Councilwoman Lee announces run for mayor

Councilwoman Lee announces run for mayor

Morgan Hill city Councilwoman Marby Lee will run for the office
of mayor in November’s general election.
Morgan Hill city Councilwoman Marby Lee will run for the office of mayor in November’s general election.

Lee, who is nearing the end of her first term on the dais, said she wants to bring a “different perspective” on city business and an open mind to the council. She said in recent years the council has been dominated by a majority whose spending priorities are unsustainable in the current economic climate.

“For many years, we’ve either had people run unopposed (for mayor), or we’ve had people who have the same perspective on what the government should be in Morgan Hill,” Lee said. “There’s not really any opposing viewpoints on some of the big stuff, like recreation, public safety and spending money that, to me, is sort of common sense.”

For example, she said the Redevelopment Agency should not have spent money on new “monument signs” in front of city facilities, but should spend more on loans to help struggling small businesses in town. She added another concern is the city staff’s expenditure last year of about $200,000 on items that were purchased before city council approval. The rest of the council didn’t think the expenses were out of line, Lee said, but to her it was “a big deal, especially in tough economic times.”

She added that while the city’s Recreation and Community Services Department will recover a “phenomenal” 93 percent of expenditures through facilities memberships and use fees, general fund tax dollars pay for those facilities’ continued maintenance. A better expense would be on public safety, in order to bring Morgan Hill “in line with other communities” with a stronger police force. She noted that currently Morgan Hill has one of Santa Clara County’s lowest ratios of officers per capita.

Surrounded by supporters who included organizers of the Save the Granada foundation and city council candidate Michael Castelan, Lee announced her candidacy for mayor at a downtown restaurant Tuesday night.

As for the vacant downtown Granada Theater, which could become a hot issue later this year, Lee said she hasn’t made up her mind, but she is willing to keep an open mind as community members speak out in support of refurbishing and reopening the theater. Such an action would require a reversal of a city council decision made last year to replace the empty building with a brand-new mixed-use development.

“The current mayor, it seems to be a bother of his time to hear what all the residents have to say about (the Granada),” Lee said. “I have an open ear.”

The mayor’s seat is currently held by Steve Tate, who has already announced his intent to run for re-election. Tate has served on the council for 12 years – four as mayor.

Tate said he does not discount the “passion” of local residents who want to save the Granada Theater, but would like to see them focus their energy on incorporating aspects of the landmark theater into future development of downtown entertainment venues.

The council just passed a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 which cuts about $2 million in expenses for public services. The cuts include the elimination of 12.9 full-time positions, six layoffs and a reduction of hours for four employees.

Lee said she chose to run for mayor rather than seek re-election for her current seat because the position is more influential. While the mayor’s vote on council decisions is equal to that of other members, the mayor sets the agenda for each meeting and is “the figurehead for the city,” Lee said.

In addition to mayor, two council seats are up for election on the Nov. 2 ballot. Restaurateurs Castelan and Rick Moreno have announced they each plan to run for one of the seats, which are currently occupied by Lee and Greg Sellers. Sellers has said he will not seek re-election.

The candidates’ paperwork filing period, when candidacies become official, doesn’t start until July 12. The deadline to file is Aug. 6.

Council candidates will run for four-year terms, and the positions are at-large, meaning the top two vote-winners among the field of candidates will be seated. Mayoral candidates will seek a two-year term.

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