1. Why are you a candidate? What issues are important to you?
2. Should Solvang diversify its economy to make it less dependent on tourism? If so, how? If not, what is the City Council’s role in supporting the tourism economy?
3. Future annexations to Solvang have been a topic recently. Should Solvang expand its borders? If so, by how much? And how should that growth be accomplished?
SOLVANG CITY COUNCIL, 4-YEAR TERMS (VOTE FOR 2)
Niels “Chris” Djernaes
Financial and economic advisor
Question 1: I’m candidate because I know we can do better. The Council has waited too long to address critical operating problems and has no explicit plans for well-documented issues. Council meetings have demonstrated that the Council and Staff must do more to inform and engage voters on issues that could require higher taxes and or cuts to City services, e.g., the exploding CalPERS pension deficits. Finally, voters want to feel the City is working for them instead of the other way around.
I have 20 years of executive management expertise in working with government agencies and businesses. I have spent more than a year studying Solvang’s policies, management, operations and issues. I know we can:
- Cut taxes on water meter rates and improve city services
- Reduce budget expenses and solve our pension deficits
- Replace failing water, sewer and wastewater facilities
- Grow business and tourism and improve quality of life for residents
- Ease permitting to encourage investment in homes and businesses
- Fix parking and traffic congestion
I love my home town and I feel compelled to help make Solvang a better more affordable place to live, work and proudly call home. Let’s do better together.
Question 2: The Council should balance the beneficial growth in tourism against the adverse impact on residents. Currently, tourism and closely related sales taxes make up 70 percent of the City’s budget revenue, leaving it vulnerable to economic recession. So near term, the City should support growth in high value tourism, e.g., cultural events, small conferences. However, longer term, the Council must do more to attract industries that produce more consistent tax revenues from high margin sales and well-paying jobs, e.g., professional services, technology and engineering.
Question 3: Excellent question and very difficult to answer without an objective, comprehensive economic study addressing the pros and cons of annexation in the context of the Santa Ynez Valley.
The Council was forced to stop a 2018 study because voters believed that it was intended to justify the veteran members’ predisposed and expressed desire for annexation. While the study itself may be a good idea, the Council should have managed the study in a more objective and transparent way.
I believe the Council should instead first address $10 million in unfunded programs (e.g., pensions), $15 million in new water and waste water facilities, and $20 million in badly needed capital improvement projects. Another $3-5 million in annexation costs are simply impossible to justify at this time. We should all agree that planned growth is far better than managing in a crisis as we are doing now with the failing wastewater treatment plant.
The Council is accountable to the voters. Democracy is a messy, time consuming process that works best when informed and engaged voters are given the chance to collectively voice their opinions, decide how their tax dollars are spent, and manage their future by referendum.
Denise El Amin
Retired communication specialist
Question 1: My motivation for running for office is to improve the lives of all of our citizens, particularly the lives of our seniors who are often neglected and unable to take advantage of the programs designed to make their lives better. It is also interesting to note that the vast majority of our seniors are women. A society is judged in part in how it treats those who need help. It is my belief that we can do more; we must do more for our seniors and all those in need if we are to claim we are a nation dedicated to the highest of moral principles.
I am committed to 1) improving and developing programs for seniors; 2) work for fair and equitable water and sewage rates; 3) fiscal and budgetary accountability, and budgetary transparency; 4) working with the business community to keep Solvang competitive and viable, while maintaining its distinctive identity.
Question 2: Yes, economic diversity is essential for survival because change is inevitable. Solvang’s business model has been very successful, and has an established reputation as a safe, family friendly vacation destination. However, our past successes cannot protect us from future irrelevancy. Throughout the United States, shopping centers and retail behemoths are closing their doors because they have fallen victim to the invisible hand of innovation, generational change, and a general unwillingness to adapt to changing consumer behavior. If Solvang intends to remain relevant, we must embrace the inevitability and reality of change with a proactive plan that will incorporate and anticipate the needs of both our traditional and potentially new customer base. Through consensus and earnest planning by the City Council and its constituents, we can control our destiny and protect Solvang’s unique cultural heritage.
