Sandra Emerson, Staff Writer
Created: 07/19/2011 07:44:36 PM PDT

UPLAND – The faces of the 11 people running for City Council this summer were dimly lit as they answered questions from the community during the Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum on Monday at Upland High School.

The candidates sat in a long row along the school’s Highlander Auditorium stage and attempted to stand out to potential voters in the audience.

The candidates are running to fill a vacancy on the City Council left in February when Mayor Ray Musser was appointed.

Each candidate gave their opening statement before answering questions pulled randomly out of a bowl.

During two rounds of questions, each candidate was given one minute to respond to a new question or a previously asked question.

Upland voters are required to mail in their ballots by Aug. 30.

Candidates’ questions and their answers:

Ladan Bezanson, learning coordinator for Montclair, on ethnic diversity on city boards:

“Right now, if you look at our demographics on the city website it shows 45 percent Caucasian in the city and that is very represented on our committees and commissions right now. We do have a 35 percent Hispanic population in the city and that should be well represented as well as the other small populations. But I think that the way you can bring those people in is by reaching out to the community a little more. We definitely should be more public about these type of positions being available as well as within their own communities.”

Elaine Courey, Bonita Unified School District teacher, on Upland 15 to 20 years from now:

“I’d like to see it back to where it was years ago, `The City of Gracious Living.’ I would like to see more businesses along our Foothill corridor. I would like to see more families in our city. I even look forward to seeing even maybe a few more parks. We do have some areas that could be developed. Again, being a teacher, a P.E. teacher, I’d like to see more activities for our kids in the neighborhoods and more things for them to get involved in and be active instead of sitting at home.”

Bob “Bubba” DeJournett, retired Upland teacher and softball coach, on the impact of failed banks on the city:

“Obviously, this is going to affect the city with foreclosures throughout the city. You drive around the city you see many homes sitting there getting, I don’t know if the word `trashed’ is right, but getting weed abated and obviously foreclosed on. It takes away our tax dollars. Our tax base is diminishing. We need to do whatever we can to revitalize our revenues for the city to get the tax base as high as we can with promotions of sales throughout the city.

Sam Fittante, retired owner of a lawn maintenance company, on pension reform:

“I do not receive a public pension. I receive a small pension from Kaiser Steel, which I got 17 years vested and I had to wait 25 years to receive $200 a month. I can’t see somebody working 18, 19 years being 50 years old receiving a pension and go to another job and receive pension from the city of Upland plus the new wages. I think if they do that they should have to wait a number of years until their retirement age – until 60 years old. I think major reforms should be in the health and benefit packages and the perks they receive.

Eric Gavin, computer software architect, on changing the structure of city government:

“I don’t think I would change the structure. I would seek to obviously make it more open and transparent in its operations – where we have very, very clean and measurable goals that aid us toward increased revenues, increased safety and things we find valuable as citizens. After looking through the budget, I wasn’t even able myself to see how most of the items themselves tied to increased revenues or any of these things.

Dan Morgan, Upland city treasurer, on the most important issue in the coming year:

“For me, pension reform – bringing that under control. A really great decision by the current City Council in hiring Stephen Dunn as our city manager. He has my total support. I think when we trim the budget, we are definitely going to next look at pension reform and bringing this under control.”

Steven Roppel, commercial real estate agent at Lee & Associates, on strategies to make the city more business friendly:

“I believe we go right to the core of the city of Upland and that involves the employees and staff of the city of Upland being receptive, positive and energized and customer service-oriented. I believe many of the businesses that located in Upland and contemplated coming back to Upland have been disappointed in the reception they have received in the city of Upland from City Hall. They met obstacles. They met red tape. They met a lot of paperwork that needs to be reformed.”

Debbie Stone, funeral director at Stone Funeral Home, bring new business to the city:

“First of all, I think what we need to do is we need to change our city’s policy and the way we handle people when they come to our city and want to open a business. We have quite the reputation of not being very friendly out of our Planning Department, not only with businesses, but also with homeowners trying to improve their homes. I think the first thing we need to do is work on that.”

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