Candidates | La Habra Journal

Posted on 10 February 2013 by La Habra Journal

By Jay Seidel La Habra Journal


The residents of La Habra Heights will have some big choices to make come March 5 when they elect two city council members and determine some fiscal decisions for the city.

There are five candidates running for three positions(*corrected from print edition), with only one incumbent seeking reelection.
Incumbent Brian Bergman, George Edwards, Michael Higgins, Chester Jeng, and Kyle Miller are all vying for the seats.

The La Habra Journal asked the candidates some questions to help the community better know the candidates. There will be two town hall forums for the candidates this month that the public is encouraged to attend.

1. Why are you running for the La Habra Heights City Council?

edwards-updated-150x150-6553021EDWARDS: I am running to win representation for the two thirds of the community who’ve had enough with elected representatives who feel the only solution to the City’s ills is new taxation. Unfortunately this sentiment is not represented by the current City Council or by any other candidate. I want to restore the voters’ trust in our government by putting a stop to no-bid contracts, closed backroom tax committees and insuring the City’s business is conducted in the open with complete transparency. The City needs to make every resident proud to call La Habra Heights, home. Good government is essential to accomplish that goal.

photo-of-chester-jeng-150x150-8217886JENG: It is important that I give back to our community. As a practicing dentist in La Habra, most of my patients are from La Habra Heights, Fullerton, La Mirada, Whittier, and Brea. I am fortunate enough to be able to live in the Heights with my beautiful young family. Our rural community is the perfect place for me to raise my family because we are close to the local amenities offered by nearby communities while having the feel of living in the mountains. There is not a single day that goes by that I am not thankful to be able to live in our beautiful rural community.

It is important to me to protect our ways of life by making sure that we prevent over development, keeping crime rate low, and solve budget issues. By training, most dentists, including myself, are hands on type of persons. Instead of watching or hoping other members in our community take on this task, I felt compelled for me to step up to the plate, and be proactive in preserving our way of life by being on the City Council.

mike-head-shot-3-150x150-5112374HIGGINS: I have been involved in city issues and events since the time I moved here. The resignation of some fine council members caused me to be concerned about our city’s future. I feel it is my responsibility to the community to step forward and serve.

miller-150x150-3724354MILLER: During my time serving on the roads committee, two things became clear to me. The city was in a real struggle to maintain the budget resources needed to perform all the required city functions. In addition, it was evident that the once civil resident debate on the roads issue, and other items, had deteriorated into a divisive, polarizing state of affairs. I’m running for City Council to, with my nearly 20 years of small business experience, address our budget issues, maximize every budget dollar, and create new resources wherever possible. Also, with help from the residents, I’d like to restore civility, and community to our great city. All voices can be heard while working together.

mayor-brian-bergman-150x150-7336092BERGMAN: This is my community, which I cherish and have lived in for 25 years.
I want to be certain that La Habra Heights, my home, remains a unique rural city, maintains a solid financial status and that all residents (my neighbors) continue to enjoy this beautiful environment.

The next four years will be extremely challenging for La Habra Heights—I have been active in the City for over twelve years and believe I have knowledge and expertise which will be helpful in meeting and making tough decisions that will face our City.

2. What do you see as the major issues facing La Habra Heights?

JENG: The biggest issue in our City is budget. Since the majority of our City revenue is from property tax, and with the decreased home values, our revenues are down. Like all 88 cities within Los Angeles County, property tax allocation is set by state law, so we cannot ask the county for more money. Even if we were not limited by state law, Los Angeles County is in no position to give us more money. Our hands are tied, and with the increased costs of running our City, we need proven leadership in our Council.
Other issues in our City include the reduced law enforcement patrol hours. We simply need more patrol hours to deter and prevent crimes. Having patrol presence will protect our community. Realistically, we cannot afford more deputy patrol hours, but we can definitely work as a community along with the Los Angeles County Sheriffs to bring back our Volunteer Patrol Program by getting volunteers in our own community to be trained and certified by LACS and we can patrol our own community along with Los Angeles County Sheriffs.