Question 3: I believe that questions 2 and 3 are related to one another. I think that diversification and annexation are part of an overall strategy that will enable Solvang to successfully embrace change, and increase the likelihood that we can grow responsibly. Furthermore, I know that annexation is a touchy subject. However, it’s our responsibility as council members to map out a path that is acceptable to the citizens of Solvang. I’m sure that this will spark a lively debate to those on both sides of this issue. But I’m confident that we can come to terms on how we can collectively address these issues. Therefore, I think that it’s imperative that we come up with a plan on how to proceed and let the voters of Solvang have the final say.
Joan Laird Jamieson
Land use consultant
Question 1: My father taught me that it is important to be involved; that we need to give back to our communities as volunteers and/or public servants. Public service is a passion of mine. That being said, with the possibility of having four new councilmen seated following the 2018 election, I felt it important to have someone on the Council to provide institutional memory and experience for the newly elected Council. I have found the last seven years to be invigorating and challenging, frustrating and uplifting. I am proud of the citizens of Solvang for their participation … good governance of and by the people helps make Solvang a true American City.
Issues? Providing for the health, safety and happiness of our citizens is the job of a City Council. An adequate and safe source of potable water will always be a concern for Solvang. We have been working diligently to provide a variety of sources of good water. We are now faced with upgrading and expanding our out-of-date wastewater treatment plant. This will be a costly, necessary project. We also are working to provide safe and fun bicycle routes through the City. And one of my pet projects is the improvement of our local Library; to make it the best little library in the West.
Question 2: After the horrendous January debris flow incident in Montecito and the inability of tourists to reach the SYV and Solvang from the L.A. area, we realized how dependent we are on tourism. If others didn’t learn, I certainly realized we needed to diversify our economic stream. Of course, the Council will always support the tourism industry; sales tax and TOT are our economic engine. We will continue through good planning to keep Solvang the Danish Capital of the USA. And with the Council being supportive through both actions and funding of a good tourism bureau (getting the tourist here) and a local chamber (getting them to stay here and shop) to help provide a first class shopping venue, we will continue to be where tourists want to come.
How we go about diversifying is a tough question. That being said, having some light industrial money makers would help our economic engine. It would also allow for tradesmen to work in the City. We all need good mechanics, plumbers, welders, electricians, painters, cabinet makers, roofers, carpenters, etc. Example of light industry is our excellent lumber yard/building supply business which is a huge money maker for the City. We just need to find areas appropriate for light industrial uses.
Question 3: Unfortunately, the recent sphere of influence/annexation proposal was not well received nor was it the study I or others thought was requested. That being said there was some merit to the study that we might be able to use in the future. One of the goals of the study was to protect the boundaries of the City; there was the possibility of others building wastewater treatment plants/recycling centers on our northern boundaries and to the east. Because people in Solvang and the surrounding areas became aware of this possibility while considering the SOI and annexation study, they let the agency know that such development was not wanted on our City limits; the proponents abandoned the idea; so, there was an unintended immediate benefit realized from the SOI study. Possibly Solvang could benefit by annexing the existing SOI to the west of that City as outlined in the present General Plan; this area is already provided some City services. This area could be used as a light industrial park (already the allowed use by SB County) with a buffer along the south side of HWY 246 to protect the beauty of the western entrance to the City. If this area became part of the City we would benefit from the tax revenue from these businesses. Of course the Citizens would be involved in this consideration.
Kenny “Esko” Lama
Question 1: I am running for a City Council seat because I want an American flag friendly City of Solvang. I have been humiliated, insulted, threatened, and fined many times by city officials because I insist on placing more than two American and Danish flags at the front of my Alisal store!
