FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 17, 2012 —
Editor’s note: This interview with city councilman Bill Kristoff is part of the News-Ledger’s election-season coverage. We’ve published interviews with each of the people running for election to the West Sacramento City Council and local school board. We hope these features have helped you make up your mind whom to vote for.
By Steve Marschke
Bill Kristoff has been on West Sacramento’s city council since the city formed in 1987. But the view sure has changed, he told the News-Ledger.
“As we were going through that incorporation effort, we really felt we were not receiving the proper amount of services (from Yolo County) that the taxpayers were paying for,” he said. “I think the lack of services and the desire that we as a community had to make the decisions and determine our own destiny were important. And we wanted more places to shop, and a larger police force, and we wanted to use the nuisance abatement process to try to clean things up.”
Since that time in 1987, the city has about doubled in population, with new shopping centers and new subdivisions. It has made inroads on developing its long-troubled downtown and languishing riverfront.
“From a regional perspective, people sort of turned up their noses at West Sacramento,” said Kristoff. “They thought we were just an industrial town, and we wanted to change that image.”
“Now, I’m really proud of the image we have from a regional perspective. Other communities look to West Sacramento as being aggressive, as being a community that has made great strides.”
So why run again?
“There are some things that are not fully completed,” Kristoff answered. “We really need to concentrate on the riverfront, making it a place where people can live, work and play in a confined space. I think we started that with city hall, the library and the community center (all on West Capitol). I want to expand that into the riverfront. I view everything as connected from the proposed Indian museum site (on the northern riverfront) all the way to South River Road.”
He has a particular dream for one stretch of that riverfront – the “Honda Hills” area near South River Road and Jefferson Blvd. in Southport, best known now for illegal use by local off-roaders.
“I think a botanical garden would do wonders for that area,” Kristoff opined. “It’s an open space concept. We have the University of California at Davis and Sacramento State University in close proximity, and they have horticulture departments that I think would really help West Sacramento. I would like to create something that becomes a destination point.”
That idea, he said, was inspired by a visit to a botanical garden in Vancouver.
Kristoff is also supportive of city participation in a plan to bring “at least a four-star hotel” to the riverfront, with business amenities such as a conference center. That would enhance the values of the other riverfront properties,” he said. It would also benefit the River Cats, encourage surrounding restaurants and surrounding businesses, and bring more hotel room taxes to the city coffers.
How is the city’s business climate?
“I think it compares favorably,” answered the 66-year old retired postal finance officer. He pointed to the new shopping centers surrounding Ikea in the north and Nugget in the south.
“My wife’s favorite store, Target, is over here,” Kristoff said with a wave toward the Southport center. “If you go north, there’s Ikea, Ross and others. People keep asking me for another sit-down restaurant, and we’re improving in that area. There is a Denny’s going in over at Harbor Boulevard (a former Bakers Square site).”
As far as business-friendly permits and fees:
“We’re not giving away the store, but at the same time, we’re trying to keep things not so expensive that (businesses) don’t come in.”
Kristoff believes that one major challenge facing West Sacramento is the loss of its redevelopment agency, after the state nullified such agencies. The city had used its agency to focus local tax money on infrastructure costs, to pave the way for growth.
Without a redevelopment agency, Kristoff believes the strategy in November’s “Measure G” is one way to fill that gap.
“We have a certain amount of tax increment still coming in (annually),” he said. “Maybe $2 million or $2.5 million. Measure G says we should put that money into a fund and use that money for future infrastructure.”
Even though future city officials could issue bonds worth several times what’s in that pot of money, it will still take a number of years before the fund accumulates enough money to finance a big project – like a new Sacramento River bridge.
Speaking of bridges:
“I look at the South River Road bridge (connecting Southport to the rest of the city) as the next bridge we should tackle,” said Kristoff. “I look at the connection between Sacramento and West Sacramento, and where that (other) bridge should go. Somehow or other, it needs to connect to I-5, whether it be the Broadway Bridge or the bridge further north, north of the I Street Bridge, that essentially connects with Sacramento’s railyard project.”
“I’m happy with the way the City of West Sacramento has approached it,” Kristoff said. “When we were told that we had a deficiency in our levees, we were really sort of caught by surprise. We tackled that very quickly. The citizens passed an assessment on their homes for flood protection, the council put in a new fee for new development, and we also passed a sales tax override, some of which has gone into flood protection.”
That willingness to pay a “local share” of levee repair costs has earned respect from state and federal flood control partners, he added. Levee work is underway.
Kristoff believes the city is in pretty good fiscal shape, having reduced city staff in the face of the recession and a slow-down in new development. The city has a problem with public pensions, but it’s not a crisis, he believes.
“We’ve been tackling that issue for about four years.”
Police and fire protection are in good shape today, said Kristoff.
“We’ve got the best police and fire departments in the region. They’re great.”
As the only person to have always been on the West Sacramento city council, does Kristoff have any regrets over any major “wrong turns” the council may have made during the past 25 years?
“Nothing on a medium or large scale,” he answered. “There have been a couple development decisions where (we approved) a drive-through at a restaurant or something, and I say now, ‘oh, we shouldn’t have done that.’”
Kristoff and the other incumbent running for re-election, Oscar Villegas, have endorsed each other, and “I have the support of the entire council and (County Supervisor) Mike McGowan,” said Kristoff.
There’s only one challenger, Oleg Maskaev, a Republican who believes that his party affiliation is important in this local race.
Does Kristoff feel the same way?
“The city council is a nonpartisan position,” he answered. “We have sewer, water, and filling the potholes. Those are the city’s responsibility.”
Kristoff said he is mounting a serious campaign including yard signs, political mailers and precinct walking. But it’s a sign of the times, he said, that he will be running on “about half” the campaign budget he spent last time around.
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Copyright News-Ledger 2012