Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 09/04/2010 10:32:36 PM PDT

GRAND TERRACE – Experience and transparency are emerging as major themes of the elections in Grand Terrace.

Four candidates are running for mayor, four for the City Council seat held by Bea Cortes, and two for the remaining two years of Jim Miller’s council term, which he resigned in March before pleading guilty to charges related to voting with a conflict of interest.

Against that backdrop, several candidates contrast their approach with what they call years of mismanagement by former city manager and finance director Tom Schwab.

Schwab resigned in 2009.

Now, he says his unique understanding makes him the best-qualified for Cortes’ seat.

“I worked for the city for 24 years, and I’ve made some mistakes to go along with the good things I’ve done,” Schwab said. “I have more experience, have the ability to help them maintain our policies, particularly through the redevelopment agency. Nobody understands the redevelopment agency as much as I do.”

Schwab’s record plays heavily into the mayor’s race.

“There’s just so much that has gone on in this city kind of under the radar that I don’t think residents are aware of, and this stuff needs to stop,” said mayoral candidate Walt Stanckiewitz, ticking off issues he said Schwab handled sloppily in recent years: borrowing money from the redevelopment agency, resulting in $4.6 million in debt; no taxes paid on stipends for council or planning commission members; donating a scoreboard without seeing if a park needed it.

Hands-on management would prevent many of these missteps, said Stanckiewitz, who owns La Pasta Italia restaurant and was elected to the City Council in 2008.

“You have to ask questions and dig a little deeper than the surface,” Stanckiewitz said.

Planning Commission Chairman Doug Wilson, another mayoral candidate, said the city deserves a full-time mayor with deep local understanding.

“I don’t want to dismantle the operation, I don’t want to rebuild, I want to build on what’s good,” said Wilson, who has been involved in the construction business for 40 years.

Wilson said the transparency issue was overblown, as City Council and Planning Commission minutes are available online. He said he encourages people to speak at Planning Commission meetings and often waives time limits.

Sally McGuire said she would make a good mayor because her experience as president of the Grand Terrace Chamber of Commerce and diverse volunteer organizations would help her harmonize sometimes disorganized community members.

“I think I’m good at building relationships,” she said. “I think we need to reinforce some of our volunteer organizations.”

Denise Sternberg said her 20 years of real estate experience would help her plan where stores could go without driving each other out of business.

“It’s important not to have everything overlap: church on top of church and doughnut shop on top of doughnut shop, so they choke each other out,” she said.

Cortes emphasizes her experience as she fights to maintain the council seat she first won in 2002.

“The reason I’m running is to continue all my work in strengthening the Grand Terrace economy,” Cortes said.

She said she has brought development and name recognition as the first representative of Grand Terrace to serve as vice president of San Bernardino Associated Governments, a transportation planning agency that allows her to lobby for the city in Sacramento.

The position would not transfer to her successor if she were defeated.

Council candidate Bernardo Sandoval, director of technical relations for a regional health care provider, said the city needs clearer measurements and checks for officials and developers.

“We need to hold people accountable,” he said. “What are the commitments, what are the performance metrics, who’s responsible. Make that clear to everybody – this is what you can expect for your tax dollars.”

Richard Loder said the council favors businesses over residents or sports fields, because none of its members have young kids.

“I’m a family man,” said Loder, a business owner and member of the chamber of commerce. “In my experience, the city always voted for business, because they’re so concerned about revenue coming in. I’m really big on everyone being heard, respect for everyone.”

Sylvia Robles is pushing to finish Miller’s term to simplify government.

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