Did you know the city of Solvang forbids and does not allow to be placed more than two American flags at the front of our shops? I even appealed to City Council to change that silly city code but it was denied by the mayor and City Council members. … This is America and a tourist town. Nothing is wrong with many flags flying or placed around as long as they are not a threat to the public security.
I want also a democratic, transparent, equally treating and budget controlled city.
As a retailer I wanted to contribute to our business community and to make it a better business environment. I want free or at least subsidized water for Solvang residents. And if I get elected I can show how to do it. Our city has plenty of sources to finance it. And I want friendly city staff. I want city financial sources to be used directly for residents, not for the lobbying parties. Our residents do not gain anything from tourism except business owners and the city. The residents get only noise, crowds and heavy traffic and high property taxes and high water bills, nighttime scary, dark, dead-looking streets and not even much job opportunity from the city. The city’s purchasing, contracting, hiring must be advertised and announced openly in local media.
Question 2: First of all we need to improve our existing tourist economy. There are several problems. The retail industry is bleeding, losing ground. Hotels and restaurants are occupied only on weekends. We need to re-brand and re-shape Solvang’s brand. We need to bring better spending, consumer-type visitors instead of just walking around nor Highway101 leg-stretching restroom crowds. The sales are about 30 percent less comparing previous year. It means less revenue for the city, too. The city should concentrate on industrial conventions to increase weekday business and to lead and manage itself but not through third parties. Future tourism business development plans should not be financed at the cost of residents but from tourists’ pockets. No free parking for tourists, no free restroom for tourists. Financial sources to be used directly for residents, and City Council should not be influenced by lobbying interest parties looking to get financial support from the city.
The city council can adopt policies to combine our existing tourism with industrial convention business, and make future plans for the growth of wine, brewery and bakery and horse, cattle, bee-breeding industry. City Council can adopt future plans to support by giving priority to Made in Solvang or Product of Solvang businesses.
Question 3: A big NO for residential purpose annexations for now but also big YES for commercial annexations. We need to do it to increase city revenues and give back to the residents. NO property tax or lower tax for living in owners, free water or subsidized water for living in owners and small business.
The city needs to build up an environment-friendly and 100 percent green convention center outside of Solvang at a new area of Solvang to support our hospitality and retail wine and dine industry and to protect downtown and old Solvang. And build up a smokeless industrial zone such as for wine, beer bottling, processing, packing and baking.
Kim K. Jensen
Retail business owner
Question 1: My wish is to take my opportunity to be an active participant in Solvang’s future, especially now that the City Manager is about to retire and the newly elected council members will take action in finding a new City Manager.
I would like to find a way to “streamline” property planning and construction for local business and property owners, while still maintaining the visual ambience long embraced by our forefathers. Additionally, water, wastewater, recycled water will continue to affect our city for years so I wish to be there to assist in reaching fair and equitable decisions of usage for the local community. Finally , tourism, which is our top industry revenue driver for the city, needs to be recognized and allowed to continue using our contracted experts at the SCVB, who are using “state-of-the-art” driven programs statewide, nationally and internationally to draw new visitors to Solvang as a “choice” destination.
Question 2: No, we already have other areas of greater opportunities that need to be addressed first, such as municipality issues. Solvang tourism is our lead Industry, always has and always will be … period. We should try to improve on being greater at what we are … a tourist destination. City Council’s role should be to continue using the SCVB as your designated “experts in the field.” Attracting new families, groups, companies to visit Solvang is highly competitive and demanding, which the SCVB is highly specialized in dealing with using its own board members giving constant input.
Question 3: No, not at this time. Again, we have greater opportunities to be addressed including searching for a new City Manager, new planning and construction direction concerns, future flow on water management needs, and future cannabis issues. Once these areas have been given direction flow we could then revisit the future, if the Solvang community deems it so.
Businessman, Nielsen Building Materials
Question 1: I am running for City Council because I care deeply about the future of Solvang and, after many years of service to over 15 different groups, schools, nonprofits, and sports teams as well as being the chairman of the City of Solvang Planning Commission, I have been asked by so many residents that have noticed, and appreciated my efforts, and feel I can give the same energy to the city as a whole.