HIGGINS: Revenue shortfalls create challenges for funding items such as public safety and road maintenance. I plan to examine certain aspects of public safety and perhaps implement more progressive procedures that other cities have had success with. This might help make our situation more sustainable within our current funding.
I plan to get our residents more involved in finding a solution to funding our road maintenance requirements. I don’t believe that the majority of the people in the Heights want to pay more fees or taxes, and I include myself in that category, but we must face certain fiscal realities. As a fiscal conservative I will work with the people to find a solution. This solution will have to be some sort of compromise. It is not an easy fix or it would have been done already. There are many factors involved and some of them are in flux. Some of those factors are revenue from property tax, cost of oil and labor, repairing severe threats before they become major cost items, outside funding that may or may not be available to us at any particular time.

MILLER: In addition to managing the budget and restoring community to our city, I would add, ensuring the sustainability of our Fire Safety Program and maintaining our roads and other city assets. In researching our Fire Safety Program I have determined that creating a non profit Fire Protection Foundation that benefits the department is something we should implement right away. It is an extremely low cost measure that would benefit our Fire Safety Program immediately in two ways.

No. 1 Residents who believe Fire safety is the number one issue in the city and have a long standing connection to the department can contribute directly to the program without the red tape of the city. It is currently against the law to donate to the city and specify the use for the money.

No.2 More importantly, with the establishment of the Non Profit Foundation, the city would be eligible for meaningful grants both locally and nationally. In addition, supportive businesses and corporations could also contribute resources and have already expressed a desire to do so.

BERGMAN: Declining revenues with the potential for further State of California takeaways, police/fire issues, road/storm drainage needs, repair and upgrade of our 60 year old city hall, and protection of our beautiful rural environment.

EDWARDS: The City spending beyond its means, which leads to new taxes, no- bid contracts and a multimillion-dollar rebuilding of City offices without voter input or approval, and at the expense of public safety and road repairs.

3. On the ballot this year are two measures, one that looks to increase the city’s Gann spending limit and the other increasing the city’s tax on oil and natural gas. Do you support either or both of these measures? Why or why not?

MILLER: I support both measures for the following reasons.

Measure B deals with the fee per barrel that the city charges Oil Companies to pump out the resources from resident and city owned parcels. The agreement was designed to be fair and equitable to both parties. The fee hasn’t changed in over 16 years and, with the dramatic increase in oil costs and the cost of living, it has become unfair to the city. Furthermore, if the increase is approved it will still be less as a percentage of a barrel than it was 16 years ago and will move up and down with the fluctuating cost of oil. Something that is fair to both parties involved and a feature that wasn’t included in the past. I think the measure is a reasonable approach to correct the inequity and the residents will decide.

Measure A deals with allowing us to utilize all of the resident approved fire tax monies. Otherwise known as the Gann limit measure. If you are for easing the tax burden on residents and maximizing every budget dollar, then I would hope you would be in favor of allowing the city to use existing resident approved resources. When the Gann limit originated back in the late 70’s, the fire monies were termed a fee and were not included in the formula used to determine the base budget amount the city needed to operate annually. Some years later the fire monies were reclassified as a tax but were still not included in the base budget amount. So the city has had to extend the Gann limit since then to correct this unintended flaw in the original proposal. The measure comes up every four years and for the last 12 years (as far back as I could check publicly) the residents have passed this measure by an average of over 80 percent. This is not a tax, but a reasonable procedural measure that has overwhelming support and helps the city maximize our resources.

BERGMAN: Measure A – the Gann limit. This measure is identical to measures that have been overwhelmingly passed by the residents multiple times over the last thirty years. The measure does not increase existing taxes, it simply meets a legal requirement which allows the City to use already resident approved taxes to fund the Fire Department.

Measure B – Increasing the City Tax on Oil and Natural Gas. The City already has in place this tax which has not been changed since 1995 when the value of a barrel of oil was only $18 – the current value is in the area of $96. This measures brings the amount charged in line with the increased value and is not excessive when compared to similar taxes charged by other cities. I feel that this is not a tax increase, but rather a reasonable and necessary adjustment.

EDWARDS: Measure A (Gann Limit) is once again being masqueraded by the City to appear as though it funds fire department operations. It does not. The City needs to seek voter approval every four years to spend more than state law legally allows. While the measure does not raise taxes it does give our City the means to work around Proposition 13 taxation limits on property owners, intended to prevent overspending by municipalities. Overriding the Gann Limit allows for overspending and will lead to increased assessments and permit the creation of new taxes such as the other tax increase on the ballot, Measure B.

