CHICO — Three candidates are running for two seats on the board of directors for the Chico Area Recreation and Park District on Nov. 3.
CARD is a special district, which receives a portion of property tax, along with program fees to operate. It manages various adult and youth sports programs, along with education and recreation programs, and a number of community and neighborhood parks. It also owns and manages a number of halls and facilities throughout the city.
Of the candidates, two are incumbents, Tom Lando and Michael Worley. The third, John Merz, is new to the race, but has served on the CARD board previously.
In alphabetical order, here are their thoughts about issues and answers.
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Chico resident and consultant Tom Lando is running for this third term on the Chico Area Recreation and Park District board of directors, to see projects launched years ago completed.
With momentum going forward, Lando feels projects involving community parks like DeGarmo Community Park and neighborhood parks like the newly proposed Rotary Centennial Park could benefit from his expertise on the board.
Lando also sees paying down the district’s unfunded pension liability coupled with sorting out the financial impact from the COVID-19 shut downs as critical.
Asked about his contributions to the board, Lando noted “Listening to the desires of the community and trying to meet them,” such as was the case of pickle ball enthusiasts whom the board helped by transforming a few traditional tennis courts, and working to build neighborhood parks, citing the Rotary project which celebrates the club’s 100th year. The park is proposed at Ceres Avenue.
Another project he’d like to see finished in the completion of the memorandum of understanding with the city which has opened the way to transfer city parks to CARD, along with ways to help pay for them.
He notes, “All of these are the efforts of the full board and staff, not just one person.”
Regarding concerns, Lando notes that working through “dramatic changes caused by the pandemic, and working with the board and staff to make sure CARD both remains financially viable and meets the shifting needs of the community.”
Lando said this is being accomplished by revisiting staffing and budgets, while reviewing programs and recreational opportunities.
“My goals continue to be to meet the desires of the community and add to our quality of life. I believe DeGarmo Community Park can largely by finished in the next four years as can neighborhood parks such as Rotary Centennial Park using existing funding mechanisms and community involvement,” Lando wrote in an email.
He also served as Chico’s city manager for a number of years.
John Merz, retired, is seeking a seeking a seat on the CARD board, but he is no stranger to the special district.
Merz has lived in Chico since 1974, and in 1986 was elected to serve four years on the CARD board.
He also has served appointed terms on the city’s Bidwell Park and Playground Commission, and the city’s Planning Commission.
“I have followed CARD’s development ever since (serving) and believe the organization is at a critical juncture in its development as a public agency serving the citizens of the greater Chico area.”
Behind his drive to run, he wrote, is the need for CARD “to be totally transparent, especially in the area of the budget. One of the main concerns along those lines is the aging infrastructure of many CARD facilities and how the replacement and/or improvement of these facilities will be addressed.”
Besides the previously mentioned public service on city boards, Merz has served on numerous nonprofit boards both as staff and volunteer, which he says gives him the perspective to oversee the organization’s direction. He is chair of the Friends of Bidwell Park board and conservation chair for Altacal Audubon Society.
Merz finished his degree in political science at Chico State, and has been what he calls “an engaged citizen on a number of levels.” Listing his strength, he said he is comfortable with public speaking, reading financial statements, analyzing staff reports and “basically doing my homework. I am both able and willing to ask the hard questions.”
Merz lists as goals understanding the current CARD budget and its strengths and opportunities “that it may or may not represent.” Second is to pursue potential programs that may expand CARD’s service level. For that he looks to public access to open space lands, the establishment of community gardens, and the potential for a citizen-based neighborhood and community parks council “that would enhance input into CARD’s planning process.”
Third, Merz lists encouraging CARD’s collaboration with public and private parties to maximize community benefits.
Michael Worley is seeking a third term with CARD, stressing his past experience and knowledge over nearly two terms. He works in disaster recovery
Worley looks back to when he first came on the board, just as Chico was emerging from the 2008 Great Recession.
“I believe the district’s recovery was helped by veteran board members who were there when that happened. I would like to provide that leadership in the next years,” wrote Worley, acknowledging the impact the pandemic has had.
Asked about his contributions to the district over this two terms, Worley cited his work and support of bringing “long-stalled” projects to fruition. He served to support the effort to establish the Creekside Rose Garden at the Chico Community Center, along with the “update, remake and reimagining” of the Humboldt Avenue Skate Park, which had originally belonged to the city but was passed along to CARD.
“I was also an advocate for both projects, along with the less well-known pump track at Wildwood Park.”
All three projects were notable because of the contribution to the effort by affiliated support groups, and that the projects were not solely reliant on CARD financial support.
Asked about his concerns regarding CARD that may have prompted the desire for re-election, Worley offered this perspective.
“If you had asked me on Feb 1, I would have said the fact that all our facilities are at maximum capacity and that we have not caught up with the increased demand since the 2008 downturn.
“Now of course those same concerns plus everything pandemic. I want us going forward to be able to answer for both situations.”
But Worley is able to find what he calls a silver lining to the current conditions, and “That is our fields have been able to rest and restore themselves due to decreased activity.”
With an eye to the future, Worley lists as a specific goal for reelection, “Emerging from the turmoil of 2020 in a position to meet the needs of the Chico community going forward.”