LANCASTER – John Kiramis, one of the candidates for Lancaster city council, has been in public service since he was 21 years old.
After retiring as a police lieutenant in 2004, Kiramis said he missed public service and decided to run for city council in Foster City. He was later elected to Foster City mayor.
“I missed it so much I decided, well municipal government has given me a great opportunity to serve the public, and now it’s time for me to give back to the community,” he said.
Kiramis said he felt the same way about local politics when he moved to Lancaster in October 2009.
He has several ideas for the city, if elected for city council.
He would like to improve emergency services, promote more public hearings, put more money in the city’s general fund, and address education issues.
In improving emergency services, Kiramis would like to see the city increase the number of table top or practice exercises conducted at the city’s Emergency Operations Center, the place where department heads such as the police captain, fire chief, city manager and others come together and manage problems during a critical incident.
“You’re only as good as how often you practice,” Kiramis said. “It is a perishable skill, and if you don’t do it very often and something happens, you’re going to be spending the first few hours during an actual critical incident reading manuals and trying to remember what your functions are.”
Kiramis would also like to see more public hearings when important issues or important plans are being considered.
He says projects like the surveillance airplane and the red light cameras would work better if there were more public hearings before the city puts plans into effect.
“I think it’s an expensive experiment,” Kiramis said, referring to the surveillance airplane. “In theory it may have use and application, but what happens when there’s a human cry about the noise? Are we going to scrub this expensive experiment?”
The red light cameras that everyone wanted a few years ago are now being taken down, he added.
“Why are we taking them down?” Kiramis said. “My guess is the human cry from the public…if it was because of the cost, wouldn’t public hearings have revealed that?”
Kiramis added that he wants to improve the general obligation bonds rating from the triple B + rating they currently have to a triple A rating.
“I want to build a consensus with the city council by where we start putting more and more money into the general fund, taking into account the redevelopment agencies are assumed to be no more or at the very best a mere shadow of their former self, which means that projects that ordinarily used to be done by money in the redevelopment agencies are going to have to be done in a different manner,” he said.
“The more money we have in our general fund the more solvent the city is, financially speaking, the better our bond ratings, which means we get to do more with less because we could raise more money as a result of our bond ratings being higher,” Kiramis added.
Because California cities in the future are for the most part going to be on their own in regards to infrastructure and capital improvement projects, Kiramis said Lancaster needs to have stronger bonds. Junk bonds, like what the city has now, will mean higher interest rates and less work accomplished, he added.
Kiramis also wants to address the issue of education, especially considering the controversy that took place in Foster City while he was the mayor.
“I’m very concerned with education, but then you have to take into account the Lancaster city council is not in the business of education, that is the business of the school districts,” he said.
During his term in Foster City, Kiramis said the superintendent and the president of the school board wanted to buy a valuable piece of land to build a new school because they didn’t have enough room for the growing student population. Kiramis said no. He said the land was valuable to the city because of the money gained from leasing the land, which helped pave streets and improve emergency services.
“I think there should be a cooperative effort between school districts and city councils where they can help each other address problems through open communication before problems actually become problems,” he said.
In campaigning, Kiramis said he wants to spend his time meeting constituents and learning about their concerns and issues. He added that he is running on a tight budget of $1,000.
“I want to prove that you don’t have to have a lot of money to run for city council,” he said.
Kiramis said although Mayor R. Rex Parris is giving contribution funds to two of the city council candidates, he will not take contributions for his campaign.
“I’m curious how that’s going to resonate with voters considering most people understand there’s no free lunch in this world,” Kiramis said. “I’ve never seen a dollar given freely that didn’t have a short string attached.”
Kiramis said he believes in accessibility as a council member. In Foster City, he said he would open his doors to his constituents once a week for them to ask him questions and address their concerns. If elected, he would do the same in Lancaster.
“I believe you should reduce government to meet revenue, not raise revenue to meet government,” said Kiramis on why residents should vote for him. “And I pledge to work tirelessly towards this end and to improve the communication between local government and the community.”
Pam Frisella, current vice mayor of Foster City, used to work with Kiramis.
“I served with John for three years and found him very capable,” Frisella said. “(I) don’t know your issues in Lancaster, but believe John would serve your city well.”
John T. Kiramis resides in west Lancaster with his wife Kate.
* This is the first of a series of profiles The AV Times will be publishing featuring Lancaster city council candidates, as well as mayoral candidates. Profiles will be published in random order.