2013-08-08 / Front Page

Agoura council race draws two challengers

By Stephanie Bertholdo

Two Agoura Hills residents have entered the race for Agoura Hills City Council against three incumbents.

Meril Platzer, a doctor who’s lived in Old Agoura for 32 years and ran unsuccessfully for a council seat in 2011, is running because she wants to establish new priorities for the city.

Six-year resident Chris Anstead says he wants to improve the city’s family-friendly environment. The deadline for candidates to pull nomination papers is tomorrow. The election is Nov. 5.

Three seats will be contested. Agoura Hills Mayor Denis Weber and Councilmembers Bill Koehler and Harry Schwarz are each running for another four-year term.

Platzer’s platform includes issues she raised in 2011: promoting healthy living, education and the environment.

She would have preferred that the 71 acres known as the Heschel property, or Chesebro Meadows, east of Old Agoura be maintained as open space for a wildlife corridor rather than sold by the city to a developer to build 15 homes.

Under the development plan, 50 of the 71 acres will be maintained as open space.

“Fifteen homes is not the issue,” Platzer said. “The issue is open community involvement, working together rather than one sector of the community fighting with City Hall and the rest of the residents of the city. We all want good quality of life and safety. We need to work together as a community.”

Platzer wants more transparency from the City Council, even on so-called delicate matters. She would like major land sales and other items that could affect residents to be discussed in public hearings rather than closed sessions.

Schwarz said the Brown Act prohibits the discussion of legal matters in public hearings.

“There are client-attorney privileges that cannot go out to the public,” he said.

“The Brown Act allows the city, any city, to talk confidentially behind closed doors about any sale or purchase of property.”

Schwarz, a two-term council member who is seeking his third term on the council, defended the city’s sale of the land to a developer. He said he traveled to Washington, D.C., three times to meet with the Department of the Interior to discuss annexation of the land to the National Park Service. He said the site didn’t meet NPS needs.

Platzer also wants to improve traffic and address infrastructure problems, including what she sees as “substandard streets” such as Driver Avenue, which she said became “abominable” following the addition of the new performing arts center on the Agoura High School campus.

“In case of emergencies such as fires or earthquakes, this will be a disaster zone,” she said.

Chris Anstead, an oncology marketing executive with Amgen, moved to Agoura Hills six years ago. The focus of his campaign is on family.

“I would like to serve the residents of Agoura Hills by representing family interests on the council,” he said. “Much of the focus of the council has been on helping business and not creating a more family-friendly environment here in Agoura Hills.”

Anstead said the quality of life must be maintained for residents while also helping local businesses grow.

“We need to enhance and protect the beauty of our community and the current way of life for our residents,” he said. “This means we need to examine how business growth affects traffic and use of public assets, and ensure our city planning takes that into account.

“We want to make sure that families can enjoy the great natural beauty and resources in Agoura Hills without having to be concerned about their safety from increased traffic from new local businesses.”

If he wins a seat on the City Council, Anstead said his first priority would be to improve the appearance and safety of the streets, particularly Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Kanan and Agoura roads. He wants to make the streets are safer for pedestrians and said the roadways could be modified so biking, jogging and walking with children could be encouraged.

Anstead was an officer in the U.S. Army before entering the healthcare industry. He also practiced law in Florida for three years.

Bill Koehler is running for his third term on the council.

“If I am fortunate enough to be reelected, I will continue to work for a balanced budget while at the same time maintaining the services our citizens have come to expect, as well as continuing to shepherd the numerous projects that have already been set in motion to a successful completion,” Koehler said.

Weber, the city’s longest serving politician, also wants to continue his position on the council.

If elected to his sixth term in office, Weber said he promises to continue the city’s strong partnership with the Las Virgenes Unifi ed School District, keep public safety a priority, and promote a development philosophy of having “common-sense attitude toward mixed use.”

Schwarz is looking forward to the completion of the city’s new recreation center near the Ladyface Court civic center and making sure the building is “beautiful, green and state-of-the-art.”

“We listened to residents who said they didn’t want (the recreation center) in parks,” Schwarz said. “We moved it away from residential. I’d like to see that through completion.”

Schwarz said he’s proud of his work with the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce and neighboring cities in the area of tourism promotion. He wants people to see the region as an attractive place to come and visit.

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