We reached out to all Villa Park City Council candidates to ask a series of questions. The questions were focused on getting to know the candidates better and their positions on important city matters. Here are their responses to these questions.
Note: A questionnaire was given to each candidate, they were given 11 days to complete and turn it in. The answers that follow are exactly as they were presented. None of the answers were proofread or corrected. Robert Collacott, Crystal Miles and Chad Zimmerman provided responses while Diana Fascenelli did not respond to a request to participate.
How long have you been a resident of Villa Park?
Collacott: I have been fortunate to have experienced both sides of Villa Park, becoming a resident of the south side of Villa Park in 1981 and moving to the north side in 2002.
Miles: My husband and I moved into VP 14 years ago.
Zimmerman: Since October, 2007.
How have you already been volunteering or serving in the city?
Collacott: I have volunteered/served extensively during my 37 years in Villa Park:
- Volunteered to read children’s literature for 30 minutes every Friday at the first and second grades classes at Villa Park Elementary.
- Presented at high school career days on Environmental Science career opportunities.
- Cub Scout/Webelo Scout Den Leader – I started my Den with three Cub Scouts and, as others found how well run and fun our Den was, Den 9 grew to 10 Webelos. All 10 Webelos earned the Arrow of Light, the highest achievement in Cub Scouting.
- Managed and coached in Villa Park Little League – volunteered at almost every practice through Majors.
- Member VPHS Baseball Booster Club Board of Directors – managed field and facility maintenance for full year.
- Since 2014 I have served as a member of the Villa Park City Council
Miles: Very active with 2 Villa Park Organizations: VP Little League- as a board member for the past 8 years and Governance Chair for Villa Park Community Services Foundation Board for the past 4 years. I also contribute as one of the directors of the steering committee for a proposed VP Community Center.
Zimmerman: I started volunteering in my community when I was in High School and joined the Interact Club (which is the younger arm of Rotary International). Since then, I have allocated some of my time to giving back to community organizations and when I moved to Villa Park, I begin participating in our community right away. For several years I was CubMaster to the scouts of Villa Park Pack 850 which was a monthly commitment, plus Den meetings and camping trips. I was Chief of my daughter’s Indian Princess Tribe. I joined Villa Park Rotary and served as Villa Park Rotary President. I am still involved with all of those organizations, and I am ready and able to volunteer my time to the City of Villa Park.
Tell us why you decided to run.
Collacott: To make a positive difference in my community. I have extensive experience in infrastructure management, land use planning and regulation and in coordinating local and state government environmental, capital improvement, and regulatory programs. In addition, I have a strong record in solving problems through intergovernmental cooperation. My education, experience, knowledge and skills have made me an effective Council member.
Miles: I decided to give serious thought to running for City Council when I saw a pattern of receiving positive recommendations from past and current council persons, past and current city staff and residents in VP. I found myself wanting to get more involved. I take pride in our community and like to offer my assistance when and where ever I can.
Zimmerman: I decided to run because I love the Hidden Jewel and want to give my time and energy to do what I can to make it better. I believe that we need a council member who is not part of any faction, one who doesn’t have any allegiance to other council members. Specifically, there were two City Council Meetings that convinced me to become a candidate. At the October 24, 2017 City Council meeting, the arguments made by the entire council made it obvious that no true discussion among the entire council was possible and that consequently, new members are required. Two months later, on December 19, 2017, the council nearly broke down in an argument about the 2018 calendar, which required only the smallest of compromises to resolve. I am able to see issues from different perspectives, come up with new ideas, and very often find common ground when two sides cannot agree on an issue.
What do you hope to accomplish as a city council member?
Collacott: I intend to continue to make a positive difference in our city. Key objectives include:
- Work with the resident engineers on the Infrastructure Management Advisory Committee and City staff to develop and implement infrastructure management plans for our streets, sewers and storm drains – otherwise known as asset management plans. These plans will provide for cost-effective management of these assets, identify preventive maintenance, schedules for ongoing maintenance, and budget needs.
- Champion the development and implementation of a plan to resolve the Wanda Greenbelt. For over 30 years the Greenbelt provided a pleasing entrance to our City. Unfortunately, the City has been unable to adequately maintain this area and adjacent residents have made it clear that they do not want it to be a park or in any way attract visitors to the vicinity of their back yards. Further, the City has inadequate resources to re-landscape this area without substantial deferral of basic street and drainage maintenance. I am working on the development of a proposal to update this area
- Work with OUSD to develop a safe and convenient on-campus drop-off and pick-up facility at Serrano Elementary. The current arrangement creates a dangerous mix of energetic grade school children and motorists that has resulted in numerous near misses-and even a head-on collision injuring four students a few days ago. The current arrangement is also extremely inconvenient, frustrating and time-consuming for parents that must transport their students to Serrano Elementary. A safe alternative that is also more convenient for parents transporting their students is needed – before a student is killed or injured.
