The five candidates who are vying for three spots on the Rancho Palos Verdes city council in the upcoming Nov. 5 election sounded off about top issues facing the community at a forum Oct. 9.
Incumbent Ken Dyda, Barbara Ferraro, Stephen Perestam, David Bradley and Dave Emenhiser answered audience-submitted questions regarding everything from a new city manager and landslides to ballot Measure B and peacocks during the two-hour forum hosted by the RPV League of Women Voters.
Search for a city manager
In what candidate Dave Emenhiser called “one of the more momentous decisions of the new council,” the panel will be tasked with selecting a successor as current City Manager Doug Willmore exits the position -- which he has held since March 22 -- on Nov. 22.
“It’s okay to make a list of qualifications and say they’ve got to have this much experience and they’ve got to have this degree,” said Barbara Ferraro, a former city councilperson and mayor. “But I think the most important thing is that they really understand our community.”
Ken Dyda -- who is part of the city’s current panel and has served multiple tenures, including three as mayor -- agreed the city manager needs to understand the city and said studying the general plan and goals reports can help achieve that.
“With those two things, you’ll get the understanding of what your citizens really want and you can function properly,” he added.
Stephen Perestam, a current member of the city’s planning commission, said he wouldn’t impose any barriers on the search, such as a certain zip code, but urged the bar is set high.
“We need...a skilled, successful city manager who has a proven track record,” Perestam said.
David Bradley, who is chair of the planning commission, said strong leadership and the ability to work in a collaborative environment with the city and the community were top desired qualities.
“Somebody that can work with all those constituencies and craft the best all-around solution to some of the problems that we’ll be fixing,” he emphasized.
Emenhiser -- who has also served on the city’s planning commission and financial advisory committee -- said the new city manager needs to be able to implement, not make policy.
“We need somebody that is open to the public’s input and public opinion instead of trying to voice their opinion on the public,” he said.
How to stop the landslide
The pressing issue of how to address the reactivated landslides happening within the greater Ancient Altamira Landslide Complex remains ongoing in Rancho Palos Verdes as the landslide area encompasses over two of the city’s roughly 14 square miles, according to city documents.
The land moves at rates between hundredths of an inch per year and tens of feet per year, the city says, a movement especially palpable to motorists and pedestrians along Palos Verdes Drive South.
While all candidates agreed that water from various sources -- including rainfall, underground water, septic systems and lawn irrigation -- was the key cause of the land shift, each had different thoughts on how to handle the situation.
“We’re not going to stop it, we’re going to control it,” Dyda said, adding that the community has spent $45 million in the past 30 years putting “band-aids” on the issue. “It’s time to stop the hemorrhaging of our tax dollars on solutions that don’t work.”
Perestam said the city has the choice of either addressing the problem in what he termed “a little bite” or “a big bite,” the latter of which he noted would be at greater financial cost to the city.
“Phasing is going to be the big challenge of the next council,” Perestam said. “How we actually go forward on this and implement an implementation strategy…”
Bradley urged the city needs to focus on getting the water out of the area as much as possible, which he added is a multi-city issue.
“It’s going to take cooperation,” she said, joking that the lawyers in Rolling Hills are better than those in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Emenhiser, who continually vocalized the need for responsible fiscal spending, emphasized that the complex problem may require a potentially expensive solution, one that needs to be put out to voters.
“I think the citizens need to weigh on it,” he said.
All opposed to Measure B
The candidates were unanimously opposed to Measure B, which will also be on the ballot in November.
If passed, the measure would require hospitality employers with 50 or more employees to establish a wage floor of $15 per hour and provide a $1 per hour increase in salary per year through 2022, as well as requiring panic buttons for emergencies.
It would also mandate hotels to keep detailed records for the last three years to ensure they are complying with workload, pay and transit assistance. They must also obtain written consent from employees if they are to exceed a certain number of hours worked in the day. Measure B also prohibits retaliation by employers.
But, while it seems to be a measure directed at protecting the interests of employees of large luxury resorts on the Hill such as Terranea or the Trump National Golf Club, city council candidates urged it is anything but.
“Measure B will end up putting the city as the HR department for Terranea, that’s not a city government function,” said Dyda. “You as the taxpayers through your city will have to enforce the ordinances...grievances, lawsuits...it’s a waste of your tax dollars.”
Ferraro called the measure an attempt from an outside union to come in and impose on employees.
“This will cost them a lot of money because they will have union dues that they don’t have now,” she said.
Perestam urged voters to read the Measure, noting it was a “bad piece of legislation,” while Emenhiser said he thought the union should try to earn a vote from employees at the resorts as opposed to the citizens of Rancho Palos Verdes.
“This is a measure in search of a problem,” added Bradley. “It’s being pushed out there in a very misleading way. I believe...if actually implemented, all the workers at Terranea, Trump and others will be in a worse position.”
And what about the peacocks?
Since the early 1900s, when banker and journalist Frank Vanderlip settled into an estate in Rancho Palos Verdes and introduced the fowl, the city has had a population of the birds that has grown out of control at times.
Rancho Palos Verdes leaders have introduced multiple management programs over the years, including the latest iteration in November 2014, which allows for the trapping and relocation of up to 150 birds per year if the peacock population reaches over 2,000, according to city documents.
At the forum Oct. 10, city council candidates were asked what they thought of the city’s current management program and all agreed it was an appropriate way to handle the pea fowl population, but urged the need to maintain balance.
“It’s one of those situations where you’re darned if you do and darned if you don’t,” Ferraro expressed, noting the city is divided between people who want something done about the birds and those who just want them left alone.
Perestam said it’s about finding a number that’s acceptable to the community.
“We need to find a way to keep the numbers manageable and not have it overpopulated so that it creates a problem for everybody,” Dyda agreed.
Bradley said the peacocks can present a traffic problem and that their numbers can get out of hand due to the fact that the birds have no natural predators on the Hill.
“I think we need to maintain the current plan and we need to do so as humanely as possibly,” Emenhiser said.
For more information
To learn more about the candidates or Measure B, visit the city’s the city’s election page or attend one of the remaining forums:
Measure B forum hosted by the Palos Verdes Peninsula League of Women Voters at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in McTaggart Hall at Fred Hesse Community Park at 29301 Hawthorne Blvd.
Candidate forum hosted by RPV Council of Homeowners Association partnering with the Palos Verdes Peninsula League of Women Voters on at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Fred Hesse Community Park, McTaggart Hall at 29301 Hawthorne Blvd., Rancho Palos Verdes.