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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 25th, 2012, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 33 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 33

Fresh faces and new visions

Candidates discuss how they can move small-town Guadalupe forward

BY KRISTINA SEWELL

Keeping the library alive, city beautification, and attracting business were among the key topics discussed at Guadalupe’s City Council candidate forum on Oct. 18.

 

For more than a decade, Guadalupe residents have grown used to the familiar faces on the City Council. But considering three vacant spots on the Nov. 6 ballot, residents gathered at City Hall on Obispo Street on Oct. 18 to meet the new candidates.

 

City Council contenders include Alejandro Ahumada, Ken Chamness, Dave Radmacher, Gina Rubacalba, and Jerry Tucker. Running unopposed for mayor is Frances Romero. Earlene Raguz is the only candidate running for City Clerk.

 

Three of these candidates will replace current mayor Lupe Alvarez and former council members Ariston Julian and Virginia Ponce, all of whom have opted not to run for re-election.

 

Alvarez, who’s served eight years as Guadalupe’s mayor, won’t pursue another term in order to care for his wife, Olivia, who’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

 

“My wife has always been there for me; it’s time I was there for her,” Alvarez said.

 

Julian, after 12 years of service, has decided it’s time to move on and contribute to the city in other ways. After 10 years with the City Council, Ponce has decided it’s time for new leadership.

 

The forum addressed an array of topics presented in the form of questions from the public.

 

While Guadalupe has struggled in recent years for various reasons, all candidates made it clear they believe in the potential of the city.

 

The city’s low crime rate, friendly small-town atmosphere, and affordable housing make candidates believe good things are on the horizon.

 

“This is an exciting time for Guadalupe. You’re going to get a new mayor and City Council members,” Chamness said. “The city is moving in the right direction.”

 

One of the ongoing issues that plagues Guadalupe is finding a way to keep the community library open. Measure I, which will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, proposes a parcel-tax measure that would help pay for rent and improvements to the library until the city becomes financially stable.

 

The candidates echoed each other in their support for the continued existence of the library.

 

“There are some tough economic issues in this town, but we can’t compromise on what makes Guadalupe what it is,” Chamness said.

 

Ahumada, who has been a resident of Guadalupe for 66 years, said the city needs to exhaust all resources possible to keep the library open.

 

 Radmacher and Rubacalba are both proud parents and agree with the other candidates that the library is a cornerstone for the city’s youth.

 

“A city without a library is pretty disgusting,” said Jerry Tucker, former Guadalupe police chief.

 

The recent and bittersweet exit of the Far Western Tavern also brought to light the lack of downtown business in Guadalupe.

 

“We were hit by a perfect storm of sorts—a downturn economy and costly state-mandated retrofits,” Romero said.

 

All of the candidates concurred that Guadalupe needs to become more “business friendly,” and that the planning process for new businesses needs to be easier.

 

“We need to make the planning process more accessible so new businesses want to come here,” Romero said.

 

Tucker added that it’s up to City Council and the community to start promoting Guadalupe as a tourist town.

 

With a downtown full of boarded-up buildings, Guadalupe’s sales tax base is weak compared to other local economies. Ahumada pointed out that 34 percent of San Luis Obispo’s budget comes from sales tax, while 18 percent of Arroyo Grande’s budget comes from sales tax.

 

Guadalupe’s budget only derives 2.5 percent from sales tax. The DJ Farms development is a ray of hope for the city that could deliver a boost to the tax base.

 

The 209-acre parcel of land at the intersection of highways 1 and 166 is zoned to build 800 new residences, a school, and walking paths.

 

“The more homes Guadalupe has, the bigger the tax base,” Ahumada said of the project.

 

Rubacalba echoed her support for DJ Farms but said she’s most focused on an education opportunity.

 

“The city deserves a new school; it should be a top priority in the project,” Rubacalba said.

 

The rest of the candidates agreed that going through with the project is a “win-win” for Guadalupe.

 

A common thread at the forum was changing perceptions about Guadalupe, city image, and beautification. Radmacher, a family man who lives and runs a business in Guadalupe, believes sprucing up the town would be a good start.

 

“There is power in people fixing up their houses and picking up trash,” Radmacher said. “There is power in taking something old and making it new again.”

 

He pointed out that Guadalupe has a uniquely preserved downtown that continues to surprise his visiting friends and family who tell them that the city is “rad.”

 

Along those lines, Romero pointed out that just because buildings are vacant downtown doesn’t mean windows have to be covered with cardboard. Chamness was in line with Romero and Radmacher.

 

“When you’re an attractive town, you’ll attract people to move here,” Chamness said.

 

Also on the Nov. 6 ballot is Measure J, a proposal to rename Guadalupe to Guadalupe Beach in an effort to promote the city as a quaint tourist town.

 

As the forum came to an end, the candidates gave their closing statements.

 

“Things won’t happen overnight,” Romero said. “It won’t be easy.”

 

All of the candidates agreed that the city’s financial situation will take some time to fix.

 

“There are some trying times ahead in the budget,” Tucker remarked.

 

The six nominees expressed their gratitude for all that the previous City Council did for the city, and said they’re excited to get the city moving in the right direction. Rubacalba added that if elected, it would be her job to breathe life and pride for their city back into the community.

 

“We must continue to move forward,” Radmacher said. “We need to build off the changes that have already been made.”

 

Contact Staff Writer Kristina Sewell at ksewell@santamariasun.com.