Development is the most important issue.” Wheeler: “I’d go back to the budget. In the last five years, there’s been no money spent on road circulation. No money spent on affordable housing. Only $24,000 spent on economic development.” Q: What one project would you work on with the chamber of commerce to improve relations with businesses? Wheeler: “I would look at our small businesses to see what their needs are … A lot of it has to do with parking for their customers so they can do more business. The business loan program is a failure. The Town of Loomis is losing money monthly on the one business loan they have.” Morillas: “We need to reinstate something we had in the past, the economic development committee, which the council selected business owners and residents that worked with us, the chamber and the community. We need to help those businesses be able to stay in business. Liss: “Help on promotions. More festivals and events … to have a vibrant downtown … more activities drive more investment.” Q: Do you support term limits? Morillas: “It depends on what you bring to the council. As a business owner I brought that aspect with me … I don’t necessarily think term limits are a good thing. We need to have people that will listen to the community and are involved in the community. That’s more important than how many terms you serve.” Liss: “I did not support the adoption of term limits. The ultimate term limit is the vote of the people. But that said, I support term limit implementation. I don’t want to serve longer than the two terms allowed.” Wheeler: “I think what is more important is voter education. Many people make their decisions based on flyers they get in the mail or things they see on television. Philosophically, I’m against term limits on a local level, but I can also see the reason why.” Q: What would you do to benefit the town? Wheeler: “This is one of those towns where you can walk around and feel safe … If we invite some of the things that are included on the current agenda, I think you risk that safety you enjoy with the town … (like) the tree preserve. We have to create that safe environment for all of us.” Morillas: “Making sure we live in a safe community is also good for the youth of the town. Giving them a place where they can hang out … have parks to play at … bike trails to ride at.” Liss: “Loomis was set up as a limited government, by design, with limited services, we can’t be all things to all people. Rely on volunteer efforts … We can be good role models, inspire innovations.” How can the town improve citizens’ lives? Wheeler: “By providing the services that people actually need and want, not forcing our pet projects … As we look at our aging parents, we need some affordable housing so you can have your aging parents still live here in town and not have to put them in Sun City or some other location. There are great traditions of multiple generations of families that love Loomis and want to stay together here.” Morillas: “We have a great community and we need to do the things so that our families can stay here and live here. Our kids can grow up here and bring up their kids … generations can grow up here. That’s how I was brought up.” Liss: “People love Loomis. Citizens are so happy to be here. With a limited services government, it’s not our responsibility to improve peoples’ lives. And they’re very happy already. We can save money through sustainability efforts. Preserve Heritage Park and do more festivals and improve on what we’ve already got.”