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Three seek two open City Council seats
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Do the math: Three men for two seats. One candidate for the Ceres City Council will face disappointment come Election Day on Nov. 3.

Mike Kline, Ken Lane and Chris Vierra are all hoping they're not the one.

Both incumbent councilmembers Lane and Vierra feel the council has done well in hard times for government. But Kline thinks an outsider can provide a new perspective. The following is a profile of each candidate in alphabetical order.

Mike Kline

Planning Commissioner Mike Kline, 51, feels he would bring about a more independent mind to the Ceres City Council.

"I think people are ready for a little bit more independent choice," said Kline. He said he offers "a different opinion" about the budget crisis.

"I disagree with some of the things that they've done that could have helped somewhat," said Kline. "I think some of the projects they're trying to get done can be put on hold."

Kline feels the council should have held off on giving employee raises prior to the economic downturn that were intended to bring the city's compensation package up to what neighboring cities were offering.

"I ask a lot of questions," said Kline. "On the Planning Commission I ask a lot of questions. By asking those questions, I feel that I get a better understanding of what's going on and what the issues are."

Kline said he admires the leadership style of Mayor Anthony Cannella but suggested that "a lot of times there's a lack of certain questions" from the councilmembers.

"I would wish that they would be a little bit more inquisitive in a business sense.'

Kline has been walking door to door in the campaign and he's found that people are asking questions.

"They've asked what I plan to do for the city of Ceres as far as bringing in businesses or work in here or doing some of the infill," said Kline.

"There's issues that really need to be addressed, such as the fees that are assessed. Your fees can be set anywhere where you want them but if nobody's willing to pay them you're not getting anybody here. So there's got to be a reason why businesses aren't coming into Ceres or the state ... Part of it could be because of the fees. Part of it could be because of the economy."

As a member of the Planning Commission, Kline was part of the no vote in a 2-2 procedural denial of a 5-acre project proposed by American USA Homes of Stockton to bring in six buildings totalling 59,400 square feet of retail/office use west of Mitchell Road and just south of Roeding Road. The project, however, was approved by the City Council. Kline said he voted against the project "because of the amount of traffic with the proposed school site."

Kline said he has not made up his mind about the proposed Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center with its anchor tenant of a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The lifelong Ceres resident tried his hand at politics in 1999 and 2001 when he ran for Ceres School Board and lost. Kline ran unsuccessfully in a three-man City Council race in 2007, losing by 149 votes behind Rob Phipps.

"I figure I came close last time and I just figured I'd give it another shot," said Kline.

Phipps died before taking office and Kline's supporters called for him to be appointed to fill the empty council seat. The council glossed over that suggestion and took applications from interested citizens and chose Bret Durosette instead. Kline said he has no hard feelings over being passed up.

"I've learned a lot since I've been on the Planning Commission," said Kline, a 1976 graduate of Ceres High School who is a salesman for Tony's Fine Foods. "I'm enjoying the Planning Commission."

Kline said his experience in years past as a volunteer firefighter in the 1980s and 1990s gives him first hand knowledge about the needs of public safety.

Kline sees himself with the advantage of being an outsider.

"I have a different approach to ... public safety, infrastructure, sewer and water. I feel I have a different outlook being a new person in the circle than what's normally being done. I am more inclined to say what I think rather than go with the flow or go with the consensus. I have to convince the voters that I'm not just a follower."

Kline is a former basketball coach and was a high school and junior college referee. He was also active with the Ceres Dolphins swim program when his children were young. He also has been affiliated with Grace Community Christian Church.

His grandfather was Henry Kline, mayor of Ceres from 1948 to 1951.

He and his wife Tammi Kline have three grown children, Diane Kline, Brian Kline and Amy Kline.

Ken Lane

Ken Lane, a member of the Ceres City Council since his election in 2005, said the typically limited candidacies of opposition speaks to the quality of the work of the current council.

He said that he has personally knocked on the doors of approximately 300 to 400 Ceres homes and "had 'thank-you very much' and heard 'You've got my support.' I've heard nothing negative."

Some wonder where he stands on the proposed Walmart Supercenter, but he tells them that he hasn't made up his mind.

"I've seen no information on it," said Lane, "so I don't know how I would vote on it."

The council must take into consideration impacts to local streets as well as economic impacts to existing businesses.

Lane believes that the community has confidence in the current council of which he is a part.

"It's not a good time for somebody to come in who doesn't quite understand what's going on," said Lane, who served on a council ad hoc subcommittee to look at staffing cuts in light of revenue shortfalls.

Lane feels that the City Council has been fiscally responsible and make crisis decisions to cut spending in the economic downturn.

"We've had to make tough decisions and it's not a fun area to be sitting in. This council has a very good handle on it. We're able to move forward with $2 million cuts last year without laying off a single public safety person."

Lane said the City Council may have to trim another $1.7 millon to $2.2 million in expenses if the state of California seeks out the coffers of local governments as a way of helping erase a multi-billion-dollar deficit.

"We've accomplished a lot but there's still a lot to accomplish and keep our services in place the best we can," said Lane. "We may be looking at another 20 percent in cuts."

Lane says he wants the council to continue to cut services rather than cut bodies, especially in the area of public safety.

