Candidates experience high, low points in Elk Grove mayoral forum



September 9, 2018 | 

During the Elk Grove mayoral forum held on Saturday, September 8, and moderated by Paula Lee of the Leauge of Women Voters, each of the three candidates experienced high and low points as they answered the 11 questions submitted by the 200-plus people in attendance. Along with the rote answers voters expect from office-seekers on any level - who isn't for decreasing crime rates - there were some revealing responses by the three candidates, Steve Ly, Tracie Stafford, and Darren Suen.

First, let's look at a combination question all three bombed. That was whether or not the three candidates support the proposed $400 million Wilton Rancheria casino, and what each candidate would do to bring more amenities to the city's east side, also known as Old Elk Grove.

All three provided muddled answers that can be heard in the audio posted below at the 00:47:12 mark. None of them could provide specific remedies to the dearth of amenities in Old Elk Grove.

As for the casino, Stafford said she opposed it, but acknowledge it was coming and the city should be prepared. Suen seemingly washed his hands of the controversy saying the only role the city had was in agreeing to the memorandum of understanding with the Wilton Rancheria but did not say whether he supported it, and Ly stated he understood the resistance to the casino but decided the promised jobs are more important than the social ills brought on by the gaming facility.

One question all three handled with vigor involved youth, specifically what their plans were for engaging youth in Elk Grove. 

Ly noted the city's internship program and said the key to helping youth is providing jobs. Stafford stated with her four children she had encountered that challenge already, and youth have no safe place where they can congregate, and she noted jobs are essential, but the jobs metric has been removed from the city's general plan update. Agreeing that jobs are essential for youth, Suen highlighted his work on a jobs program with Elk Grove Council Member Stephanie Nguyen. 

During their presentations, all three experienced low points. For each candidate, they came at various stages of the forum.

For Stafford, her low point was in her opening remarks where she seemed uncomfortable and nervous. After getting through that, Stafford settled in and appeared more relaxed as the forum progressed.

Ly's low point came toward the end of the forum during a question on whether or not he would support rent control in Elk Grove. After meandering in his response about housing stock, he only answered after forum moderator Lee followed up his response asking "do you think Elk Grove needs rent control?"

Ly finally addressed the question saying, "Sure, I would be willing to explore that possibility."  

Conversely, the same question was one of Suen's high point when he emphatically stated his opposition to the idea. 

"We don't need rent control at this time," he said. "It hasn't worked in San Francisco. Have any of you been to San Francisco lately?" 

Suen experienced a low point during a question on the possibility of the city switching to a by-district form of elections and representation. The city council is currently elected on a from-district basis where council members are from a defined geographic district but are elected on a citywide basis.

From district, which Suen has stated repeated support for, is thought to favor incumbents and suppress minority voters and candidates. Elk Grove has been threatened with a lawsuit challenging the system.

In his response, Suen did not directly answer saying "We need to have a community conversation about it." Suen went on to state the current system creates a better team environment for council members but did not take a firm position for or against by-district representation.  

One of Stafford's high points came during a question on campaign finance reform. Unlike Suen and Ly who hold elected office as Elk Grove's vice mayor and mayor respectively, Stafford does not have access to campaign funds in the same manner as her competitors and seized on that point. 

"I like to say that I am unbought, meaning that all of my funds have come from individual contributors," she said. "At the end of the day, whom you've taken money from is who you are beholden too, and that is whom I want to beholden to, people, that's why I am running."

She added, "for too long the community has been run by who gave the most money."  

As an extra benefit for Stafford, and to a lesser degree Ly, who said he would support campaign finance reforms, not by design or intent, moderator Lee buttressed support on the issue. Noting the Leauge of Women Voters does take stances on ballot issues, she said their organization would like to be involved if the city moved on campaign finance reform.  

"Should the city of Elk Grove ever want a campaign finance ordinance, we would be happy to help you on that," Lee said to a loud round of applause. 

The end of the meeting provided a high point of sorts in terms of straight talk for Ly when he implied the election was a referendum on his term as mayor. Layered in his response was a jab at Suen, whose campaign surrogate and Elk Grove council member Steve Detrick made disparaging remarks about Ly in a recent Elk Grove Citizen story.  

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is real simple, if you like the way Elk Grove is going, vote for me," he said. "If you don't, vote for the outsider, right, and that would be Tracie." 

Stafford seized on Ly's summation in her closing comments and stressed to the audience that she was the outsider. 

"Speaking for the outsiders, are there outsiders in this room? This is what I am talking about, this is exactly the challenge, is that we have a group of folks who are in office who are deciding what happens for all of us, and they have it locked down," Stafford said. "But watching what is happening across the nation, people are tired of that and we need somebody in office that will focus on the community and not the big dollars or the endorsers."

Below are the time marks of each of the 11 questions asked during the forum. The recording is posted below.   
  1. Forum introduction
  2. Candidate opening statements - 00:01:10
  3. Question; infrastructure- 00:08:39
  4. Question; crime and police staffing - 00:14:53
  5. Question; homelessness 00:21:31
  6. Question; diversity challenges 00:28:32
  7. Question; by-district voting 00:35:34
  8. Question; campaign finance reform 00:41:10
  9. Question; proposed casino and eastside development 00:47:22
  10. Question; relieving traffic congestion & eTran bus services 00:55:12
  11. Question; road maintenance deficit 00:59:43
  12. Question; rent control in Elk Grove 01:07:00
  13. Question; youth services 01:10:24
  14. Candidates closing statements 01:10:24








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5 comments

An Elk Grove Voter said...

