10:00 PM PDT on Thursday, November 4, 2010

By JAN SEARS
The Press-Enterprise

Redlands’ new City Council members will face an immediate challenge when they take office Dec. 7 — how to balance the city’s budget now that voters have rejected a half-cent sales tax hike.

The failure of Measure A was projected to leave the city’s general fund about $1.3 million in the red. Earlier this year, the council cut some $8 million from the budget and laid off about 40 employees.

Usually the December meeting when new council members take office is a celebration, and the council doesn’t get down to business until January. That may not be so this year, Councilman Pete Aguilar said.

“I think we’re going to put these guys to work,” he said Thursday.

The man who won the most votes in Tuesday’s election is a political newcomer and arguably has the strongest financial background. Bob Gardner, vice president of administration and finance at Cal State San Bernardino, campaigned on a “Budget Bill of Rights,” which promised no deficits, full disclosure and long-range planning.

Gardner capped his campaign spending at $20,000 and limited the amount of money he accepted from the city’s employee unions.

The other two successful candidates, Paul Foster, an administrator with Southern California Permanente Medical Group and planning commission chairman, and incumbent Jon Harrison, an analyst with Esri Inc., each accepted $5,000 from the firefighters’ PAC as well as help with mailers toward the end of the campaign, finance reports show. Gardner accepted $1,000 from the group, his finance report shows.

Foster raised more than $40,000 for his campaign and by mid-October had spent more than $30,000. Harrison raised about $32,000 and spent about $26,000, finance reports show.

Gardner said he limited his fundraising and spending to set a good example.

“It was a good opportunity to say we can run a campaign cheaply and to be an example of truly doing more with less,” he said. “We have to set limits and accomplish as much possible with what we have.”

Foster said he was gratified by the result of what proved to be a tight race with Mayor Pat Gilbreath, a four-term council veteran. Foster received just 181 more votes than Gilbreath, the San Bernardino County registrar’s semi-official results show.

The new council will be a “getting down to business” group, Foster said.

“Some difficult decisions will have to be made,” he said. “I hope the public understands that some of that is going to be hard.”

Harrison attributed his re-election to having been active in a wide variety of issues in town, including preserving open space.

“I’ve tried to help out where I can to solve the issues,” he said. “I think that balance is not lost on the people in the community.”

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