presents
Voter’s Edge California
Get the facts before you vote.
Brought to you by
MapLight
League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
KPCC's My Ballot@KPCC
November 6, 2018 — California General Election
Local

City of PomonaCandidate for City Council, District 5

Photo of Steve Lustro

Steve Lustro

Retired Development Director
2,466 votes (43.97%)Winning
Use tab to activate the candidate button. Use "return" to select this candidate. You can access your list by navigating to 'My Choices'.
For more in-depth information on this candidate, follow the links for each tab in this section. For most screenreaders, you can hit Return or Enter to enter a tab and read the content within.
Candidate has provided information.
Thank candidate for sharing their information on Voter's Edge.

My Top 3 Priorities

  • Make the difficult decisions to return the City of Pomona to fiscal health and stability.
  • Support the Pomona Police Department's efforts to enhance its limited resources and encourage incrementally adding more sworn staff.
  • Be accessible, responsive, and communicative to constituents so that they are informed and have a voice in issues that affect them.

Experience

Experience

Profession:Retired Community Development Director
Member, Pomona Board of Parking Place Commissioners (Vehicle Parking District) — Appointed position (2017–current)
Community Development Director, City of Montclair (2007–2016)
Governing Board Member, Pomona Unified School District — Appointed position (2008–2009)
General Manager/President, Crystal Building Maintenance Co., Inc. (1980–2008)
City Planner, City of Montclair (2000–2007)
Governing Board Member, Pomona Unified School District — Elected position (1997–2005)
Assistant/Associate/Senior Planner, City of Claremont (1995–2000)
Member, Pomona Planning Commission — Appointed position (1991–1997)
Community Improvement Coordinator, City of Claremont (1993–1995)

Education

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Bachelor of Science, Urban & Regional Planning, local and regional planning, transportation planning, economic development, site planning, architecture (1993)

Community Activities

Member, American Planning Association (1989–current)
Member, Design and Construction Committee, Pomona Valley Habitat for Humanity (2007–2016)
Member, Diamond Ranch High School Steering Committee (1993–1997)
Board Member/Newsletter Editor, Ranch Hills Elementary School PTA (1990–1994)
Member, Decker Elementary School Site Council (1985–1987)

Biography

Personal

·      District 5 resident, 35 years

·      Married to Sharon for 35 years

·      Devoted father of two adult children, Olivia and Drew

 

City/District/Regional Service

·      City of Pomona Board of Parking Place Commissioners, 2017-present

·      City of Pomona Planning Commission, 1991-1997

·      Governing Board Member, Pomona Unified School District, 1997-2005, 2008-2009

·      Pomona Valley Habitat for Humanity Design & Construction Committee, 2007-2016

·      Member, City of Pomona Sign Code Revision Committee

 

Community Service

·      Decker Elementary School Site Council

·      Ranch Hills Elementary School, PTA Board Member and Newsletter Editor

·      Diamond Ranch High School Steering Committee, 1993-1997

·      Campaign for Proposition E, Lead Community Organizer, 1990-1991

·      Phillips Ranch Homeowners Association Board of Directors

 

Professional

·      Retired Director of Community Development, City of Montclair

·      Member, American Planning Association

·      Member, American Institute of Certified Planners

·      Former Member, International Council of Shopping Centers

·      24 years of professional municipal and regional planning experience

·      20 years management experience in a small, family-owned business

Who supports this candidate?

Organizations (1)

  • Pomona Police Officers' Association (PPOA)

Individuals (5)

  • Gabriel Rogers
  • Alicia Malone
  • Donna Houston
  • Kimberly Ayers
  • Ron Vander Molen

Political Beliefs

Position Papers

Pomona's Fiscal Challenges

Summary

This position paper discusses the City's fiscal condition and my thoughts on how to address it.

It is no secret Pomona faces serious economic challenges on the near horizon.  If you have been following social media or the local news media, you are aware that the City needs to take drastic steps in the very near future to maintain its current program and service levels to the community, let alone enhance them.

 

How did Pomona get to this point?  A number of factors come into play, most of which are discussed in a report to the City prepared by Urban Futures, Inc., in May 2018.  The report may be viewed by clicking here.  The report traces the City’s revenues and expenses back to 2010-11, which is about the time the economy began to recover from the Great Recession.  However, the bulk of the report focuses on the next ten years, key assumptions as they relate to revenues, expenses, and liabilities, and alternatives for the City to consider to avoid a fiscal cliff.  I strongly encourage you to read the 31-page report in order to gain an understanding of the factors contributing to Pomona’s economic condition and the urgency to take corrective action sooner rather than later.  I have summarized my takeaways from the report below.

