Term limits threaten privatization deal
Excerpted from article by Cheryl Miller
Record Staff Writer
Published Monday, June 9, 2003
Stockton candidates are lining up to run for four City Council seats. Term limits
will force Mayor Gary Podesto, Vice Mayor Gloria Nomura, and Councilmen Richard Nickerson
and Larry Ruhstaller from office in December 2004. Their departures will make room on the
seven-member council for a new majority that will decide how Stockton grows and pays for
services demanded by a booming population.
The new members will oversee a controversial, $600 million, 20-year contract -- one of the
largest in the nation -- with private water-utility operator OMI-Thames.
On a 4-3 vote, the council approved the deal, arguing that a private company could upgrade
and run Stockton's water, wastewater and stormwater systems more cheaply than the city.
The new council majority will be charged with ensuring that happens.
The council nomination period doesn't open officially until November. But seven candidates
already have said publicly that they want a voice in that decision.
Former Councilwoman Ann Johnston, termed out of office last year, announced months ago
that she would run for mayor. A vocal challenger of Podesto's policies while on the
council, Johnston opposed utilities privatization and has complained that the public too
often is left out of important city decisions. Johnston, 60, a former Lodi Unified School
District trustee, owns The Balloonery party-supply shop.
Stockton Police Chief Ed Chavez, also 60, is Johnston's only announced
challenger to date. A 30-year veteran of the force, Chavez has said he will not campaign
for mayor until he retires from the Police Department in October. He is backed by Podesto,
however, and is expected to receive support from Stockton's business community.
* To reach reporter Cheryl Miller, phone (209) 546-8252 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org