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Rotary-sponsored forum covered district elections, public service, affordable housing and more

On April 6, the Windsor Rotary Club hosted a virtual candidate forum for the five candidates for the Windsor Town Council seat up for election on May 4.

Oscar Chavez, Julia Donoho, Jeffrey Leasure, Rosa Reynoza and Cody Wilson shared their vision and ideas for taking over Dominic Foppoli’s former at-large town council seat, vacated when he was elected mayor last fall.

The special election will take place via mail-in ballot only, with the first ballots arriving in mailboxes April 5 and due no later than May 4. The last day to register to vote in the election is April 19. The seat will be up for regular election in the fall of 2022, meaning the winner of the special election will be seated for approximately 17 months.

Due to the town transitioning to district elections, the winner of this special election will be able to run in 2022 only if they live in one of the districts up for vote in that election. Because this seat is still an at-large seat, any town resident is eligible.

The forum allowed candidates to make a two-minute introductory statement, then gave them two minutes to answer specific questions, followed by a one-minute closing statement.

The first question touched on asking candidates if they will seek reelection for a district seat once this seat expires in 2022 and also what they think the differences between being an at-large versus a district council member.

Leasure said he would definitely consider being a district 3 or mayoral candidate in the future, though that future will potentially have to be in 2024, as district 3 just had its election, which Leasure lost to incumbent Deborah Fudge. He could ostensibly run for mayor in 2022.

Donoho lives in district four, and said she would “run until elected and stay until not elected.” Wilson also lives in District 3, and said therefore he would not plan on running for a district seat at this time.

Chavez lives in district 1 and said if successful this time around he would run for reelection for district 1 in 2022. Reynoza declined to state for sure, saying if she won she would consider it, but that she “doesn’t like to jump ahead.”

All candidates felt that while it’s important to understand their district’s particular needs and features, council members represent the town as a whole.

Candidates were asked to discuss their current volunteer work. Donoho has been a local soccer coach and a member of various parent boards at her daughter’s schools. She was also a part of site facilities committees. Nationally, she has been a part of a professional association for architects, serving on the board, and in the county was involved in the SDAT process for the Old Redwood Highway corridor.

Wilson has only lived here since 2015, but has played music for Catholic Charities at various events and senior centers.

Chavez was involved in getting a Head Start program off the ground in Windsor and is a former Windsor school board member who worked extensively with ELAC, DELAC and Migrant Ed programs. He also serves on a wide variety of boards and committees throughout the county, and discussed that he felt it was important to “to talk to students who looked like me and tell them why it’s important to continue their education … and to connect with families who don’t have seat at table.”

Reynoza is well-known locally for her community service with a wide variety of organizations, including Windsor Service Alliance, Redwood Empire Food Bank, Corazón Healdsburg and others.

Leasure is a former planning commissioner and a former president of the Chamber of Commerce, and often mans the barbeque at home football games at Windsor High School. He also served on the school district’s bond oversight committee.

Candidates were also given the opportunity to offer up their views on the use of in-lieu fees for affordable housing, both their opinion of allowing developers to provide the fees rather than build affordable housing, and also what to do with the current $3 million in in-lieu fees collected as part of the stalled Vintage Oaks project.

None of the candidates came out in favor of allowing developers to pay the in-lieu fees, citing that the amounts are usually not enough to really build inclusionary housing, and the importance of mixed-community housing bringing community together.

For the current funds, Reynoza felt it was important to use the funds to build on land that the town already owns, to help keep costs down, and specifically she mentioned the Bluebird Center as a possible location. Wilson and Leasure both felt the funds could be used to help eliminate fees and other roadblocks to people building Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) as a way to corral housing shortages.

Donoho is in favor of tiny home villages and suggested working with the school district for the use of the old Windsor Creek campus to build one, with special consideration given to new teachers.

In addition to these questions, candidates were also asked about how to use the money being given by the Lytton Tribe. This question was asked in a previous forum, and their answers didn’t change from the first time. You can see their responses here

To view the complete forum, go to https://youtu.be/YCXP4tq-jQk

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