In 2006, the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors voted to endorse political candidates for the first time in selected elections that have an effect on the community. At that time, the Board recognized a void of pro-business voices which is always a voice for economic improvement for the community. The goal of the Candidate Endorsement Panels is to question all candidates in selected races and to choose the candidate that bests reflects the values of Lodi District Chamber of Commerce and our 800 members.
Over the course of the past two weeks, an Endorsement panel made up of Chamber Members from a myriad of industries interviewed candidates running in the Lodi Unified School District, San Joaquin Delta Board of Trustees, Lodi City Council, State Assembly, and District 9 Congressional races. The outcomes of these Candidate Endorsement Panels are as follows:
In the Lodi Unified School District races, the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce endorses Bonnie Cassel in Area 1, Kanwaljeet Gill in Area 4, and Ron Heberle in Area 5. The Panel believed that Ms. Cassel’s experience and student-driven decisions, as well as her suggestions for one-on-one advisory sessions for at risk students and continued growth in Career Technical Education (CTE) courses, were factors that elevated her above her competitor. Mr. Gill’s statement, “The primary objective of a LUSD board member is to the students,” resonated with our panel, as well as his views on engaging parents in their children’s education and the importance of “setting the standards high” as the kids will rise to meet them. Mr. Ron Heberle has years of experience in community service, on top of his years on the School Board. He has been a crucial player in Vision 2020 here at the Chamber, as well as the Workforce Development Vision Action Team, and has been very vocal on the Board to move the school district towards CTE with a focus on getting students prepared for the workforce. These three candidates really mirrored the thoughts from the Panel and therefore, have our endorsement. We will state, however, that we were very pleased with all of the Candidates running for Lodi Unified School District Board of Trustees and hope each one of them remain involved in the community, especially within our schools.
For the San Joaquin Delta Board of Trustee races, the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce endorses Charles Jennings in Area 4. Over the past 4 years, the Chamber and many leaders in Lodi have been critical of San Joaquin Delta College and the lack of support that our last Area Representative provided. We hope to open a new chapter in Lodi’s relationship through Charles Jennings- a former teacher and Delta administrator. Mr. Jennings knows there is room for improvement and sees the same areas of opportunity as the Chamber and its membership. First would be a reestablishment of an agriculture program at Delta with a concentration on viticulture for Area 4. Secondly, there needs to be a greater number of students going through the CTE pathways leading to a family supporting wage in industry.
In the State Assembly race, the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce endorses Assemblyman Jim Cooper for re-election over his opponent Harry He. Jim is well-known as a moderate Democrat. He has defended our Ag community well, as well as the entire business community. Only on rare occasions, he voted squarely against interests for business, but on those occasions, his vote in opposition of his party would not have made a difference. He has authored legislation that would curb Proposition 47 to reform the ill-effects, i.e. release of career criminals, the large spike in property crime, and the shoplifting epidemic where criminals can go unpunished if they steal less than $950. In addition, Cooper has recently secured $1 million in funding towards troubled Lodi Lake to fight the effects of erosion and to maintain the nature trail. We appreciate candidate Harry He’s willingness to be a community servant and thank him for the time he spent with our Endorsement Panel.
Only one district offers up a City Council race- District 2- between Councilman Mark Chandler and Spencer Rhoads. The Lodi District Chamber of Commerce is endorsing Councilman Mark Chandler for re-election because Mark has spent the last four years on the council becoming extremely knowledgeable on the Lodi Electric Utility and its place on the Northern California Power Authority (of which, he is a board member). While there are some in the community who are dissatisfied with LEU, Mark believes 1. There is room for improvement, 2. He is a proponent for transparency, and 3. Many in the community don’t have all the information regarding what goes into their bills (i.e. power, water, sewage, and trash). Lodi Electric Utility’s rate is 16¢ a kilowatt hour versus PG&E’s 22¢. Mark believes that we are suffering economically in Lodi because of our slow growth, but also has been a part in its current resurgence in new housing and new retail offerings. While this economic growth is contributing revenue, it has not been enough to offset increasing costs in the city. Everyone knows- and Mark is upfront with- that the PERS is the chief offender in rising city expenses. He, and his four other City Council members have repeatedly stated, would not have voted to put a sales tax increase on the ballot if they were not convinced that there is no other option. Currently, we have 61 officers serving our city of 65,000 people. 1 officer per 1,000 people, many of them not on patrol, does not make anyone feel secure.
Mark holds the edge over his competitor, Spencer Rhoads, due to his experience and knowledge of the budgetary demands that the City of Lodi has in great depth. It’s easy to say, “let’s outsource” or “cut spending” without knowing the ramifications to the community. However, Spencer Rhoads impressed our panel with his gumption and a desire to improve the city he calls home. He often refers to helping those who don’t have much money in their pockets, and being a part of making the best Lodi for his young growing family. If Spencer should fail in his first attempt running for City Council, we encourage him to continue being a student of the Lodi community, understand what would make it more economically viable as a place to run a business, and so more people in Lodi can thrive. If he should win, we would look forward to helping him understand that a successful community stems from a very successful business community.
Last, but certainly not least, the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce endorses Marla Livengood for District 9 of United States Congress. While we concur with many people in San Joaquin county that you will not meet a nicer individual than Jerry McNerney, unfortunately, Jerry’s voting record is abysmal. Congressman McNerney’s schedule could not accommodate the Endorsement Panel and the completed questionnaire was not returned so that our panel could compare his answers with those of Ms. Livengood’s. The Endorsement Panel agreed with Ms. Livengood’s answers regarding securing the border, privatized healthcare, and tax cuts for businesses and citizens. The Panel was also impressed by her positive attitude, her winning spirit, and her exuberant demeanor. She would be a breath of fresh air in the halls of Congress and a great representative of our little corner of the country.
On behalf of our 800 members and their 13,000 employees, we would like to thank the volunteer Endorsement Panel for their time. These men and women were a cross-section of our Chamber membership and collectively donated 112-man hours collectively. We appreciate their efforts to make this process as non-partisan as possible. This panel is in concert with the mission of the Chamber of Commerce, which is to be a catalyst for business growth, a convener of leaders and influencers, and a champion of the community.