Solvang needs someone who can balance the needs of our residents with the need for tourist dollars, someone to address our unfunded liabilities which will continue to grow unless we do something now, someone to streamline our building and planning department and make it easier to get through the permit process, someone to analyze, and make cuts where necessary, to the Capital Improvement Plan, someone to say no to new taxes for water, sewer, and storm water management, and to address the traffic issues we face. These are just a few.
Question 2: Absolutely yes. We do know that tourism is the business life blood in the TRC, and well as our surrounding wineries, golf courses, etc. Tourism is 60 percent of our tax base. We can do more to promote midweek business conferences as an example. We really need to find a solution to the lack of an adequate conference center. I know it has been discussed before, as well as our distance from airports, and lack of large hotels, but we can look to smaller specific groups from San Diego to Silicon Valley, and points north, for their conference needs. Also exploring a dedicated area for technology business and establish a STEM facility would be a step in the right direction.
Question 3: I chaired the meeting of the Planning Commission when we did the feasibility study on annexation. I was very curious why it was City driven without any of the property owners affected in attendance. There seemed to be a very focused group or residents opposed to it and I can appreciate that. Ultimately it is the residents’ decision and if it ever came down to it, I think it should be voted on by the city as a whole. I see both sides and I appreciate the passion of those that want to keep Solvang as rural as possible. I also see the need for progress and creating jobs that might someday allow our kids to live and work here as well. If Solvang eventually did decide on annexation, it would not need to be the entire swath of land that was originally discussed back in March. I would suggest a much smaller area for possibly a special district to pursue technology business, but only in an area that is currently being used for industrial purposes, ie. south of Highway 246, west of downtown. Certainly not on current farm land.
SOLVANG CITY COUNCIL, 2-YEAR TERM (VOTE FOR 1)
Question 1: I am running because I see the possibility of having a new City Council that has little or no institutional or historic knowledge of what has brought Solvang to where it is today. This includes both the strong points and the weak points that need to be improved. As a former Councilman, who served three terms over the last 16 years, I can bring forward knowledge that would useful in the future.
Question 2: Due to the current constraints of our current borders I see it difficult to diversify. There are few industries that can generate a tax base equal to our current tourist oriented economy. The City’s role is to maintain a clean and family friendly experience. Further the City needs to have business regulations that are easily understood and evenly enforced so that new businesses can know what is required and be assured that all are treated fairly and the same.
Question 3: At this point I have questions about annexation. One of my biggest concerns is that it will be a drag on the financial structure of Solvang. Currently in annexations the County retains an extremely large share of the property tax, leaving the City to maintain the infrastructure with lower revenues. Further, annexation could have a negative effect on the community. Future growth and expansion should be decided by future City Councils and the citizens when deemed necessary.
Karen M. Waite
Senior compliance analyst, managing auditor, financial services
Question 1: I am an appointed incumbent and am determined to keep my two-year seat on the Council to continue my support of the arts and culture, local businesses, tourism, transportation and local control of state regulations.
Question 2: Our local businesses in this culturally Danish city drive and attract the tourism that generates the revenue to help support the day to day operations of this city. The question should be simply should Solvang diversify its sources of revenue. I feel we have diversity in our businesses and an increase in diversity in our residential demographics. However, we must remember we are a tourist town because of our Danish theme. Without tourism our businesses would likely fail.
Question 3: Future annexations to Solvang have been a topic recently. Should Solvang expand its borders? If so, by how much? And how should that growth be accomplished?
I believe in making our current businesses successful. I am a proponent of in-fill first. Next, we would have to examine our city plan, complete the financial analysis in regards to the benefits and detriments of annexation and the maintenance of areas within our sphere of influence. We would then determine our urban boundaries. Annexation should be decided by the citizens of Solvang and should be subject to a public vote as a ballot initiative. These decisions should be forward thinking.