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Ripon City Council hopefuls respond to civic questions
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They’re all for police, public safety and a controlled growth for the place they call home.

The bottom line: Leo Zuber, Daniel de Graaf, Tamra Spade. Tim Wheeler and Richard Kohl all embrace Ripon.

“We have five people all with the same goals,” said Zuber, who is seeking a third term.

He added: “Ripon is a great place – we want to keep that way.”

All five are vying for three spots on the Nov. 3 ballot.

They were recently front and center at the Candidate Forum / Town Hall session hosted by the Ripon Chamber of Commerce and

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the candidates were featured at the virtual events held in the Council Chamber.

“This was a good alternative way of doing this without an audience,” said Chamber President and CEO Kelly Donohue.

Serving as the moderator was Councilman Mike Restuccia, who is also on the Chamber’s Government Relations Committee.

They were presented with a few questions specific to them.

Wheeler, for starters, was asked, if elected, how he would prioritize his full-time job as a certified public accountant to his commitment on the council.

"As a CPA, we have a condensed tax season — we do a lot of work for three months, from February to April," he said.

As the owner of his business, Wheeler also has the flexibility to arrange his own schedule, adding that juggling meetings would work out with his schedule.

Spade, who is the President / CEO of the Tracy Chamber of Commerce — prior to that, she held the same position for the Ripon Chamber — was presented with the hypothetical situation, as an elected leader, of persuading a new business to come to Ripon or Tracy.

"This is my home. Tracy is my job," she said.

Spade indicated that both communities are different in terms of the type of businesses they attract. But Ripon is her bottom line.

"We want what's best for our community and go from there," she said.

For de Graaf, who is completing his first term, he was asked if there was something in particular he hoped to accomplish if given a second go-around at the post.

"My goals are to improve on economic development with incentives to bring in new businesses," he said.

His experience as an engineer calls searching for additional sources for drinking water outside of the underground wells.

"We need to bring in water from the South San Joaquin Irrigation District," de Graaf said.

Zuber, as an incumbent, was asked if there was a decision he would have handled differently in hindsight.

"I didn't make any individual decisions -- it's the five people on the Council that make the decisions. This Council has been good," he said. 

Zuber pointed out that some of the decisions are beyond the Council's control. 

Take the Stockton Avenue Rehabilitation Project, which started off four years ago.

Various funding sources made possible for work to finally begin.

"CalTrans hadn't made up its mind -- we still haven't done any work," Zuber said.

As for Kohl, who moved to Ripon over a year ago, he was given the question: "How can the community be convinced you won't move out of the area if another job opportunity arises?"

He was quick to respond: "My wife — she's a lifelong Riponite. My wife's family is here, which is my family. Their happiness is much more important than financial gain and opportunity."

During the next set of questions, Wheeler, who is in the process of developing a new building on the corner of Stockton Avenue and Second Street, was asked about his business endeavors conflicting with his position on the Council.

"I would step out of the room if there's a conflict," he said, noting that the Planning Commission makes those types of decisions and that his project was already approved before he decided to run for the post.

During Spade's tenure, the Ripon Chamber of Commerce was very event-focused. Her question was: "Do you feel the role of the City is in putting on community-wide events — for example, would you use taxpayers’ money to put on a Fourth of July show?"

She believes that the City should at least help. 

"Other cities contribute to such events," Spade said. "I think it's important."

Daniel de Graaf was asked about his thoughts on outdoor operations in the downtown district.

"I wasn't sure if businesses were interested in providing the infrastructure," he said.

But that changed with COVID-19 pandemic. He believes it was necessary to pass the temporary ordinance in order to allow businesses to continue to operate.

"I'm in favor of making it happen under the current ordinance," de Graaf said

Speaking of the coronavirus pandemic, Zuber introduced and advocated for the City a grant program to help businesses during these tough and uncertain times.

Do you feel this was a successful program?

"Seventy-eight businesses did apply and 78 received the money. That money kept them going," he said, adding that the program was "mighty successful."

Kohl addressed the question on what he's done to educate himself on the City's priorities.

"I made sure to meet with the Council and with City Administrator Kevin Werner," he said.

Kohl has lived in several areas, including in Southern California and other Central Valley towns.

Would you implement plans based on what you've seen in those other places?

"What happens in Los Angeles and San Francisco may not be good for Ripon," he said.