The Race for City Council
Leading up to the Dana Point City Council election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Dana Point Times will be publishing six questions, one each week, answered by the candidates qualified for the ballot. This year, the seats for Districts 4 and 5 are up for election.
With state directives ordering business closures throughout the coronavirus pandemic, both Dana Point businesses and residents are seeing the consequences. What is your plan to remedy the economic impacts stemming from COVID-19?
Dana Point’s economy, including City revenue has been hit hard. In Fiscal Years (FY) 2020-2021, the City has a shortfall in tax revenue due to COVID-19 of approximately $10 million, representing approximately 12% of the two-year budget. Our efforts to meet this gap in revenue have been a combination of leveraging the existing balance sheet (reserves) and cutting expenditures, each representing approximately 50% of that gap.
Our total reserve balance will be $19 million at the end of this FY, which is roughly 48% of our total yearly revenue, and exceeds the generally accepted minimum municipal reserve balance of 17% of revenue. Moving forward, Dana Point remains financially well positioned and will remedy the impact in three ways.
First, strategically, we continue to develop the Dana Point brand, primarily consisting of a laid-back beach community with fantastic music and surf festivals and a touch of sophisticated art. Equally important, a comprehensive message of health, safety, and consistent protocols will help us differentiate from other communities when competing for tourism and sales-tax dollars.
Second, operationally, we remove bureaucratic policies and help our small business community overcome the challenges of over-regulation in California. The City has already implemented some of these measures, including outdoor dining, which I would advocate for extending well beyond COVID-19.
Third, and as a member on the current financial review committee, we continue to intelligently cut expenditures to meet existing shortfalls, and these cost-saving measures may be appropriate to continue. Nearly every line item in the budget has received some deduction, and this will be the new baseline moving forward.
Often, a city or an organization needs a difficult financial situation to be the catalyst for internal analysis and improvement. As your District 4 Councilmember, we will continue to define this situation as an opportunity to improve our economic strategy, enhance policies to help local business, and identify efficiencies to cut unnecessary spending.
Like everyone, I’d love to wave a magic wand and make the pandemic, along with its economic impacts, disappear. Unfortunately, that is not reality. As your Councilman, however, I will work with agencies at the County, State and Federal level, our businesses and residents to mitigate as much damage as we can.
COVID-19 didn’t come with a road map, and neither will economic recovery. Solutions will come from collaborative efforts between agencies and stakeholders, pursuing new ideas with open minds. This is where my experience working with diverse, non-partisan groups will be helpful. I’ve never cared what position you play. It’s more important to recognize that we’re all on the same team, struggling to find answers to keep our families safe and our finances, businesses and economy intact.
First, we need to continue to liaise closely with County, State and Federal agencies, keeping up on available financial assistance for our city, businesses and constituents, relaying that information quickly, and removing roadblocks and smoothing access where we can help. Secondly, we need to work closely with our hotels and businesses, entertaining all reasonable requests that will help to save these sectors, easing restrictions or even amending policies or codes where necessary. The City plays a vital role as advocate for its business sector, rallying residents to support our local economy while encouraging businesses to reassure customers of their safety as they do so.
Ultimately, people who don’t feel safe, don’t shop or dine out. I’d like to work with our businesses to create reasonable safeguards that consumers can be assured will be honored. This pandemic may be with us for many more months. Everything we can do to entice people to participate locally will help our economy, businesses and residents to survive and thrive.
Please visit newkirk4dp.com.
I think that it is going to be imperative that we diligently seek any and all state or federal funding and assistance that is available throughout the coronavirus pandemic. I will work to find funding vital to keeping our local businesses operating until we can get back to some semblance of normalcy. I will deliver the persistence and tenacity that are going to be necessary to navigate the myriad opportunities ahead. I will bring creative, forward-thinking ideas to troubleshoot the unique challenges created in the wake of COVID-19.
As I mentioned in past articles, the commercial sector is seeing gains in online sales as a result of the global pandemic, and we could focus on this as a possible stopgap measure while the pandemic persists. Virtual tourism, or online farmers markets, may be a unique way to recapture some of the dollars that will be missing from the local economy this year. I expect that we will have to find multiple outside-the- box ways to create revenue over the next couple of years, and I am confident that together we can rise to the challenge.
I feel confident that Dana Point will weather the current economic storm and be stronger for having done so. This global pandemic has highlighted some areas of opportunity for the nation as a whole, and our community is no different. The true measure of our character will be how we respond to this unprecedented event and where we go from here. I would be honored to lead Dana Point into the future. It has been a privilege to be nominated for Dana Point City Council, and I hope to be your choice at the polls on November 3, 2020.
IAFF Local 3631 endorses Benjamin Bebee for city council.
There is no doubt this pandemic has impacted our local economy. This is an unprecedented time that will require innovative ideas and the involvement of all community stakeholders. While tourism has provided a lucrative revenue source that accounts for almost a third of our city’s revenue, it is also an industry that is one of the first to be hit during times of recession or uncertainty—and, often, one of the slowest to recover. It took almost five years for Dana Point’s TOT revenue to recover to levels experienced before the 2008 recession. I suspect the economic recovery from the pandemic may be similarly protracted.
Dana Point has always been known for its quaint shops, restaurants, bars, and businesses. All of these small businesses make up favorite spots for our locals and enhance the experience of visitors to our beach town. Many of our residents own or work at these local businesses, and their lives have been turned upside down in recent months with layoffs and closures. I will do everything I can to help in the recovery of our local economy while keeping our residents safe.
Fortunately, Dana Point has good cash reserves to weather the storm, but it will also be necessary to take a sharp pencil to budgets to avoid ongoing deficits and to make plans to replenish reserves needed for future economic impacts or emergencies. A concentrated and united effort needs to be made to help businesses and individuals recover as quickly as possible. I look forward to working with business owners, residents, my fellow city councilmembers and all of the city staff as we address this challenge and strengthen our fiscal model so that our city is not only able to recover, but to thrive.
Please visit my website villarfordanapoint.com.