Miles: I hope to bring civility, respect, and dignity back to City Council. I aim to have a positive impact while on City Council and will demonstrate that I am willing to make it work with the other candidates, current City Council members and City staff. Villa Park is a wonderful place to live and I will make every effort to demonstrate that our city is important and that it is necessary to be fiscally prudent with City resources.
Zimmerman: In addition to supporting the values of our city, I would like to help bring about a change in dynamics among the city council that would facilitate a return to civility in our City Council. Specifically, I believe that Council Members should not only be professional and respectful to each other, allowing for a collection of different viewpoints to combine with the City’s best interests at heart, but also to do so in a positive and courteous manner that can set an example for the families in our community.
How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our town?
Collacott: During my first term on City Council I championed the formation of the Law Enforcement Advisory Committee and the Infrastructure Management Advisory Committee. These resident expert committees bring the expertise of our residents to address two key issues facing our city: crime prevention/law enforcement and maintenance of our infrastructure assets. They are effective.
In addition to maintaining these resident expert committees, as well as the Investment Advisory Committee, I would like to work thru the Community Development Committee to engage a working group of resident experts to work with staff and consultants to address the forthcoming State mandate to provide for high density housing in the update of our housing element.
Miles: I am glad this question is in here. I have said for some time now that we should send a survey out to all the residents and ask them to evaluate the City Council’s performance and have a metric with which to measure “approval” rating. This would be different from a survey asking about the satisfaction with City services or response time. Being able to measure approval rating would be a good metric to have in between election years. City Council borrows a seat for 4 years and if it were me, I would like to know if I am on the mark with our residents or far off in left field. How can I improve without a metric to compare to?
Zimmerman: I would like to encourage more residents to provide input to the City Council, and I have seen a couple of strategies that have proven to be effective. One is to host a pre-council meeting, where items on the agenda can be explained and explored in a public forum which allows better understanding of implications behind changes to ordinances. This preparatory meeting could have attendees in-person and could also include online questions.
What do you believe to be the significant issues facing Villa Park, and what is your position on those issues?
- State mandate to provide high density/low income housing. The fundamental character of Villa Park is founded on low-density higher quality housing, and this mandate is diametrically opposed to this objective. Villa Park must begin now to identify creative strategies to comply with this mandate without compromising the fundamental character of our city.
- Balancing our budget. Sales tax, which is a significant portion of the budget in most cities in California, is only a small element of our revenue due to limited commercial development. We are primarily reliant on our portion of the property tax revenue. Further, the January 1, 2018 Orange County Assessment Roll of Taxable Property Values for Villa Park increased by only 4.55%, versus a 6.23% increase County wide, indicating that property tax revenues may not increase significantly.
In addition to facing large unfunded pension liability costs, our infrastructure demands significant investments and too many of our residents live on streets that are in poor or fair condition. We have also found problems with our aging storm drains and sanitary sewers that will require significant investments. Our City will be challenged to carefully meet these challenges within a slowly growing budget.
Miles: All the issues a small city with a limited budget has are significant. Our City although small, has the same issues a large city does. Safety of our residents, our children, traffic, needs pertaining to infrastructure like roads, sewers, storm drains. Hot topics like homelessness, low income housing, property rights, city codes and ordinances, beautification efforts. My position is to advocate for what is best for our City to thrive and continue with no debt. To balance being proactive with reactive as a small budget would allow. We have a unique situation in Villa Park and are fortunate to have residents who have been here 40+ years…their voice is so important as are the residents just starting out here. I don’t have a previous voting record as 2 of my fellow candidates have where I can show my pattern of advocacy and demonstrate my position on those issues. I can promise to look at each issue that comes before the City with scrutiny and responsibility. To gather facts and properly vet the possible solutions and repercussions of those solutions and then advocate for what is going to put the City of Villa Park first.
Zimmerman: I think the ongoing primary issues are to ensure the protection of residents against crime and to provide fiscally sound leadership. I support the Sheriff’s Department and the Fire Authority in their efforts to keep us safe. I also support the City in maintaining a balanced budget that includes no new fees or taxes to residents. However, we face an uncertain issue in dealing with future infrastructure problems as we did with the Mesa/Henderson Storm Drain and I think we should be putting more into our reserves to cover contingencies.
What policies, procedures, ordinances will you, if elected, advocate to be changed, and what changes do you suggest?
Collacott: The only item I would like to add is a Design Guideline encouraging those constructing a major addition or modification to their property, such as a second story, to share their plans with adjacent homeowners. Many of us would do this anyway, and as a guideline, this would not be a requirement, but a reminder to do so may promote good communication that may avoid future misunderstandings.
