In 2009, Warren Gubler, along with nine other challengers, ran for one of three contested Visalia City Council seats. In that year of discontent, the three incumbents were not re-elected, and Gubler, in his first term, brought a business-friendly, tax-hostile approach to the city council. Consider, in a nutshell, that in excess of 700,000 square feet of retail space has been added to Mooney Boulevard, and that the city, even throughout this protracted recession, has retained $2 million in surplus funds. This, in part, is what Gubler refers to with his campaign slogan that “Visalia is better off than four years ago.”
“In my college days I remember watching the Reagan/Carter debates,” Gubler said. “I remember the conclusion to one debate the Gipper asked are you better off now than you were four years ago? What he was implying was it was time for a change. I’d like to take that slogan and turn it around and say Visalia is better off than four years ago.”
Gubler has voted for no new taxes. In fact, it was Gubler who last year suggested the formation of the Blue Ribbon Committee which took to the citizenry to investigate the popularity of a fractional sales tax increase. Unless the Visalia City Council declared, by a unanimous vote, a fiscal emergency, any sales tax hike put to the public in an election year would have had to pass by a two-thirds majority vote. While disliking tax bumps, Gubler recognized that, if needed, an increase was not likely to pass in these lingering hard times. He therefore suggested the formation of a committee to look into both the necessity of a tax adjustment and the feasibility of its passage. In an off-cycle year such as this one, the vote required to pass a tax increase would be 50 percent, plus one. And, after months of conferring with the public, the Blue Ribbon Committee found no cause to adjust the sales tax rate. Gubler counts this as a success.
“I have a record of which I am proud,” he said. “The city council has re-zoned and revitalized Mooney Boulevard, balanced the city budget in tough times and generated surpluses the last two years…all this with no tax increases.”
Gubler is optimistic about Visalia’s future. In particular, he cites a “booming” Industrial Park. “It’s filling up,” he said. He also points to an upgrade in the city’s water conservation plant. At an estimated cost of over $140 million, the plant will use recycled water to meet the irrigation needs of crops, Plaza Park and the Valley Oaks Golf Course. And because of this conservation, the Tulare Irrigation District has offered Visalia 15,000 extra acre-feet of water annually. According to Gubler, this is a “win-win.”
Also slated for the future is an improvement of the Lovers Lane/Highway 198 interchange. The city aims to broaden the angles of the on and off-ramps to alleviate the traffic congestion which typically pools beneath the overpass.
Visalia has also bought the dirt parking lot used by the flea market, along with some 800 surrounding acres, and when the final necessary 40 acres are purchased, the city plans to construct another highway overpass on the site. Furthermore, the city will install ponding basins and a sports park there.
Gubler looks forward to the completion of this and other projects, such as a new 911/Emergency operations center, a new fire station in southwest Visalia, and a new animal control facility. Regarding the General Plan Update, in advocating smart growth Gubler would like to see responsible triggers guide Visalia’s concentric expansion.
“I’m gung ho on Visalia’s future. During the recession, we tightened the city’s financial belt and practiced the basics of good city governance,” he said. “With the end of the recession, Visalia’s economy is starting to rev up again, and I predict that Visalia will be one of the economic stars of California. The city council should continue to take the lead in promoting Visalia as a destination.”