Carmel City Council Race is On
Candidate Jason Burnett kicks off drive to unseat a City Council incumbent.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The 33-year old Burnett is so far the only challenger to City Council incumbents Paula Hazdovac and Gerard Rose, who have served 15 and nine years respectively.
Burnett is a former EPA deputy administrator who twice left the Bush Administration in disputes over its environmental policies. Burnett now runs his own company, Burnett EcoEnergy in Marina, which aims to help businesses save energy and later collect a portion of the money they save as payment for its services.
Three former Carmel Mayors—Ken White, Charlotte Townsend and Jean Grace—all back Burnett in the April contest.
Burnett says he wants to make sure that Carmel, which is in far better financial shape than most local cities, has sufficient rainy day funds to cover employee pensions, and maintenance of the sea wall, especially in an El Nino year. He is concerned that the city may be outsourcing too much of its work, especially related to the city's finances. Mayor Sue McCloud responds that the council recently contracted out accounting services only on an interim basis.
Burnett vows to work for more transparency in government, and build morale among city workers.
"Why are we spending as much as we are on lawyers? Why are we not able to retain the great and dedicated people who have recently left the city?" Burnett asks.
He argues that the city might re-consider the money it shells out to attract tourists, given that private organizations already do similar work, and like most of Carmel's candidates, Burnett promises to keep an open mind in deciding how to provide city fire services in the future.
Incumbent City Councilman Gerard Rose denies that employee morale has suffered in recent years. "I went to the city's year-end party," says Rose, "and people were incredibly happy. Can I promise you there are no malcontents? My observation is morale is higher than it's ever been." Rose wants to remain on the council because he says, "Times are tough, and I think Carmel deserves experienced hands at the wheel." He says he is particularly proud of his work with Carmel's emergency responders who he says have whittled average ambulance response times to two minutes, possibly making Carmel the safest place on the Peninsula to suffer a heart attack.
Councilwoman Hazdovac also argues that expertise is needed in tough times. She wants to make sure the Flanders Mansion is sold, and that the city remains on strong financial footing. "It's not an easy job, and you really have to have a passion for it," she says, "because you really take a beating at times."
Burnett promises a tough challenge. He has hired local strategic communications firm, Boots Road, whose tag line is "Dastardly cleverness in the service of good."
"We are going to run a very good campaign," Burnett says.