Patch: Why are you running for Pleasant Hill City Council?
Jim Bonato: I'm running to help keep Pleasant Hill a great city. All great cities are faced with challenges that need to be confronted with experience and commitment. I feel with those qualities I can make a contribution and a difference unique among the field of candidates. Examples of this are my service as President of the Pleasant Hill Fourth of July Commission, the fact that I founded and am Program Manager for Pleasant Hill's Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), my experience on the Pleasant Hill Planning Commission in strengthening our city's ordinances, and my active participation in the Mayor's Economic Development Committee creating a better business environment in our city. My successful business background in manufacturing and employee relations and my 28-years' experience as a military leader at increasingly challenging positions are attributes that allow me to serve our city well.
Patch: What are the top three issues you see facing the city, and how would you address them?
JB: As I see it, the top three issues are:
a. The loss of redevelopment funds. This challenge faces all cities with aging areas, and today's solution lies in creative and collaborative thought with landowners, developers, local government, and special districts that have a stake in the development project.
b. Bridging the existing budget gap between revenue and expenses. Our city has reduced the cost of benefits, and staff have taken on increased responsibilities rather than look to replacements when employees have retired or departed. A key answer to the budget gap is working to increase sales tax revenue by welcoming new, expanding, or relocating companies within the city's boundaries and helping them to thrive.
c. Maintaining attractive neighborhoods. After lengthy public hearings, our Planning Commission recommended and the City Council approved changes to our ordinances that guide and encourage residents to maintain their property and the pleasant nature of our neighborhoods. The part that is missing is adequate manpower to enforce these ordinances and all the good that inspired them. This is an example of an area of our city budgeting that should be given attention once the budget gap has been bridged.
Patch: What are the three best things about living in Pleasant Hill?
JB: The three best characteristics of Pleasant Hill are:
a. A professional and fast-responding Police Department that is led by top-quality managers who inspire a true commitment to Pleasant Hill at all levels of the Department and that has the respect of our residents.
b. A sustained commitment to our neighborhoods and to a family-oriented environment. Just a sampling are the Concerts by the Lake series, outdoor movie nights, the Lions Club Easter Egg Hunt, great parks with attractive recreational and athletic opportunities, senior programs, the all-day Fourth of July celebration, the Art, Jazz and Wine Fest, the Pleasant Hill Baseball Association and Pleasant Hill/Martinez Soccer League activities where EVERY child plays, an emphasis on quality schools, the city's support to help keep the Pleasant HIll library open longer hours.
c. An improving economic environment that is attracting new businesses to Pleasant Hill, providing opportunities for Pleasant Hill residents to shop near home, and drawing regional shoppers to our city to add to our sales tax base.
Patch: What are the three worst things?
JB: Three things that need to be addressed are:
a. A lack of federal funding for flood control.
b. A dated library.
c. A lack of redevelopment money that inhibits economic growth.
Patch: If you win a seat, how will you keep in touch with your constituents for the next four years?
JB: Comfortable access is what I will use to stay in touch with the residents of Pleasant Hill. By this, I mean a continued commitment to open meetings, email and telephone access, regular drop-in office hours at City Hall, availability to the media, and quarterly "meet and greets" to discuss current and future issues.