Measure B seeks to tax businesses involved in oil production within our community. The City’s argument for the tax does not make known that property owners will pay the tax through reduced royalty payments. Residents typically use these funds to irrigate avocado orchards, citrus groves and green belts to reduce the threat of wildfire. The funds also go toward charitable contributions to fire prevention and neighborhood watch programs in our community. Still others living on fixed incomes; depend on the additional income to supplement the high cost of maintaining their properties. I do not support either measure and, in fact, co-authored the argument against Measure A and authored the argument against Measure B.

JENG: I am in support of both Measure A and Measure B.

Measure A: Although our City has not exceeded the limits in 2 years, passing A will allow our City to have access to $138,000 that we may need. We simply cannot say that we don’t need it this year and not pass it. It is being responsible to look toward the future needs and not just today.

Measure B: By raising oil tax from $0.25 to $0.60 per barrel and natural gas from $0.05 per cubic feet of volume to $0.10, and the storage of gas removal tax from $0.03 to $0.06 per 1000 cubic feet, our City will increase revenue by $80,000 without increasing tax on our residents. The oil tax has not been raised since 1996 when per barrel of oil was averaging $20.46; per barrel of oil is at $84.46 in 2012. In this economic time, we simply cannot raise taxes on our residents.

HIGGINS: I support both measures. The Gann measure is not detrimental to the residents and does not cost them money; we have raised this limit in the past to no adverse effect. It is simply a matter of fiscal housekeeping to keep our city in a position to use funds that might come to the city above what we anticipate without an artificial restriction at a time when we need all funds available to us for our community needs.

The tax on oil and gas issue, this is an item that perhaps should have been addressed on a more regular basis over the years, that way it would not even be an issue right now. The taxes that are being paid by the oil & gas entities in our community are based on a time when the cost of a barrel of oil was significantly lower than it is now. Our City needs to increase its revenue to offset the rising cost of services it pays for as well as the maintenance of our infrastructure.

4. What do you feel makes you a strong candidate for the La Habra Heights City Council?

BERGMAN: The next four years will be extremely challenging for La Habra Heights and I have the strongest qualifications of any candidate to respond to these challenges.
The City is currently in good financial shape and has recently completed upgrades to the fire department and reorganization of staff to reduce costs. With my eight years experience on the Council, four years on the City Planning Commission, as well as over twenty years as an aircraft flight maintenance manager for a major airline, I have the knowledge and background to deal with the issues facing our city.

EDWARDS: I understand the importance of good government that works for the people. Thirty years of covering newsmakers has given me more insight then I care to acknowledge on how bad government looks, and the destructive consequence on its communities. La Habra Heights deserves good government. I have the spirit and experience to make that more than just another campaign platitude.

JENG: I believe all candidates in this election are here to help our City. However, there are certain qualities that make one candidate more qualified than another candidate. As a successful small business owner, I have weathered through the most difficult recession in recent times without lay-offs, and actually increased our business revenues. We concentrated on the importance of customer service and convenience while budgeting our overhead expenses.

Along with my business experience, I can be an asset to our City with my legal background. Besides being a licensed dentist, I am also a licensed attorney with a specialized training in Tax Law. I am currently admitted to practice in the states of California, North Carolina, and the United States Federal Tax Courts. My concentrations of law practice are Contract Law, Workers’ Compensation, and Tax Law.

With my successful small business experience and my legal training, I believe I am a strong candidate for our Voters to consider

HIGGINS: I am not a politician. What I am is a concerned citizen of our community, and I feel I can bring the experience of a lifetime in business, creativity, and a strong work ethic to the city. I will make my decisions for the community as a whole. I will focus on long term sustainability, and act with honesty, integrity, knowledge, and common sense.

MILLER: By far, I think that the most important traits in a candidate is the ability to work with other members of the council and our neighboring city councils to address our challenges, build consensus, and move our city forward. With my nearly 20 years of experience as a small business owner, that trait has served me well. In my current profession, on a daily basis, I am bringing together parties with competing interests and finding solutions that everyone can feel good about. Lets come together and get to work.

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