OAKDALE -- Two years ago voters had a buffet of choices on the City Council ballot. This year, it's slim picking's.
In 2006, four contenders, all political newcomers, ran for two open seats. This November, two incumbents are running to keep their seats against a single challenger.
Why the drop-off in political participation? It could be a lack of hot-button issues, said Mayor Farrell Jackson. Booming growth brought candidates out of the woodwork during the last election, he said. So did a perception that the city wasn't business-friendly. This year, Oakdale isn't facing such citywide disputes.
Candidate Katherine Morgan, a councilwoman elected in 2004, said she hopes the puny ballot is a sign of satisfied residents. "We haven't rocked too many boats and we've tried to make good decisions, so maybe no one feels that they need to step in and oust the incumbents," she said.
That doesn't mean the next four years will be smooth sailing for whoever wins the open seats.
The economic slump has kicked a 6.6 percent dent in the city's projected revenue this year, forcing 10 percent cuts in some departments.
Morgan and her fellow candidates, Councilman Tom Dunlop and newcomer Nita Roberts, listed sagging revenue as the most important challenge facing Oakdale.
"We need to get tax revenue here to keep (the city) going," Roberts said. "Tourists come through all the time to go to Yosemite, but we need something to make them stop and stay."
Roberts, who moved to Oakdale seven years ago, said public safety will be her priority if she's elected. The cuts the council made this year to the Police Department concern her, she said. She'd rather have seen the council first make deeper cuts in the Parks and Recreation Department, she said.
Roberts is the head of the Burchell Hill Neighborhood Watch group, which she says is one of the city's more active. Members have been trained to operate radar guns so they can catch speeders.
Another priority for Roberts is the Oakdale Museum. She said she's worried about its future and wants the city to keep a tighter watch on it.
Dunlop said he's running again because he wants to finish projects the city started during his first term, namely, seeing through the development of the East F Street area, which the city annexed a couple of years ago.
Creating a business-friendly city is another top goal, he said. Dunlop would like to see the city lower fees to help bring more business to town.
Morgan agreed, saying that she too wants the city to make fees more affordable for businesses. "Because when the economy turns, with our high fees, we won't get the businesses we want," she said.
Morgan said she's running for re-election because after four years in office, she has a better understanding of how the city runs. She said she wants to use that knowledge to help Oakdale.
"It wouldn't be fair to step away now that I really understand the process," she said.
Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2378.