Miles: While walking the City meeting residents some of the common concerns I heard pertained to street conditions and accessibility of compliant handicap ramps at curbs. Over by the schools the concern was traffic and safety of children. By Villa Park Road a consistent theme was the greenbelt on Wanda. Whether I am elected or not, I want to be able to provide input and help with these issues. Something must be done- that is clear -however most residents don’t like big changes. We can tackle each one of these issues with thoughtfulness and mindfulness. We can solve problems without alienating residents or going into debt. Perhaps as it pertains to the traffic issues around the schools…we get input from residents who have lived here for 25+ years as they are the ones who have been impacted the most by the traffic as we have increased enrollment at our schools from what it was 20+ years ago. To say…”well they purchased a home by a school they should have to deal with it” may have some merit and may apply to recent home owners but most of the residents around schools I spoke to have lived in their home 25+ years and it definitely doesn’t mean we just ignore their concerns.
Zimmerman: I am not advocating any immediate new Villa Park City Ordinances. I would like to provide input on the budget process to foster a more robust discussion of our city’s needs and spending priorities. I believe that the newly adopted changes regarding Accessory Dwelling Units as well as changes regarding Short Term Rentals should be amended to allow for extenuating circumstances that would warrant an exception. These changes were made without any accommodation to residents who had been fully lawfully compliant until the council reversed course to put the new laws into place.
What thoughts do you have, if any, to improve the appearance of the Villa Park (e.g. roads, beltways, public areas, entrances to the City, etc.)?
- The City has allowed the Wanda Greenbelt to fall into disrepair. Despite the drought, it is not clear why our City has not been able to maintain this area when OUSD, which is also served by the Serrano Water District, has been able to maintain healthy turf on their four campuses in Villa Park. The Council must work with staff to improve maintenance.
- Although the overall pavement condition index of our streets is good, too many of our residents are served by streets that are in fair or poor condition. Each of our residents deserves streets in good or better condition.
Miles: I believe the appearance of the VP beltways and public areas, roads etc. is important. Not to the point that we are spending exorbitant amounts of funds that we don’t have but we do need to make sure our city is represented well. We have codes and ordinances to make sure our neighborhoods are kept attractive which will make our community feel safe and cohesive. An attractive city will help attract businesses to our town center and give people pride where they live.
Zimmerman: When the City is able to upgrade the greenbelts to make them beautiful, especially while using a minimum of water, our whole city benefits. Our property values go up, and our outlook on our city improves. I think the City has a responsibility to all residents to maintain the public areas to a degree that matches the efforts made by homeowners, or in some cases more so.
What Villa Park Committee would you most want to be involved with and why?
Collacott: I would most want to continue participation in the Infrastructure Management Advisory Committee. Infrastructure management is the largest discretionary item in the City budget and the area where the area where the City can provide the greatest benefit to our residents. Further, this is the area where I have the most knowledge and experience to lend in making a positive difference in our City.
Miles: At the candidate’s forum, I said LEAC (Law Enforcement Advisory Committee) however, I am equally interested in the Budget and Finance committee. I want to make sure we are transparent with our city expenditures and are planning the appropriate percentage of funds into our different budget action items.
Zimmerman: While I would be comfortable working with the City/Schools Advisory, or with the Community Development Committee, I would be most interested in working with the Budget and Finance Committee because I would like to provide input on capital improvement projects and believe I could add value in reviewing the city’s investment policy.
Many Villa Park residents feel that there has been too much divisiveness on the City Council. How will you be a part of the solution?
Collacott: I am one of those residents who believes that there has been too much divisiveness on City Council. During Council meetings I have been on the receiving end of attacks by those who have accomplished little. However, I have consistently ignored these public attacks and will continue to take the high road by maintaining my focus on making a positive difference in Villa Park.
The Policy of the City Council is to conduct Council meetings under Roberts Rules of Order to maintain more civil and businesslike meetings. These rules are used by most city councils. Much of the “divisiveness” can be avoided by following these rules summarized as follows:
- Raise your hand and wait to be recognized before speaking.
- Do not interrupt others
- Use an “inside” voice
- Address your comments to the Mayor
- Confine your comments to the agenda item
Miles: As a resident I too feel there is too much divisiveness and vitriol with this current council. I am embarrassed at the lack of respect shown toward one another. Different opinions are important, but this exceeds a difference of opinion. At the candidate’s forum, I offered my front lawn at my home to the other 3 candidates and invited them to put their campaign signs in next to mine to demonstrate to the community that we can move forward and stop with the divisiveness. That all 4 of us can work together and start working on healing the divide felt by the community and start uniting the community. I was hopeful the other candidates would reciprocate allowing me to place my sign on their lawns. Having all 4 candidates display all 4 signs would be a step in the right direction. It wouldn’t mean we were going to be complacent with one another nor would it mean we would trivialize important city business. Displaying all 4 signs on each other’s lawns would demonstrate the desire to work together. The negativity created by the vitriol that is exuding in our community is damaging. Let’s work on putting Villa Park first!
