Poway City Council race approaches finish line
By Steve Dreyer
Poway voters on Nov. 6 will decide which of four candidates will be elected to two seats on the City Council.
Incumbent Jim Cunningham, running for a second four-year term, is joined in the race by challengers Jeff Mangum, Steve Vaus and Gary Vineyard. The two candidates receiving the most votes will be elected.
Councilwoman Merrilee Boyack is stepping down after two terms.
The third of three planned candidate forums was to be held Wednesday night at Painted Rock Elementary School. (A story on the forum will be posted at www.pomeradonews.com.) Other forums were held at the Poway Senior Center and in Old Poway Park. Each drew about 100 people.
The following are profiles of the four candidates:
City Councilman Jim Cunningham says he’s not taking his re-election chances for granted.
The first-term elected official has been knocking on doors, raising and spending money and has attended a wide variety of community events. He has picked up the endorsements of Mayor Don Higginson and former longtime Councilman Bob Emery and of a handful of law enforcement and public safety organizations.
His first four years in office have been both challenging and rewarding, he says, and the years ahead will be important to the city’s financial future and to its “City in the Country” lifestyle.
“I’ve had the time of my life these past four years,” he told a recent candidate forum.
Cunningham, 55, is a 19-year Poway resident who lives with his family in the Valle Verde neighborhood. He is a partner in a San Diego law firm that specializes in labor relations. He was active for years in youth sports and with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society San Diego and Hawaii.
As a City Council member, he represents the city to the Metropolitan Transit System and to the San Dieguito River Park Authority. He is completing a one-year term as deputy mayor, a position that rotates among the four council members. He says that if he is re-elected on Nov. 6, he will “think seriously” about running for mayor in two years.
During his first term Cunningham successfully pushed for the construction of a Veterans Park on Midland Road and for innovative security measures at the Skate Park. He and the rest the council provided new play surfaces at Arbolitos Sports Park and at Valley Elementary and Meadowbrook Middle schools. The council adjusted city water rates from a five-tier to a two-tier system, although Cunningham has said he would like the see the city move toward a different system using water allocations based on lot size and family usage. He has been an outspoken critic of the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District, which sells raw water to the city through the San Diego County Water Authority. He has also advocated, without success, having the city use sewer fund surpluses to offset water rate increases.
Cunningham says he wants to do what he can to keep Poway’s crime rate the lowest in the county and the city’s finances in the good shape they are in today. During his term he has repeatedly criticized Sacramento leaders over the state’s budget and its taking of property tax revenues from local cities.
Cunninghams’s website is jimforpoway.com.
Jeff Mangum says his goals as a City Council member include keeping the city fiscally sound, its crime rate low, its streets in good condition and its parks full of recreational opportunities.
The 56-year-old attorney says his 16 years on the Poway Unified School District board gave him solid working understanding of government and that his 14 years as a member of a PUSD/city committee and his two years on the city’s Budget Advisory Committee have equipped him with the knowledge and understanding of how the city operates.
He stresses that while Poway is well run and is fiscally sound, “we can’t rest on our laurels.”
Mangum is a 24-year Poway resident and practices family law. He and his family lost their home in the 2007 Witch Creek fire but have since rebuilt.
He served on the school board from 1994 to 2010. He also served as co-chairman of a homeowners committee in the Old Coach area that raised money to bring fire hydrants to their neighborhood. He is a former board member of Project Concern International. His campaign endorsers include Mayor Don Higginson, Councilman John Mullin and former City Manager Jim Bowersox.
Mangum has been at the center of only “hot” issue in the City Council campaign, the controversial $1 billion PUSD Proposition C capital appreciation bonds. Mangum has repeatedly insisted that he was not on the school board when the vote was taken in May 2011 to proceed with the bonds. He acknowledges that he voted for a similar resolution in November 2010, but that the district did not go forward on the bonds at that point due to the uncertain bond market.
Mangum last month said he has assembled a committee of private citizens to study the PUSD bond and the circumstances around its issuance by the school board. The names of those on the committee are being kept private, he said, to avoid the process becoming politicized. The committee’s report is not expected until after the Nov. 6 election, he stressed.
