|Elk Grove mayoral candidates (left to right) Sophia Scherman, Lynn Wheat, Greg Higley, Gary Davis , LaWanna Montgomery and Jerry Braxmeyer.|
With three of the four planned forums completed, two of which were held in the last four days, the six candidates (Sophia Scherman, Lynn Wheat, Greg Higley, Gary Davis, LaWanna Montgomery and Jerry Braxmeyer) vying to become Elk Grove's first elected mayor continued to make their respective pitches last night.
Tuesday night's mayoral forum, which was held at the Commons Retirement Home in Elk Grove that attracted about two dozen people, came on the heels of Saturday's forum where Elk Grove City Council Member Sophia Scherman put into question her city council colleague's Gary Davis' role in attracting California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) jobs to Elk Grove.
Although Scherman didn't directly cast aspersions on Davis' self-described role in attracting CCHCS as she did on Saturday, the question of the $3.3 million incentives offered by Elk Grove to the agency was addressed and mostly criticized by several of the candidates in the one hour plus session.
During a question on Elk Grove's business reputation Davis noted that while he wasn't the first person to approach the state about bringing jobs to Elk Grove, he did take a different approach.
"I started cold calling agencies and department heads and convincing them that Elk Grove is the place were they want to locate," he said. "And yes, the city had to be creative and develop a financial incentive for them."
Alluding to the CCHCS, Davis said these effort brought 1,500 jobs to the city.
As she did on Saturday, Scherman casts doubts on Davis' claims.
"I haven't seen those 1,500 jobs," Scherman said. "Right now we don't have 1,500 jobs."
"It wasn't 1,500 new jobs, it was 1,500 jobs stolen from Sacramento at the cost of $3.3 million to us taxpayers," Wheat noted. Wheat went on to say that money could have been used to help small businesses to help fill the retail and commercial vacancies throughout the city.
Braxmeyer criticized the $3.3 million CCHCS incentive saying it would hurt public safety.
"The 1,500 jobs came at a huge, huge price," Braxmeyer said. "Our police force was asked to take concessions and forgo pay raise in order to pay that $3.3 million. That is wasteful spending."
Later Wheat came back to the incentive topic in a question about economic development and jobs and criticized the incentive packages the city has offered.
"I spoke to one council member and I said 'How are we going to bring more jobs here,'" she said. "'We'll keep offering incentives until the money is gone.' Is that going to work for us, really. That's our tax dollars."
Another theme that five candidates collectively took aim at Davis was on campaign finance. Following a question where reporter Bryan Gold noted that it has taken up to and over $200,000 to run for a city council position that pays $600 a month, Scherman said if she is elected, she would examine the possibility of reforming local campaign financing.
"I shouldn't be necessary to raise over $100,000," Scherman said. "All you do is motivated to go after that dollar and your forget that you are here to serve the citizens of Elk Grove."
Wheat, who has voluntarily limited her personal campaign spending to less than $1,000 and has made campaign finance reform one her campaign's pillars said by not accepting donations "she is not obligated to any donors."
Davis, who has been a prodigious fundraiser who alone has raised over $130,000 since announcing his bid last year said "I am not wealthy and I don't have the ability to fund my own campaign." He also said the fundraising in the worst part of any campaign.
"My job is not to serve my high priced donor," Braxmeyer noted.
Listen to the complete audio for the forum here.