Zimmerman: I would strive to bring compromise and respect back to our council, and to do so from a position of neutrality. At the very minimum, I think each City Council Member should try to understand the ideas and opinions of the other four. Each member is elected by a portion of the population to represent them, and when their objections are disregarded, so are the wishes of our residents.
Do you support safe & sane fireworks in the City of Villa Park?
Collacott: The residents have voted to allow the sale of safe and sane fireworks and I will continue to support this decision.
Zimmerman: Yes. The revenue generated by these sales goes directly back to our community through the charitable organizations that are selling the fireworks. Moreover, Safe And Sane fireworks provide an alternative to purchasing illegal fireworks.
One of the issues recently faced by the city was short-term rentals. What is your position on how the city has handled the matter? How would you handle the matter?
Collacott: The use of residential properties as short-term rentals appears to be a relatively recent phenomena in Villa Park. When this issue and related concerns was brought to the attention of Council it was assessed and initially addressed in the Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance. It was subsequently addressed in the adoption of the short-term rental ordinance.
Based on my inquiries of City staff, no residences that were operated as short-term rentals had obtained a business permit nor had sales tax on income been collected and paid to the City, suggesting that these activities had not been formally established. My understanding is that commercial use of residential properties was prohibited under the Municipal Code, but the short-term rental ordinance provides further clarification.
The City followed the established and proven legal procedure for adoption of the ordinance which provided for equal public notice for proponents and opponents, opportunities for written and public comment at the Council meeting prior to acceptance, and the opportunity to meet with Councilmembers prior to adoption. I support this tried and proven procedure which is in use throughout California and that provides for open and transparent decision making.
Miles: I support the ban on STR’s (we are to small a community) however I was disappointed that the city did not allow the current owners of STR a bit more time to get their affairs in order before the ban went into effect for them. Considering there was no ordinance prior to the ban, I would have liked to have seen a less aggressive transition for them. A compromise. Our community doesn’t want to have STR’s and I agree for all future STR’s however in the best interest of fairness, give the current owners perhaps 6 months to get their affairs in order as it pertains to the STR’s.
Zimmerman: Short Term Rentals don’t fit with my view of the Hidden Jewel and the feel of our community. I would encourage homeowners to live in our city and foster a stronger sense of community that we all love. However, I do not think that City Council should create laws to force its citizens into behaviors, and I would prefer to work on alternate solutions to prevent the problems associated with Short Term Renting. At the very least, I would also have set up a provision for homeowners to get a permit for short term rentals under some circumstances. If the existing ordinance had been amended to allow for this it would have delayed the implementation by only one month and been more reasonable to impacted residents.
If you received a $150,000 grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
Collacott: Safety of our children must be our highest priority. I would use the grant funds to work with the OUSD to develop a safe and convenient on-campus pick-up and drop-off facility for Serrano Elementary and additional off-street parking lot for use for youth sports programs at Cerro Villa.
Miles: I would have to look at the budget at the time but most logically put some in the reserves, and then perhaps supplement some of our infrastructure budget and our beautification budget.
Zimmerman: The city has dipped into our reserves in the last year, taking $140,000 from the Infrastructure Reserve and $180,000 from the Capital Reserve to balance our budget while paying for the storm drain repairs at Henderson Way. I am in favor of replenishing those reserves, and a $150,000 grant would cover less than half of what was used just this last year. Our reserves are invested so that they grow, which means that every dollar put in works harder for the city. Keeping our reserves healthy is very important to ensure that we are able to fund the necessary infrastructure repairs and capital improvements to those common areas that are currently rundown and unsightly.
As an alternative (if we couldn’t just put the grant into our reserves), I would advocate that some of the grant be allocated to events that benefit the entire community. Our Villa Park Picnic is a great event to bring everyone together, as are our Villa Park Summer Concerts. Allocating a grant towards providing many years of community events like those could encourage increased community engagement.
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Contact Crystal at firstname.lastname@example.org or 714.335.6725.
2018 Villa Park Election News & Information
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- 4 candidates file for 3 open City Council seats
- Villa Park City Council Member Files Petition Against Own City, Mayor
- VP City Council Candidate Forum – Meet the candidates
- Villa Park City Council Candidate Forum Transcript
- Incumbent Candidates Voting Records – Collacott, Fascenelli
- Villa Park City Council Voting Records
- City Council Candidate Statements
- OUSD Candidate Statements
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- Villa Park Election Central – All local information, news and updates