On the evening of the first 2012 presidential debate, a broad spectrum of candidates for Murrieta’s City Council took center stage at Gershwin Performing Arts Center at Murrieta Mesa High School.
Two seats are open for the Nov. 6 election and with only one incumbent running for re-election, there will be at least one new face on the Murrieta City Council — guaranteed.
“This is our chance to match faces to names, and hear what the candidates are all about,” said Murrieta Chamber of Commerce member, Save the Animals Today founder Pattie Roberts.
Out of the six candidates running, only five were in attendance for the forum: David Mueting, 41, customer service representative; Randon Lane, (incumbent) 43, public affairs manager, Southern California Gas Company; Joel Phillips Jr., 52, real estate broker; Dan Strick, 27, student; and Harry Ramos, 35, retired Marine.
Heritage High School teacher and candidate, Paul Clay declined to attend the event, according to Murrieta Chamber of Commerce President Patrick Ellis.
The Californian’s John Hunneman moderated the well-paced event, asking questions gathered by the publication over the course of several weeks.
Each candidate was given equal opportunity to answer from a variety of topics ranging from city council term limits, as well as discussions on the controversial Emergency Response Fees, medical marijuana dispensaries and the proposed red light camera ban that will be on the ballots on Nov. 6.
On red light cameras, Phillips cited the thousands of pages he reviewed on the issues stating, “My personal conclusion is that there is a need, but it is ultimately an issue that is up to the voters to decide.”
Candidates Lane and Strick shared that sentiment, while Mueting and Ramos agreed the cameras are not the way to go. Ramos took his rebuttal one step further, declaring the red light cameras were unconstitutional.
Emailed topics touched on the controversial Emergency Response Fee with Mueting agreeing with the initiative. Lane said he understood the need and reasoning, but wished it could be a voter issue.
Phillips said that the city budget shortfall that necessitated the fee was a last choice for the city, and reminded that not all would pay the bill. “There is only a fee if one needs the services,” he said.
Strick agreed with Phillips, and commented that while he supported the fee, there were other ways to save money.
“This is all a consequence of belt tightening,” Strick said.
Ramos declared that the first priority of Murrieta needs to be public safety. “To put this to the people is just a political gambit. Everyone wants to support the fire department, of course.”
Regarding term limits, the responses were mixed.
Phillips, Lane, and Strick’s non-support of term limits, with Strick stating, “Eight years might be long enough to gain real traction (as a councilman),” Ramos cited that way of thinking as his reason for wanting term limits imposed. “I definitely support term limits, because the purpose of city council is to have regular individuals representing their neighbors,”Ramos said.
When asked why they wanted to run for city council, Mueting described himself as, “an average guy with above average ideas.”
Incumbent Lane described his original frustration which propelled him to run in 2008. Now, he is running again, because there remains much to be done in Murrieta. “The city can be safer, with better health care; this is what I’m passionate about.”
Phillips, as a small business owner, declared this is his opportunity to give back, and make a difference to the community. “I understand the frustrations of small business and the challenges of property rights.”
Strick said that he considers himself the statistic of Murrieta’s average resident, “I’m late 20s, married with a family. Murrieta is a great city; I want my kids to grow up here. ”
Ramos declared his intentions would be to always serve his country, first as a U.S. Marine after 9-11, and now that his medical retirement is almost complete, his city, however he can.
“I just want to serve, whether I am on city council, or just volunteering at the library,” Ramos said.
To learn more about Temecula City Council candidates and their platforms, read their profiles on SWRNN’s Election Guide 2012.
Ashley Ludwig is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.