Council contenders duke it out

The three newcomers vying for Burlingame City Council accused their two incumbent opponents of taking too long to bring a new Safeway to town during the second forum of the election season Wednesday.

Planning Commission Chair Jerry Deal, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Peter Comaroto and candidate Gene Condon criticized the lengthy process, which dates back six years and continued in February when a work group consisting of seven stakeholders was formed. Residents likely will not see a new Safeway or possible nearby housing and retail until 2009 or 2010.

Councilmember Russ Cohen and Mayor Terry Nagel said they were able to start a new discussion about the Safeway during their terms. They said that this time, residents will not oppose the project because of all the input they have provided. A previous proposal failed in 2004.

Deal said the city is losing tax dollars from residents who travel to San Mateo and Millbrae to do their grocery shopping. Comaroto added that he is “tired of seeing the old one.” Condon said plenty of input from the public has been provided and that the city needs to move forward immediately.

Nagel said the current process is “working very well” and invited doubters to attend a meeting of the Safeway working group, which brings together company officials, city leaders and residents to discuss the project.

The meeting began awkwardly when Condon’s wife approached the podium with the first question. She appeared to accuse other candidates of meeting with the editor of a local newspaper. Deal admitted to meeting with the editor and also said Cohen had gone to the office. Cohen had originally denied going but said later he went to drop off promotional materials.

Another debate centered on whether residents should pay for sidewalk damage. Deal proposed raising the city’s hotel tax from 10 to 11 percent, with the extra money to pay for sidewalk repairs

Comaroto said he was the only candidate who had appealed an ordinance requiring residents to pay for their sidewalks, accusing the current council of focusing on the “wrong projects.”

Nagel and Cohen both said the city is looking to find a way to pay for sidewalks now that they know it is such an important issue to the community. Condon added that sidewalks should be paid for if there are other items in the budget that could be cut.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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