Two seats on the Sebastopol City Council are up for election on Nov. 3. Both of the incumbents, Michael Carnacchi and Neysa Hinton are seeking re-election. Challengers in the race are Evaristo "Evert" Fernandez, Diana Rich and Vaughn Richard Higginbotham. Sonoma West Times & News submitted questions to the candidates. Fernandez's responses are included here in a Q&A format. The responses have been edited for length in some places.
All active, registered voters have been mailed ballots. Completed ballots can be returned by mail (if they are postmarked by Nov. 3) or dropped off at one of 20 secure ballot drop boxes in the County (as long as they are deposited before 8 p.m. on Nov. 3). There will also be 30 in-person voting locations open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Oct. 31 to Nov. 2., and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Nov. 3 For a complete list of all ballot drop boxes and in-person voting locations, visit https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/where-to-vote.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself — what should longtime and new Sebastopol residents know about you? What is one thing that folks who see you around town may not know about you?
I’m a first-generation American, born and raised in Sebastopol. I was one of six kids, as part of a Latino migrant family. We lived just outside of town, on a small apple farm. We all had jobs at the farm at one point or another. I started working there at age 6, spending every summer of my youth picking apples. I attended local schools, graduating from Analy High School as the first Latino student body president. Throughout my life, I have been actively involved in my local and regional community on many levels.
My professional background is as a financial planner for the last 30 years, and 20 years as a business advisor to a variety of small businesses in Sebastopol and Sonoma County.
Currently, I’m the chair of the Sebastopol Planning Commission, which I have served on for the last 10 years.
2. Should you be elected; how do you plan to stay engaged with the Sebastopol community?
Having lived here all my life, I feel a sense of community pride and responsibility to participate in its continual development and protection. All through this campaign I have met and been introduced to many others here that share a common passion and values, along with nurturing and protecting our quality of life and the environment. I feel that residents can be best engaged, when they volunteer to participate in local causes that align with their passions. I plan to use various methods to encourage and challenge more residents to be part of solutions.
3. Current city council members serve on a handful of other boards and subcommittees both across the county and in the city. Do you plan on representing the community on a similar scale? If so, how?
I would absolutely love to represent the community in that manner. I have already had conversations with our 5th District County Supervisor, Lynda Hopkins. We spoke regarding how after I’m elected, I might participate in the region. My best impact would be on committees or projects related to Latino communities. I also have business acumen and budgeting experience that would benefit many of the public agencies that impact our city, such as SCTA/RCPA, Sonoma Clean Power, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, and the Mosquito Abatement District. My first priority however will be to become expert as a council member here in our own city.
4. As cities, counties and states are wrestling with the current and future impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, what do you see as the city’s role in helping combat the impact of the pandemic and resulting shelter-in-place orders?
Let me start out by saying that the community’s ability to respond to the impacts of the Sebastopol residents will make or break us. Addressing Sebastopol’s city finances that have been impacted by the loss of tax revenues and increased expenses is an immediate crisis that needs action. Finding ways to support our struggling small businesses is a problem that affects us all.
Besides staying vigilant in keeping our citizens physically safe, there is also the issue of staying mentally healthy. Parents who are stay-at-home workers and the unemployed, both face an increase in stress. The adjustment, to at home schooling, has brought all kinds of unforeseen problems. In some homes, they need childcare when there is little in the budget for it.
Stay-at-home workers are an untapped resource for our community and merit a focused effort of examination. There are multiple benefits of the significant reduction commuting, such as it being better for the environment with less traffic and pollutants and reduction or elimination of commuting stress.
This new workforce will have additional time to be involved in their kid’s schools and their community. They will be able to walk, bike and exercise more and to patronize and support our local businesses more frequently. I would like to help start a grassroots community organization to support and strengthen this new resource and collaborate with other organizations for resources in transitioning some unemployed to stay at home workers.
5. What are the top three issues you see the city having to address in the next year? In the next four years?
Health and Recovery: Our crisis with the pandemic and its devastating impact on our citizens and economy would be my immediate priority, along with continued emergency preparedness. Striving towards our quality of life, happiness, comfort and security for Sebastopol residents.
Housing Crisis: I will work with my fellow council members for affordable housing and homelessness strategies. It will require collaboration with community advocates, nonprofits and businesses. I will remain vigilant for “outside the box” solutions. I will support opportunities to add new housing on appropriately zoned property, particularly downtown.
We need to be proactive, instead of waiting for projects to come to us after there is a development plan in place.
Environment and Climate Change: I am proud to have been endorsed by the Sierra Club and Sonoma County Conservation Action. Protection and enhancement of our water, air quality and land use is of utmost importance to me. I will take positive actions in support of our Climate Change Emergency Resolution and Zero Waste Initiatives. As a planning commissioner in updating our City General Plan, I have been an advocate in shaping green policies to address climate change, drought, and preservation of green spaces. I have ensured that our General Plan puts local business first and makes parks, bikes and pedestrians a priority.
6. What do you think makes you a good fit for Sebastopol City Council?
I believe that it’s not what I think would make me a good fit, but more so what others think. This endorsement from long time current city council member, Sarah Gurney answers that question best.
“I value Evert’s experience on the Planning Commission, where his colleagues have chosen him as the chair. He knows land use issues and how planning policies and decisions determine our quality of life. I appreciate Evert’s approach to civic responsibility. Evert will address challenges, head-on and wisely, to lead us to a more secure future for all.”
7. Is there anything else you believe readers should know about you or your platform?
At this critical moment in history, I will bring diversity and my unique sense of place as someone who has lived my entire life in our community from the perspective of a Latino resident. And I would occupy a “seat at the table” with the experience, values and leadership to back it up. My background and skills as a financial planner, a business advisor and a decade on the planning commission, will be necessary skills needed to address the many issues before us. I encourage folks to check out my website at voteevertfernandez.com and invite any one to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org