Chantal M. Lovell, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/14/2010 08:50:23 PM PDT

MENTONE – Seven of the eight candidates running for three Redlands City Council seats sat before a packed house Wednesday night at the Mill Creek Cattle Company restaurant to talk about a wide range of issues.

The Redlands Tea Party and Townhall Patriots hosted the forum to give their members an opportunity to learn where the candidates stand on current and controversial topics.

Candidate Paul Foster had a previously scheduled campaign engagement and said he was unable to attend.

Redlands Tea Party Patriot cabinet member Phillip Naman moderated the forum, which began with a series of yes or no questions.

“We had the yes or no questions because we wanted to see what would make these people tick,” Naman said. “We asked them questions about their world views because we don’t know these people and these are obviously hot topics that affect our country. We want to elect people that stand for something.”

Incumbent Pat Gilbreath was the only candidate who came out in support of Arizona’s immigration law, and Nancy Ruth White was the only candidate to say she does not support the “war against Islamic terrorists.”

On the Defense of Marriage Act, Gilbreath and Doug Pew expressed support, while incumbent Jon Harrison and Mike Layne said they are opposed. Bob Gardner said it is not a city council issue, White said the government should keep out of people’s bedrooms, and Mike Saifie said he is undecided.

When Harrison came out as the only candidate to say he supports the right of people to build a mosque near ground zero, the crowd booed. White opted to pass on the question. Gardner did not answer the question but called on Naman to “get to city council issues.”

All of the candidates present said they do not want another tattoo shop in Redlands, do not support having parolee homes in the city and support the issuance of concealed weapons permits for noncriminal citizens. White stood alone in support of more Housing and Urban Development homes.

All said they believe Redlands has a spending problem and that they would refuse to sign an unsustainable budget. Layne was alone in saying Redlands does not have a revenue shortage.

Naman and audience members then asked individual candidates questions.

Pew said benefit and pension reform are the key to balancing the city budget.

“I would continue working with the fire and police unions to have them contribute to their benefits, i.e. health and pension,” Pew said. “This is what’s breaking not only the budget for the city of Redlands, but also at the state and federal level.”

Gardner said the city must be open about how it spends tax money.

“I would go through a line-by-line review and look at the pension reforms,” Gardner said. “… I’d create performance measures for every program before we spent one dime of any new revenue. I would make sure we had set up an analysis of each program to make sure they were working. That’s what I’ve done in every job I’ve had. …”

Harrison said pension reform needs to happen on a wide scale.

“The cities are largely driven by the state process,” Harrison said. “If the state can accomplish that … then I think the cities will take advantage of that approach. I don’t see our city being able to do that unilaterally. … It’s something we have to do collectively, and we have to work with the state on pension reform.”

Gilbreath tried to clarify her view on the city’s finances.

“The city is fine,” Gilbreath said. “I never said we were in the red. I never said the city was financially fine. The city basically has been challenged in the past few years by negative budgets, which I never signed, and I don’t want to support in the future. … We are not a financially destitute city.”

Naman asked White how she would fulfill campaign promises to spend more for seniors and youth and rehire laid-off employees while being opposed to the half-cent sales tax.

“If we look at (pensions and benefits), then we will have money to take care of the infrastructure of our city, for our seniors, for our youth,” White said. “If we take care of some of these big line items we will be able to have these things. I think seniors need transportation, youth need pools, we need to take care of our infrastructure. …”

Naman asked Layne how he could a support a 1percent development fee for public art but not a half-cent sales tax increase.

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