The Rotary Club of Windsor hosted its candidate forum for town council and mayoral candidates on Sept. 17, but this time instead of the normal in-person format, it took place over Zoom. The host, as in year’s past, was Maureen Merrill and a timekeeper was present on the Zoom to keep people’s answers time appropriate.
Mayor candidates Sam Salmon, Dominic Foppoli, Tanya Potter and Rosa Reynoza joined District 3 candidates Debora Fudge and Jeffrey Leasure in a series of questions. The questions and answers from the town council candidates can be found here.
For the mayoral candidates, much of it covered the same ground as that in previous forums — such as their position on the civic center/Town Green hotel project and why they want to run — with candidates covering their basic platforms in response to questions, so this piece will focus on questions that had not been brought up before. Responses have been edited for length and sense, and not all questions have been reflected. To view the a video of the forum in its entirety, please go to www.windsorrotary.org/forum/.
Give an example of your leadership style or experience.
Reynoza: I think it’s really important to lead by example, it’s amazing what you can do by starting a program and having people support you because they’re passionate about it. My most recent example is a food delivery program (that now includes) 20 almost 30 households and brought people together who would have never met.
Salmon: I’m still all about transparency, which leads to asking questions and being transparent. I want us to hold meetings openly, not just default to closed session so people can understand. We may not agree but when we have open discussions it brings understanding.
Potter: I always talk about being a servant leader, being listening and empathetic to those who I lead. I commit to the growth of the team I work with. Recently, I’ve been reforming a portion of criminal justice pretrial system for Sonoma County.
Foppoli: Unfortunately, I’ve had much to much experience dealing with emergencies and disasters. Last October I got the call to come down the OES and came to realize we had to undertake the biggest evacuation in the history of our town. The town can have confidence in my leadership, I’ll always there to take care of and inform our residents.
How will you gain acceptance from neighbors for affordable housing projects?
Foppoli: In the six years we have approved and have built more affordable units than market rate. But to deal with the NIMBY (not in my backyard), because that’s what we’re talking about, we have them try to make it personal. I grew up here, I have two sisters with families and up to this point they haven’t been able to afford to move back and raise families in the town they grew up in. When you bring in the personal it’s hard to get them to say they don’t want it in their backyard. Windsor is a family community and the only way to keep it is diversity of housing. Not just affordable, not just market rated, but we have missing middle. I want to build for everybody in Windsor. The dream is for someone to be raised here to also retire here.
Reynoza: Affordable housing very important for me; it’s a priority we need housing for all … I think we need to remove in-lieu fees and ask developers to build mixed housing; it gets rid of NIMBY issues because all live together as a big community, which is what I remember growing up.
Salmon: Convince them it’s about equity and if it’s not their children, then it’s their neighbors’ children. We want people to stay in Windsor and now state is going to support us. Take a look at the town’s website, we have a series of seminars on affordability by design and as a council we have to stand up and say we understand don’t want in your back yard, but this is our backyard too. We have to take that stand and work with developers.
Potter: I agree we need to make is personal and going into those communities and having those conversations. We as community want to have a place to live for our children. Go onto the website and be a part of designing the new affordable housing. Be a part of it.
The town has declared a need for new public facilities (offices, police station, library, gym). Focusing on those, how can we achieve funding.
Reynoza: I think we need to be more conservative with our budget, and that’s the lens I’m looking with. The library, I love it and I would like to see us work with the footprint we have, but encourage them to use outdoors do more events outdoors, maybe create a rooftop facility and figure something out. I have never seen it crowded, I know they want to add new sections, but I would like to work with what we have. As far as the civic center buildings, as taxpayers we paid for that and its perfectly fine, the police department, too.
Salmon: The town hall is adequate; I believe in climate protection and believe we should live with a footprint that’s sustainable. We lost an oak tree and it could be an opportunity to expand, if needed, for police department,. The Huerta gym has life, certainly cultural life, we have a nice library is where it is used it it’s a town owned building.
Potter: We need a larger police department and I do like public-private partnerships way as a way we can replace and renew. I’m not for this specific project … but for funding but I do think those projects are necessary, but I don’t want to raise taxes to get new building.
Foppoli: When come to the budget I need to point out that per capita we have the strongest reserves in the county, we’re in a good place, but I do think the community deserves more. The library was small when I was a kid, and we have a plan to build a newer, better one. The police department is crammed into the old junior high offices, and the town hall was meant to be a temporary location 25 years ago. I would like new community center in Keiser Park, I want a new town hall, a new library and a performing arts center and do it without raising taxes. This is how you do that.
The forum finished up with a few questions for all of the candidates These are the answers provided by the council candidates.
The town will undergo the budget process in the spring of 2021, how are you going to prioritize what will be the top two budget priorities for you?
Potter: A large portion of our general fund is from Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and sales tax, and they’re going to take a hit this year. My two priorities would be as stated, the emergency preparedness and making sure we’re ready and I believe we need to be sure the SMART train area and roundabout area care completed on time, because it’s going to cause significant amounts of (wasted) money in delays and (I) want it to be completed as quick as possible.
Salmon: I plan to listen to the budget process and listen to the works from staff. We have essential services that have to be covered — water, police, fire — but we have to be thoughtful in process. What are my considerations? It’s a budget of the town and I’m not going to sit here and make decisions on what’s most important. It must be from the people coming forward and telling us what is important. We may have to make cuts; it's looking more likely. What’s important to me is the reserves.
Reynoza: I’ve been to the last three budget meetings, they’re very important and where our council should be listening to us and promoting more attendance to those meetings and making them more accessible publicly. I know they’ve been more causal, but we need to make sure they are accessible and can be recorded. I know our council discusses our healthy reserves, but the general fund is at its lowest in a longtime, and we have to make cuts … we need to bring the general fund back up and make cuts and focus on our town and not tourism.
Foppoli: First Windsor is in phenomenal shape even with COVID. When you consider the fact that we’ve invested in real estate, our reserve is well over 30 and closer to 40%. We have the lowest sales tax of any city in the county … and Windsor has never gone out for tax because we don’t need it. We need to be fiscally responsible, be emergency prepared, support our local business and keep the level of service residents love and we’ve done that.
What is the biggest issue?
Reynoza: The biggest issue is bringing people together. The whole red/blue, democrat/republican tears me up. We’re all running non-partisan so (what you’re registered as) doesn’t matter. We’re here to listen to everyone in the community. We have all sorts of people in our community and … I’m proud to say I have people campaigning for me on both sides of the aisle. They know I’m honest and here to listen and represent everybody.
Salmon: It’s a hard subject but its climate … it’s going to be a challenge, but we have to look through that lens on everything we do. Housing? It’s a climate issue. In everything we do, we need to get everyone to live within the means of earth.
Potter: Community safety. The most important thing is to make sure all residents are safe at all times, and our children are protected. We need to ensure public safety is fully funded. (We also need) this town to have robust emergency plan so every resident knows their plan and knows what to expect and how to respond to an emergency. That’s the lens I will make every decision through, community safety.
Foppoli: With COVID and everything it’s so important to support local, family-owned business. We need to try to come up with creative ways to support them. Where I’m standing, this was set with “Meals with Mayors” with Guy Fieri, we did 35 episodes to showcase every restaurant in town. Hundreds of thousand watched and are coming in to support our businesses. Now residents need to do the same thing. Takeaway or eat outside, but we need to support our businesses and the families that work there.