 

When Urban Futures presented its initial report and forecast to the City in December 2017, it estimated the City could balance the annual structural deficit in its budget for approximately 4½ years by dipping into its reserves.  While this is not advised economic practice, it provided the City some time to consider alternatives for addressing the problem.  In April 2018, the City’s Finance Department “…provided (Urban Futures) with updates to the General Fund budget for FY 2017-18 based on changes to the City’s financial condition and substantial actions adopted by the City Council since the Initial Baseline Forecast.”  According to the report, those changes added a sustained additional annual cost to the General Fund of $5.4 million, while offsetting revenues of less than half that amount are estimated to flow in 2017-18.  The key summary findings stated in the report are that the City has an annual structural operating deficit of $8 to $10 million, meaning that, “…assuming no changes, the General Fund is structured to spend $8 to $10 million more per year than it receives.”  The revised numbers provided to the consultant in April mean that “…the City will burn through its $16 million in General Fund reserves in the next two fiscal years and likely become cash insolvent in FY 2020-21.”

 

To say this is frightening is an understatement.  We as residents can point fingers all day at those we believe were or are responsible for getting us to this point.  In my opinion, the major contributing factors to the City’s economic woes are pension liabilities and Pomona’s inability to recover sufficiently from the Great Recession as it relates to economic development and sales tax revenue generation.  Pension liabilities have rocked many California cities and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  The Public Employees’ Retirement System’s (PERS) poor investment practices came to light during the Great Recession, and put simply, PERS has since placed the burden of trying to make its system healthy again squarely on the backs of its member agencies through steeply escalating contributions.  Pomona and virtually all other California cities have done the limited amount they can, which is to reduce pension benefits to new hires; however, it will take decades for member agencies to see the reduced financial burden of this action. 

 

The Great Recession had a myriad of negative effects on Pomona and other nearby cities.  We lost four automobile dealerships, which are a significant generator of sales tax revenue.  Property values plummeted, triggering downward reassessments of many properties, resulting in reduced property tax revenues.  The reduced revenues to the City triggered layoffs; the City currently employs less than 570 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), down from almost 777 ten years ago, which has impacted the ability to provide services to the community.  In addition, electronic commerce (“e-commerce” or online shopping) has exploded, reducing the demand for retailers to maintain physical or “brick-and-mortar” locations, further impacting sales tax revenues.

 

Have there been less-than-prudent economic decisions made by the City Council?  Probably, but the decision makers depend on information given to them by the City’s professional staff with respect to impacts to the City budget.  Notwithstanding the ominous news contained in it, I applaud the City’s decision to solicit the ten-year economic forecast, as it presents an independent, sobering picture of Pomona’s finances.  For whoever may be sitting on the City Council dais after November, this economic forecast needs to be referred to often when making economic decisions, not something that simply collects dust on a shelf in City Hall.  I will add that getting the City back to fiscal health is not simply the responsibility of the City Council, but one that also falls on the shoulders of the entire Pomona family.  City employees, and not just those in the Finance Department, need to educate themselves on the City’s finances.  As a former department head for the City of Montclair, I challenge each of Pomona’s department heads to prepare and submit responsible budgets, not one filled with “wish list” items.  Getting the City back to financial stability is going to require a team effort.  To this end, the City Council needs to make tough, prudent financial decisions, as unpopular as they sometimes may be, in order to nurse the City back to fiscal stability.

 

Where to go from here?  The Urban Futures report contains 12 revenue options for closing the budget gap, nine of which are not recommended because of their inability to generate a significant amount of revenue and/or because they would exacerbate an existing cost to Pomona residents and businesses.  Of the three options recommended for raising revenue, the establishment of a Transactions and Use Tax (TUT) has the potential to generate enough revenue annually ($7 to $10 million) to address the City’s structural deficit.  The City Council has already voted to place this option on the November ballot.  The TUT would raise the sales tax in Pomona from its current 9.50% to 10.25%.  What this means in simple terms is that for every $100 spent in Pomona, the additional cost to the shopper would be 75 cents, all of which would funnel to the City.  Tax measures such as this are not without precedent; nine cities in Los Angeles County, including Long Beach, Santa Monica, and Hawthorne, have approved sales tax rates of 10.25%.  Seven additional cities in the county have sales tax rates of 10%.  While I detest additional taxes as much as the next person, implementing a TUT is the most prudent solution for addressing the City’s structural deficit and maintaining an acceptable level of City services.  If the City’s structural deficit is not resolved within the next two years, the quality-of-life impacts to the community will be staggering, including closure of parks and community facilities, closure of an additional fire station and the City’s library, and elimination of Code Enforcement and the Police Department’s Gang Suppression and Major Crimes Units.  This is an unacceptable option if we expect to move Pomona in a positive direction.

