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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 mayoral candidates can be found here.

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/.

What is the benefit of the SMART train coming to Windsor?

Fudge: I’ve been a SMART board member for 15 years, and I’m the one bringing SMART to Windsor in 2021. It will help our businesses and Windsor residents who want to commute and will bring in tourists and many employees … we’ve been planning for years, created transit-oriented develop to let people walk to the train, get them off freeways and improve the environment.

Leasure: The original goal of the SMART train was to bring a train that went from San Rafael to Cloverdale, but the promises have not been kept … it’s incredibly expensive and doesn’t meet the goals for climate change at all.

How should the town handle the agreement with the Lytton tribe and their $20 million payment to the town?

Leasure: For my view it’s an impact fee and the most essential safety items would be sheriff and fire and, second, emergency warnings and, third, is an open space district … see if we can get funding to open more space on east side. We should shore up our reserves and stabilize funds and then put together a list of what infrastructure is lacking and see where they may be failing in the next 15 years and maybe do town-centered facelift.

Fudge: I helped negotiate this agreement and got a few more million into it. The agreement will be finalized in January and the tribe wants it to go towards a community benefit to honor the tribe. $3.5 million will be used to upgrade water and wastewater service not just for the tribe but all new residents … we’re thinking either a pool or a recreation center in Keiser Park; we’ll be starting the community process soon for input.

Ask each other a question.

Question for Fudge from Leasure: A lot of people are making comments about campaign contributions and concerns about if it causes people to bring things to council. How would you address that with people?

Fudge: Nobody influences my vote. Don’t have a developer donating this year, but I did have two, two years ago, but they don’t own me, and they don’t own my vote. All donors are documented and online and anyone can feel free to call and ask about any of them. I remain an independent councilmember as I have for the last 16 years.

Questions from Fudge to Leasure: What do you say to Windsor commuter and local business and employees looking forward to SMART train, what do say about opposition.

Leasure: What I say to them is to look at the coast and salaries. If we took the loan money, gave you a pass to spend on an electric car, you’d be better off than riding the train. It’s so over budget, and if look at actual costs not what you expect. And it’s not going to be perfect solution for climate change, and I’m going to recommend we do something else; we should look at electric cars, promote them and bring showcases to Windsor and go after (employers and employees) to be able to work in town so they don’t have to commute.

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?

Leasure: I agree about essential services using the first dollars to take care of (them). Where I differ with what’s been commented on already, is we have to ask ourselves per COVID what areas can we actually cut in terms of services or outsourcing. COVID has changed everything this could be this way for four or five years, and economists had already anticipated have a recession in 2021 pre-COVID. We need to respond, we may have to ask for employee concessions, it’s a tough decision and as council people we don’t like to make it, but we have to. 

Fudge: We do budget differently than other cities, we’re very conservative. We were trained early on by financial people what we need to concentrate on, and that is services people see — parks, landscaping … keeping up with infrastructure and road maintenance, putting money away to rebuild, We’ve always thought ahead and super proud of where we stand fiscally.

What is the biggest issue?

Fudge: Climate change.

Leasure: We live in the best place, in the best country in the world. We need to collaborate more to solve problems and politicians have us thinking our neighbors and friends are in opposition to us. Even if we disagree, it doesn’t mean we don’t like and respect each other, and we need to do a better job to collaborate to fix the earth and these problems of divisiveness. It makes us weak, and to solve the problem of how pay for the civic center, we will have to make a consensus to do that.

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