Tracie Stafford was the clear winner. EGN’s assessment is totally on point. Steve Ly never gave false information, but rather skirted answers to some of the questions; so in my opinion, came in second.

Darren Suen came in a distant third. Why?

Suen, once again, boasted he is the most educated, the most qualified and the most experienced. YA YA YA! It is getting old and is becoming condescending.

Additionally, it is very perplexing that Suen, with all of his education, doesn’t understand that the governance of any Board, including the Elk Grove City Council, is to set policy and role of staff is to implement that policy. By Suen’s comments, he really wants to be city manager.

While Stafford’s intro was weak, she nailed the closing, with Ly giving her a gift. And Suen’s whining, “Am I the forgotten one?” Well, Darren, I guess you answered your own question about your mayoral candidacy.

Randy Bekker said...

As I watched the debate of each candidate answering questions it was clear from the beginning as it ended.

Stafford, bombed the begging an as she tried to show she wasn't a politician she was clearly out of her normal setting. She is the President to Sacramento Women's Democratic party and has Marched in a number of issues having really nothing to do with Elk Grove. Her lack of knowledge on the issues of Elk Grove showed as she offered incorrect answers and hid behind half truths to what she believes being associated to the Progressive wing of the Sacramento Democratic party.

Ly, continues to show why he is a lame duck Mayor with no support from any local endorsements except local Democratic party and Progressive local clubs as Ly has moved far left to take away Stafford's ability to be a force in this election. He continued to give political answers and half truths also showing he wanted to make decisions from the Dias as to By District voting that would have taken the voice of the citizens of Elk Grove away from the debate that has been pushed by the local Democratic party. Ly is smart as he looks to the future of his political ambitions but at the cost of Elk Grove citizens.

Suen started as he finished he came to be interviewed for a job promotion an it showed. Some may complain as he speaks about his experience but we are looking at 3 people that is looking to be elected Mayor to lead our city for the next 2 years and or beyond with successful elections into the future. Suen talked about growth, transportation, EGPD, water, jobs, housing. Then said By District voting of Council needs to be discussed with citizens because both systems has their good and bad points the other 2 candidates were not interested in bringing the public into the conversation. It shows Suen is independent of Party politics and is only looking to become Mayor to help the citizens of Elk Grove with no interest in moving up the political ladder compared to his opponents.

The clear winner is Darren Suen, he is the only candidate who has the heart of the citizens of Elk Grove as he ended he said reach out to those that have endorsed him from Elk Grove. Have a conversation with them or himself as you will find a simple approach of someone who is so contacted to Elk Grove issues who has the experience to understand and work with staff on serious issues facing Elk Grove.

We don't need to have someone as Mayor leading our city as on the job training or only looking for a step up the political ladder.

This is why I support Darren Suen! He is the only one of the 3 qualified to lead our city who has the heart an Darren is only interested in working for All the citizens of Elk Grove and not his Political Party compared to the other 2 candidates!

D.J. Blutarsky said...

I'm voting for Steve Ly because he said he "loved Elk Grove".

Josie said...

Boring....just a bunch of canned speeches!

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

It wasn't until I read Mr. Bekker's comments that I decided to listen to the audio of the forum. The way he described Mr. Suen, it would seem he was the second coming of whomever your favorite president might have been.

Having attended several of these events in Elk Grove through the years, I had come to the conclusion, as suggested in the story, candidates give only "rote" answers.

After listening to the audio, I still stand by my assertion that the answers by Mr. Ly, Ms. Stafford, and Mr. Suen were in large part routine and mundane. However, in the context of Mr. Bekker's advocacy for the Vice Mayor, I would like to take a trip in the way back machine to the 1960 Kennedy- Nixon presidential debates.

Most people who watched that seminal event on TV, myself included as a young teenager in Toldeo, Ohio, on our family's black and white Philco, said Mr. Kennedy won the showdown. Those who listened gave the victory to Mr. Nixon.

Aside from his advocacy for Mr. Suen, I wonder if Mr. Bekker saw it in person, or listened to the audio? Having listened to the recording, and with no preferred mayoral candidate at this time, I heard things much differently.

Aside from the evasive and often incomplete candidate responses, I heard a sense of entitlement, self-importance, and superiority coming from Mr. Suen. How many times does he have to tell people he, by implication, because of his education, is the smartest person in the city and therefore the best qualified candidate? Where I come from, we would call Mr. Suen a country club snob.

Going back to President Kennedy, when he challenged Americans to put a person on the moon by the end of the 1960's, do you think he knew the first thing about rocket science? Of course not.

However, he had the vision and believed that Americans could accomplish this challenge. JFK had the idea and left it for others to achieve this significant scientific achievement - something Mr. Suen should take into consideration when he starts talking about projects needed in Elk Grove.

Mr. Suen may have the technical knowledge, but that does not make him the most qualified person to guide our city. The Vice Mayor needs to display way less superiority over us without his impressive educational credentials, less micro-management about getting roads repaired, and to borrow from President George H.W. Bush, more of the "vision thing."

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