 

The City’s Finance Department staff recently conducted community meetings in each of the six districts to explain the City’s financial condition and challenges.  If you were unable to attend and would like to view the Powerpoint presentation shared at those meetings, click here.  I encourage you to become knowledgeable about Pomona’s fiscal condition and alternatives for getting the City back on track.  If you have any questions or comments, I invite your input.    

Being "Business Friendly"

Summary

My thoughts on what the City of Pomona needs to focus on if it expects to enhance interest and investment from developers and potential stakeholders.

“Business friendly” is a phrase cities commonly use when participating at economic development conferences and when courting potential businesses and developers.  The expression can mean different things in different jurisdictions, depending upon how much (or how little) can be offered as an incentive to lure a business or a project.  However, as I learned in my 24-year career as a community development professional with two neighboring cities, astute investors also look at the political culture of cities in which they may be interested to determine how easy or difficult it may be to navigate through the process. 

 

During the final decade of my professional career, and upon learning I was a long-time Pomona resident, it troubled me to hear first-hand from a number of developers and investors that they made a conscious choice to steer clear of our City.  The reasons varied, but a common complaint I often heard was that potential investors did not want to deal with Pomona politics.  Specific examples and people were occasionally cited, but those are not important for this discussion.  What is important is that City Council members need to recognize and fulfill their responsibility; that is, set appropriate policies and direction for the City and task the City Manager with carrying out those policy directives through his or her department heads.  In my opinion, it is not the City Council’s job to meddle in the day-to-day operations of the City or to engage in secret meetings or back-room deals with individuals or entities considering doing business in Pomona.  What I have learned is that such reputations travel like wildfire and have the potential of marking certain cities as places to be avoided.

 

During the course of my campaign, I have spoken with three respected stakeholders who are intimately familiar with Pomona.  What I heard from two of them was disturbing: the City was considered for quality development projects but never submitted out of fear of political interference.  It worries me to think that there may be other investors who may have skipped over Pomona in favor of one of our neighboring cities for similar reasons.

 

Economic development is the revenue engine that needs to keep churning for the City’s long-term fiscal health.  New businesses mean additional sales tax and utility tax revenue.  New development means increased property taxes and related tax revenues.  The attraction of large businesses, institutions or entities often acts as a catalyst for additional new retailers, restaurants and support services.  The forthcoming arrival of Fuller Theological Seminary and its nearly 3,000 students, and the Maya Cinemas multiplex in Downtown Pomona are examples of significant investments that are likely to draw other businesses to the immediate area.

 

Has Pomona drawn new investment since the Great Recession breathed its last gasp?  Absolutely.  The Lewis Group of Companies’ Rio Rancho Towne Center in District 2 is the best example of a well‑designed, successful commercial project in Pomona in years.  Avendale, The Crossings and The Palms at Phillips Ranch are the first new residential projects in District 5 in over 25 years.  Other residential, commercial and industrial projects have been completed in various other parts of the City.  While these projects have and will generate additional revenue to the City, active economic development needs to continue.  Having been on “the other side of the table” for many years, the City Council needs to establish policy for its collective vision, get out of the way, and place confidence in the community and economic development professionals in City Hall to knock on the doors of prospective businesses and investors.  If the City Council conveys a “business friendly” through its actions and words, the City will be successful in enticing new development that will increase the revenue stream and hopefully move Pomona toward fiscal stability.

My Commitment to Pomona and District 5

Summary

This paper discusses my thoughts and observations on the campaign and commitments if elected on November 6.

For well over a year, I have focused my campaign on three merits: accessibility, responsiveness, and communication.  I am pleased that many residents of District 5, and a few who live in other parts of Pomona, have taken the time to contact me during the campaign by phone, text, or through social media.  I have done my best to respond to each contact promptly.  I have made many new acquaintances at the seven neighborhood Meet & Greets my outstanding volunteer team has planned and arranged.  If elected in November, my commitment to you is that I will continue the practice of being accessible and responsive, and also communicate to you by as many means possible City or community news, events, and updates.  If you want to meet for coffee to discuss an issue, I’ll buy (my dime, not the City’s).  Need me to come and look at a problem on your block?  Name the day and time.  Being retired allows me the ability and flexibility to be responsive and I promise to do so.

 

Accessibility, responsiveness, communication.  Every resident in every district in Pomona deserves these qualities and more from their City Council representative, and I will do my best to meet or exceed your expectations.  I would also add inclusiveness to that list of what I bring to the table.  You should feel that your questions and concerns are being heard and respected.  Your thoughts and opinions will be encouraged and I will respectfully consider them rather than dismissing them just because we have different opinions.  If you come to a City Council meeting, fill out a speaker’s card, and approach the podium to address the Council, I will give you my undivided attention.  I will never lose sight of the concept that I am accountable to you.

