Questions for City Council Candidates 2016 – Leo Zuber

  1. Please tell us about yourself, your interest in serving on the city council and what strengths you feel you bring to the Ripon City Council.


  1. I was born and raised in Turlock, graduated from UC Davis and spent 38 years in public education. I came to Ripon in 1979 as Principal at Ripon Elementary School. I opened Weston Elementary School and became Superintendent in 1993. I retired in 2008 and in 2012 was elected to a seat on the City Council.

  2. I am active in the community as a member of the Ripon Lions Club, the Ripon Arts League where I serve as a Director and the Ripon Chamber of Commerce where I have been a member of the Board of Directors since 1993.

  3. I was originally driven to run for a seat on the City Council because I felt city government was not open and responsive to the residents. I have seen a lot of improvement over the last four years but still see room for continued improvement. My strengths include: knowledge and experience working in the public sector that allows me to provide input, insight and guidance to the staff; an ability to facilitate improved communication with the residents and make city government more open and responsive; and a genuine interest in making Ripon a community that we can all be proud of.

  1. In your opinion, what are the three most important values or concepts city staff and the city council should emphasize in planning for the city’s future?

As it plans for the future, city staff and the city council need to work to: (1) create a positive environment that supports a range of quality commercial development in the community, (2) makes quality affordable housing available to residents without compromising the quality of life in the community, and (3) works to maximize the availability of funds for rehabilitating the city’s streets.
  1. So far as commercial development is concerned, the city needs to make sure that fees and requirements are in place for new or expanding businesses, and are competitive with surrounding communities. Planning and zoning actions need to take place so there is adequate land available to accommodate a variety of commercial developments.

  2. With regard to the housing issue, the City can work with developers to make a variety of rental units available so residents with a range of incomes can find a place to live. The city needs to work with residential developers to provide a supply of homes that meet FHA requirements for financing, reducing the down-payment amount for home buyers. Where possible, the city should consider subsidizing the down-payment so residents can establish themselves in that starter home.

  3. Finally, over 30 percent of our streets do not meet minimum standards to be classified as acceptable. Declining funds from state and federal sources are making it harder to correct the situation. City government needs to ensure that existing funds are spent efficiently and effectively. We need to look at other funding options to move forward to correct the problems with our streets, rather than allowing them to get worse.

  4. What do you feel are the biggest issues our city is facing and what would your plans be to work toward remedying them?

There are two major issues facing the city; (1) ensuring that Ripon is competitive with surrounding communities with respect to commercial developer fees and (2) improving communication with the community regarding how city programs operate and how regulations are enforced.
  1. With respect to the developer fee issue, a study has been completed to see where we stand with our commercial developer fees. The consultant has made recommendations for adjusting those fees and staff is reviewing the fee justification to make necessary changes. Ripon’s fees will be very competitive with neighboring communities and initial conversations with developers have had positive responses.

  2. The communication issue is a work in progress. Regulations need to be reviewed and, where necessary, clarified. Similarly, communication processes should be reviewed and strengthened for clarification as well. The staff is completing a thorough upgrade of the city web site. The focus has been on ease of use and clarity of communications. All of this together should facilitate clearer communication with members of the community and those who interact with the community in order to reduce or eliminate areas of confusion.

  3. What do you envision for the city of Ripon in the next 5-10 years?

Over the next 5-10 years the Ripon community will remain a quality and safe community, a place all residents will be proud to call home. There will be open and clear communication between city government and the residents. There will be high quality residential development that has the capacity to accommodate a range of age groups and income levels. There will be ample recreational facilities for the residents, providing organized activities as well as opportunities for informal recreational activities. Commercial development in the city will have increased, with quality businesses and professional services establishing themselves in the community. City revenues will have increased in amount and reliability so that necessary services are being provided at a level that addresses the needs of the residents and affords them a safe place to live, work and play.
  1. What actions do you think should be taken to preserve and enhance the city’s downtown area?

Involvement and investment by all parties will be necessary to preserve and enhance the downtown area. The city needs to do some work on Main Street. Plans now call for repairing the center gutter where necessary and then repairing the blacktop where it has buckled or collapsed. When that is done, the entire street will be sealed. City maintenance crews need to make sure the planter areas and streetlights are well maintained, too. Beyond that, it will be up to the merchants and property owners to address any issues related to the structures downtown. The city should be supportive in efforts to correct problems. The City should also support efforts by the merchants and property owners, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, to draw residents and customers to the downtown area.
  1. What are some of your other goals or ideas for our city or is there anything else you’d like to add?

One important area of concern is the repair and maintenance of the streets and roads in our community. As mentioned earlier, over 30% of our streets do not meet minimum requirements to be deemed acceptable based on a scale used to rank the condition of streets. Federal and State sources of funds to address this need are declining each year. The amount of money received is determined by a tax on gasoline. Because cars are getting better mileage and the number of electric vehicles is increasing, the amount of money coming to the city is declining. But the deterioration of our streets is continuing. It is important that what money there is gets used effectively and efficiently. And we need to maximize use of any grants or one-time money that might come to the city. With patience, persistence and some creative thinking, progress can and should be made.
  1. Several years back our city had to cut back during the recession by letting many positions go which we still haven’t filled. With the growing population, how do you plan to pay for the necessary infrastructure to maintain our quality of life and not become South Manteca or North Modesto?

The ability to pay for increased costs to address growth depends on the ability of city government to generate balanced growth. If there is only residential growth, there will not be sufficient funds to continue the level of services currently in place. Studies have shown that each house added to the city requires $500 more in costs than the revenue that is generated by that house. The difference needs to be made up with income generated by commercial development. That means that residential growth must be tied to a growth in commercial development. City staff is aware of this connection and needs to work with the city council to develop policies and procedures that will maintain a balance between residential and commercial growth as the city moves forward.

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