Former Weed city manager wants to serve on council
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of profiles about the five candidates for two seats on the Weed City Council. Other candidates include incumbents Sue Tavalero and Bob Hall, as well as Mark Mazzoni and Brian Palmer.
Weed’s former city manager Ron Stock is looking to return to city leadership, but this time, in a volunteer role. He’s one of five candidates for two seats on the Weed City Council in the Nov. 3 election.
“The current direction of the city council is simply wrong,” said Stock, explaining why he’s running for the position, adding he’ll be “a strong voice” for employees.
“I have been asked by many current and former employees of the city to run. They know that I am concerned by the city council’s decisions in the last six months,” said Stock, who retired in February after serving as Weed’s city manager since 2012.
Among his concerns “are firings, forced furloughs, wage cuts, and proposals to increase taxes. ... In essence,” Stock said, “the city council is attempting to balance the budget on the backs of its employees.”
Stock, 70, said he believes the city council should have “tightened its belt” and delayed capital improvements. “Rather than do so, the city council proposes significant new spending, such as remodeling or replacing the swimming pool,” he said.
Stock has been a Weed area resident for nearly 10 years and has lived in Weed’s city limits since Aug. 2017. He said he didn’t expect to fall in love with Weed like he did when he took the city manager position. He calls it serendipity.
“I find it interesting that in my career I was always looking for the next larger community, the greater challenge, the higher salary,” Stock said. “Landing that next big thing didn’t bring happiness. I was retired, living in Monterey. Enjoying the jazz and Fisherman’s Wharf. But I was bored and sent out a resume or two and Weed invited me to an interview. This was the smallest community I worked for (and) the lowest salary I had had in many, many years. And yet, here I found happiness. Who knew that was going to happen. Serendipity.
Q&A with the candidate
Stock answered a set of interview questions via email. His answers are below.
Q: What are your main goals if elected?
A: Weed is my adopted community. I came here to perform a job thinking I would work a couple of years and then move on. But I fell in love with the community and its citizens. I want the community to grow and its citizens to prosper. Through my knowledge and experience I can give a little something back to this community which has given me so much.
I want to emphasize that knowledge and experience for those who may not know my background. I have three degrees. I’ve been licensed to practice law in three states, although not California, and during my early career I served as either a city attorney or county counsel. My legal career spanned 20 years. Since leaving the practice of law, I have managed cities and counties in four states over a period of 23 years. Those cities range in size from the smallest, Weed, to a community of over 40,000. Over the last 13 years I have taught management classes as an adjunct professor for Florida State University and online with the University of Phoenix. Primarily those classes were in Public Policy and Ethic.
If elected, I will continue to build coalitions and emphasize the best practices to address the problems faced by the city.
Q: Do you have any ideas to increase economic development in the City of Weed?
A: During my entire 40 year career in government I have been a strong advocate for economic development and I have a track record of success. The city needs to shepherd the current projects through to completion – Love’s, the 5-star RV resort, and the conference center with the 50-room addition to the Comfort Inn. This last project is in jeopardy at the moment, but the city could still be successful in bringing it to fruition.
Other opportunities exist due to the traffic generated by Grocery Outlet, Pilot and Love’s. For example, the city needs a good sit-down restaurant in South Weed. Effort needs to be made to make potential new businesses aware of the opportunities available in Weed. It is, quite frankly, what I am good at.
Q: In what ways could the city council support businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: The city could avoid raising the sales tax. Increasing the tax puts local businesses at a disadvantage to competing businesses located in neighboring communities.
In addition to not increasing taxes, the city could grant cash strapped businesses liberal payment plans to ease the cost of utilities.
Let me point out that I strongly disagree with the current city council’s handling of cannabis issues. It appears to me that the city council is far too cozy with the cannabis lobby and defers to their interests far too often. And I believe that this unquestioning support is a detriment to our community
In 2014 the voters of the city clearly said that they did not want a cannabis dispensary. None the less, in 2017 the city council granted two dispensary licenses. Although the 2016 vote was non-binding, I believe it was a mistake not to ask the voters if the legalization of cannabis by the state in 2016 had changed the community’s mind on the subject.
In 2018 the voters of the city authorized a cannabis tax, but after hearing objection from the cannabis lobby the city council deferred imposing the tax for more than two years. The cannabis lobby still objected, but finally, only in June of this year, facing revenue shortfall from COVID-19, did the city council finally do as the voters requested.
Subsequent to the issuance of two dispensary licenses, the city council approved a manufacturing license and a distribution license for cannabis. Now the city council is considering the approval of a development agreement for a massive cannabis growth and manufacturing facility. They assure us of high-paying jobs at a time when overproduction is resulting in many cannabis growth operations to fail statewide. The developer proposing this project holds the manufacturing license issued by the city in 2018. Two years after approval, not one dime has been spent to construct the building or begin operations. Those promised high-paying jobs with that application never materialized. If the developer doesn’t have the funds to build the smaller project is he likely to build the larger project? Or, will he get approval and then sell the project to others who will not fulfill the promises made, but do the minimum the development agreement requires? There are serious questions which should cause the city council to delay action on this proposal.
Although I am not opposed to further expansion, I believe it is appropriate to pause at this point and not expand cannabis activities in the City of Weed without obtaining voter approval for such expansion. And, should the voters be asked their opinion, elected officials should heed that advice.
Q: Do you support the .25 cent sales tax proposed in Measure M to help Weed shore its budget, or do you have other ideas to do so?
A: Let me be clear, I am opposed to the proposed sales tax increase, I will vote against it, and I will encourage others to vote against it as well.
The city faced a similar income shortfall during the recession in 2008. I was impressed by the leadership at that time. Recognize I am not praising myself, I was not employed by the city until 2012. However, the leadership at that time did not try to balance the budget on the backs of employees. There were no employees fired, no wage cuts, no forced furloughs, or tax increases proposed. Rather the city council tightened its belt and delayed capital projects. I do not support the decisions that have been made in the last six months in response to the COVID-19 reduction in revenues. The city council should, but hasn’t, tightened its belt.
Q: In your opinion, what is the most pressing issue that is currently facing the City of Weed?
A: The City of Weed must secure ownership of Beaughan Springs, the city’s historic and primary water resource. Time and money has been wasted in an effort to prove the city’s ownership when all of the legal documents of record clearly showed otherwise. Now the city is on the right track and needs to complete the acquisition by negotiation, if possible, or condemnation if negotiation is not possible.
Q: What is your favorite thing about living in Weed?
A: Although I enjoy the outdoors, camping and hiking and I enjoy my home with its garden, what I like the most is the people. Weed is a community of kind, giving, hard-working, family-oriented individuals with hearts of gold.