 

I promise to professionally represent you as the District 5 councilmember.  The City Council’s charge is to set policy and make decisions that are in the best interests of Pomona and, now more than ever, be responsible stewards of the City’s finances.  In my opinion, there is no room on the City Council for personal agendas, arguing, disrespect, inattention, pandering, and arrogance.  While Mayor Tim Sandoval is in charge of running Council meetings, I will make a conscious effort to positively contribute to his responsibility to conduct efficient and productive public meetings.

 

If elected, my goal is to schedule quarterly community meetings at rotating locations in District 5 to discuss issues of interest to you.  In addition to publicizing these events on social media, I am anxious to explore with City staff options for reaching residents who do not have a computer or are not tech savvy.  One of the changes I would like to implement at community meetings is to allow time for you to ask questions about issues NOT on the formal meeting agenda.  I believe this is key to residents feeling like their concerns are being heard and considered.

 

As I have done during the campaign, I will also make an effort to publicize businesses or happenings beyond the boundaries of District 5.  There are a number of fun events that occur around Pomona throughout the year and some great places to eat, so the goal will be to get you out of your routine and go explore other parts of the City!

 

Hopefully you have had an opportunity to review the detailed biographical information I have provided on my website and Facebook campaign page, along with my previous posts containing my thoughts and opinions about various topics and issues facing Pomona.  I felt it was important to post my positions in order for you, the voter, to determine if you consider me to be the right person for the job.  If you haven’t had a chance to view my position posts, I encourage you to read them.

 

I have said to many people during this campaign that I believe voters should take the time to review each candidate’s background, experience, and past performance in order to determine who they believe to be the best qualified.  Second, they should find the candidate whose values, ethics, positions, and goals match up closest to their own ideals.  Hopefully, using those measures will yield the same result.  Based on those criteria, it is my hope that you believe Steve Lustro is the best choice for the District 5 City Council seat.  If you feel one of my opponents fits that bill, I respect your decision.

 

So as the 2018 campaign approaches its conclusion, I would like to briefly share some observations on the last 18 months.  When my team began this journey, we developed our goals and objectives not knowing for sure who else would “throw their hat in the ring.”  I am blessed to have an exceptional volunteer team that has knocked on hundreds of doors (some multiple times) and spoken with hundreds of you, arranged Meet and Greets, planted (and replaced) yard signs, erected (and re-erected) banners, and has proudly worn the colors around the community.  One of my early campaign goals was to keep the message positive and stay on the proverbial high road.  I am proud to say that we have accomplished that objective with all of our campaign material and mailers.

 

The negative campaigning and “hit pieces” that have recently landed and will continue to land in your mailbox or on your front porch between now and November 6 were completely expected.  I view this as the strategy of desperation by candidates who have a shortage of positive things to tell you about why you should vote for them.  To no surprise, a good number of D5 residents with whom I have spoken see these mailers for what they are and view them in a negative light.  While there is no scarcity of “ammunition” for me to sink to a comparable level and use a similar campaign tactic, I choose not to, even though some people have urged me to fight fire with fire.  In fact, many residents have contacted me to say “thank you” for keeping the campaign positive and above-board, adding that it is a refreshing change for Pomona.  When this journey ends in a few days, win or lose, I am the one who has to be able to sleep at night knowing I did the right thing.

 

In closing, I simply want to convey my sincerest thanks to all of my supporters in District 5 and throughout Pomona, many of whom have contributed enormous amounts of time to the campaign, opened their wallets to support our team’s effort, allowed yard signs and/or banners to be displayed on their property for over two months, or have helped out behind the scenes and away from the front lines.  The campaign would not be where it is today without your help.  My bride of 35 years, Sharon, has been my rock and sounding board during this ride.  We have mostly agreed on what to do or say in response to issues that have come up during the campaign, but I have also had to steer her away from the bait throwers on social media whose intelligence limits them to simply stirring the pot.  “Hold me back!” has become a lighthearted catchphrase for my wife and a few select team members.

 

I have a special appreciation for the support and kind words I have received from Pomona residents beyond D5 who cannot vote for me but recognize the need for quality leadership and vision across the Council dais by people who are not afraid to raise the bar and transform the culture of how we do business in Pomona rather than being satisfied with the status quo.  Finally, I am appreciative of the independent endorsement of the Pomona Police Officers’ Association.  Safety is a high priority for me and I look forward to the opportunity to work with Chief Michael Olivieri and his men and women on the streets to find ways to make our neighborhoods safer.

 

Again, my sincerest thanks for your support.  If you have not done so already via absentee ballot, I respectfully ask for your vote on Tuesday, November 6!

Please share this site to help others research their voting choices.

PUBLISHING:PRODUCTION SERVER:PRODUCTION