Question for Folsom Voters: Stay the Course or Stop the Growth?

This article, submitted by journalism student Clifton Jones gives a brief look some of the primary issues facing the city:

FOLSOM, Calif.– With the Nov. 4 elections, less than a month away the city of Folsom is in the middle of a two-sided battle that looks to split the city and its citizens apart.

One side wants to keep Folsom the way the way it is, like challenging City Council candidates Jennifer M. Lane, Chad Vander Veen and Sandra Lunceford.

While on the other side, there is the group of the other candidates, the incumbents.

City Mayor Kerri Howell, Councilmember Steve Miklos and Councilmember Andy Morin want to continue to expand and build more housing and businesses.

Lying in the middle of this debate is the issue of the ‘South of 50’ project in which the city annexed an additional 3,500 acres of land thanks in large part to Measure W.

The project is predicted to bring in an estimated 23,000 new residents to the city, which will put the population at 106,000 in the next few years.

Howell said the idea of developing south of highway 50 has been in discussion for a long time.

“It is has been in the process for about ten years, with four years of public meetings,” Howell said. “It is time for the citizens and the city to move forward with its promise.”

The discussion of the ‘South 50’ project has been so intense recently that it led the Vice Mayor Ernie Sheldon to write an op-ed piece to the citizens of Folsom on Oct. 17. Sheldon pushed the citizens to act and vote this Nov. 4 and take back the city.

“Don’t let developers and large business money take away your right to make changes,” Sheldon said. “Look at the new candidates vote new.”

At one point in the article, Sheldon even said that the city council was operating on the basis of some other group.

“Do you think voting for the three incumbents back into office and lose control of your city to the special interest crowd?”

Reading those words, Howell was insulted by a man who served as vice mayor with her.

“I do not care what he says about me,” Howell said. “But to say the city council is operating in the direction of special interest groups. It is a slap in the face to every city employee who works their butt every day to keep Folsom the way it is.”

Although Sheldon will be a city council member for the next two years, the new candidates admire the risk he put himself in if the incumbents win this November.

“I hope the citizens of this city see the risk Ernie put himself in,” Lunceford said. “I also hope they read up and show up to vote on Nov. 4.”

Vanderveen is not opposed to the idea of developing south of highway 50, he just wants to make sure it completed intelligently.

“We need to look at recycling our water or finding other water resources before we start developing new housing tracts,” Vander Veen said. “I just want an adequate water supply for the people who will be living in those new houses.”

While Vanderveen may be correct, Howell is assured there should be no reason to fear of reckless development because of the water situation.

“Folsom has sufficient water rights, and the lake will be 22 inches higher,” Howell said. “I honestly believe it is not unreasonable to move forward with the project.”

One of the reasons why Lunceford decided to run for public office is to help better utilize the developing of Folsom to attract more tourists.

“I want to make the historical district of Folsom the center and connect the neighborhoods together,” Lunceford said. “I would like to make it more family friendly for tourists and have the tourists help with increasing the revenue for the city instead of relying on property tax.”

One way Lunceford wants to package everything Folsom has to offer to tourists with the arts, history and the rails. Instead of relying on just the property tax, she wants to diversify the revenue streams for the city.

While Lane may have differences of opinions with some of the new candidates in this city council election. Lane said she would look forward to working with either of them as long as the incumbents are out of office.

“The incumbents have been in too long and have grown close with the developers of the city.”