"There's going to be contracts opening between the different unions. Everybody knows we are in tough economic times and how we might have to make other cuts. That cooperation will come through the union stewards. I'm hoping we get a lot of cooperation from them."

Lane said the council has opened a new Community Center, pushed for the construction of the new Whitmore/Highway 99 interchange, built a new fire station and worked with the Ceres Unified School District for the sharing of facilities.

He said the council has updated its development fees so that when development takes off again, the existing population won't be forced to pay for the demands on infrastructure.

The economy has temporarily frozen some already approved projects, said Lane, such as the Rite Aid approved for the corner of Mitchell and Fowler. That project is desired by the city but bank financing has been rejected.

"My biggest concern is how much the state can dig into our coffers and all the cities up and down the state. It's obviously going to affect the city of Ceres. We battle Sacramento all the time. They have to cut bodies and government otherwise they'll never have a balance budget."

Lane has won the endorsement of three members of the Ceres Planning Commission: Ruthanne Williams, Bob Kachel and Gary del Nero. The Ceres Police Officers Association and Ceres Firefighters Association have endorsed him.

Born and raised in Ceres, Lane, 49, served on the Ceres Planning Commission. His community service has included working on the Measure J Committee to pass school bonds which enabled Ceres to build Central Valley High School. He is a member of the Ceres Lions Club. He is employed with MoCal Office Systems in Modesto. Lane also chairs the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO).

"I remain committed reducing the impact of state government overregulation and the disproportionate taking of city funds," reads a campaign brochure of Lane's. "These times are expensive and tough. Togetherness and resourcefulness shall see us through."

Chris Vierra

Chris Vierra, 43, said he wants to continue being part of an "aggressive, can-do group." He said that he believes that the Ceres City Council has accomplished a lot in the six years he's been serving it. He's proud of the construction of the Community Center and the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park, as well as the new Whimore interchange. A fourth fire station was added recently.

But the economy reigns supreme this election. Vierra said the current council has made tough, told decisions for the fiscal health of Ceres. That included laying off department heads, mid-managers and other personnel to match the revenue cuts sustained by the city.

"We're looking at how we do business and what essential services we have to have and what we can set aside for the time being," said Vierra. "Public safety is the most critical, just because they represent 90 percent of the general fund.

"We've been very proactive," said Vierra. "We've tried to eliminate services that are not needed at this point. I'm proud to say that we were able to go through this last budget year and not have any sworn officers laid off or any firefighters. They're critical to community. If citizens don't feel safe they won't want to use the parks. Economic development won't occur because businesses won't want to come here. So it is a priority."

The vice mayor said he looks forward to coming up with a redevelopment plan for downtown and renovations to Costa Fields ball complex.

He said his civil engineering background - he works for the StanTec Consulting engineering firm in Modesto - allows him to dig deeper into "non glamorous things like water and sewer infrastructure ... that normal council members wouldn't."

Vierra said he's felt frustration over the fact that economic development has been slow in coming. The economy has made that difficult but Vierra also explained that past city leaders did not foresee the need to plan and aside an infrastructure-ready areas to develop commercially like Turlock did 15 years ago. Turlock is now reaping lots of development at Monte Vista Crossings.The city of Ceres is preparing the Southern Gateway on Mitchell Road near Highway 99 for development but the results will be years down the road.

"It really takes that long-term perspective to set that land aside and get the infrastructure in place so that when the economic boom comes the city is in an ideal location that businesses want," said Vierra.

He admits that the city's efforts are going about unnoticed now.

"It may not be anything that anyone sees during the current council's term but it will benefit for future councils by having our infrastructure in place, our land zoned accordingly and having the interchanges that facilitate easy on and off access to Highway 99. That's why we're looking at the Mitchell Interchange."

The city continues to do what it can to lure new businesses and jobs to fill in vacant parcels in Ceres said Vierra.

While the community has been balking about the city's plans to add water meters, Vierra said the state is mandating water meters to conserve water by as much as 20 percent.

"Although I'm not looking forward to it as a resident, water is our most precious resource in the Central Valley and we need to conserve it," he said. "Some people need to be aware of their consumption."

He said the city needs to continue pursuing the option of building a regional surface water plant even though the costs remain elusive.

Vierra has the endorsements of the Ceres Police Officers Association and the Ceres Firefighters Local 3636. Ceres Planning Commission members Bob Kachel, Rutheanne Williams and Laurie Smith also stand behind Vierra.

Vierra was appointed to the City Council on Sept. 16, 2003 to fill the seat vacated by Councilman Andy Constantinou. He previously served on the Ceres Planning Commission. Chris was born and raised in Ceres and graduated from Ceres High School in 1985. He graduated from Modesto Junior College before earning his mechanical sciences degree from Cal Poly.

Vierra also serves as the chairman of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Governing Board.

He said he wants to remain on the council to ensure Ceres remains a quality place to live.

"My family's been in the community for nearly a hundred years. Most all of our family still lives in this vicinity in Ceres - I have two children, one who's 12 and one is 14 - and I want to make Ceres the best place it can be in the hopes that they will want to stay here and see my kids and grandkids grow up in this community."

He and wife Kelly have two children, Katie and Ryan.