The candidate says a major responsibility of the City Council going forward will be to oversee the city’s financial health in light of deep revenue cuts that resulted from the state’s abolishment of local redevelopment programs. He says he does not believe residents of south Poway are under served by the City Council, noting that during his tenure on the school board “I never made a decision based on geography.”
Mangum says that city employees are going good jobs despite reductions in the workforce, that public safety — including law enforcement and good roads — are a top priority.
His campaign website is mangumforpoway.com.
Steve Vaus is hoping the second time is the charm in his quest for a seat on the City Council.
Vaus, who is 60, led the successful June 2010 effort to recall City Councilwoman Betty Rexford but placed second, behind John Mullin, in the race to replace her on the council.
His November candidacy has been endorsed by Councilwoman Merrilee Boyack, who is not seeking re-election. He is also endorsed by Councilman Dave Grosch.
Vaus, a 19-year city resident, is chairman of the city’s Budget Review Committee and is executive director of the Poway Community Leadership Institute, a Boyack-created program that trains volunteers to become civic leaders. He is a volunteer on the Poway Reserve Park Ranger Mounted Patrol and earlier this year received a Palomar Council PTA Honorary Service Award.
He owns VausMedia, a marketing and creative services company. He also entertains professionally as country singer Buck Howdy and in 2010 ago won a Grammy Award for the best spoken children’s album. Since 1990 he has produced the annual “Carols by Candlelight” concert to raise funds for Rady Children’s Hospital.
Vaus had raised and spent more money as of Sept. 30 than any of the other three candidates. He has devoted much of his campaign criticizing candidate Jeff Mangum for his role in the controversial $1 billion Poway Unified School District Proposition C capital appreciation bond. Vaus contends Mangum was well aware that the no payments would be made on the bonds for 20 years and that they could not be refinanced when he and the rest of the school board approved the district’s proceeding with the bond in late-2010. Mangum insists the bonds that were sold were approved in May 2011, five months after he left the school board.
Vaus has also tried to separate himself from other candidates by stressing his belief that Poway needs to do more to combat teen substance abuse. After being rebuffed by the council, he organized a January Town Hall meeting on the topic, which drew a full house at Templar’s Hall.
Vaus likes to describe Poway as a great place to live but also as a community with a “dark cloud” of financial uncertainly hanging over it. He notes the 2012-13 municipal budget will have a deficit requiring the use of reserve funds and that future years will see the income-versus-expenditure situation worsen.
As a small-business owner, Vaus says he has the experience and skill set to help attract and keep new businesses in town.
The Vaus campaign site is www.votevaus.com.
Gary Vineyard says he is offering his perspectives as a small-business owner, active community volunteer and south Poway resident as a potential member of the City Council.
“My only special interest group is the people of Poway, not a small geographic area of residents,” says Vineyard, who has lived in town for the past 29 years.
The 60-year-old candidate is making his third bid for a council seat, having placed third in a field of five candidates in 1998 and withdrawing from the 1996 race after filing papers to run. His 2012 campaign effort has been modest in scale and self-financed. He says he admires first-term Councilman Dave Grosch and that he would like the two expiring council seats filled by Steve Vaus and himself.
Vineyard has owned a succession of small businesses over the years and currently owns Vinny’s Pool Service and Vineyard’s All American BBQ. Past Poway business ownerships include a muffler and brake shop, neighborhood bar and a restaurant.
Vineyard, known on the campaign trail for his humor and his plain-speaking approach on issues, says the current City Council has too many lawyers (three of the five members) and not enough common sense. He also contends the council is not in touch with the average resident’s opinions on municipal matters. To improve communication, he proposes to use public opinion polls “so that I accurately identify what the citizens of Poway want.”
If elected, Vineyard says he would push for the synchronization of traffic lights along Poway Road. He says he thinks the city’s firefighters are underpaid and that he’d like to see San Diego County Sheriff’s Department employees assigned to the Poway station stick around longer.
Vineyard cites his long record of civic involvement in his credentials for council, saying he has been involved for nearly three decades in youth sports, the local Elks lodge and Kiwanis club, the Boys & Girls Club, Poway Rodeo Committee and Poway Chamber of Commerce. His special interest is providing youngsters with playground balls and has pledged 25 percent of his council salary to his “Let Kids Have a Ball” program. He also notes that he is the only veteran running for council. More information on Vineyard can be found at www.vineyardforpowaycouncil.com.
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