Council candidates respond to community questions

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Council candidates Carol Scianna, Richard Casavecchia, Albert Vallecillo, Lisa Baker and Michael Olivas participated in a non-partisan, community forum on Oct. 13. (Crystal Apilado/Winters Express)

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The five City Council candidates had an opportunity to respond to questions submitted by community members at Winters City Council Candidates Forum hosted by the Winters Express and Democracy Winters on Thursday, Oct. 13.

The five candidates running for three open seats in the November election to represent Winters residents include Albert Vallecillo, Lisa Baker, Carol Scianna, Michael Olivas and Richard Casavecchia.

The forum was live-streamed, and a video recording is available on YouTube via the
Express channel (https://youtu.be/AjuFhHYfdeY) and the DW channel (https://youtu.be/okVNnxszaag).

The forum was divided into two sessions. The first session’s featured questions can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/ycknyudm.

During the forum’s second session, Winters residents submitted questions to ask all five candidates. 

Candidates responses
How can City Council better serve the Hispanic/Latino community in Winters?

Richard Casavecchia suggested the City Council partner with the Hispanic Advisory Council to better understand the needs and desires of the Hispanic community in Winters.

Albert Vallecillo said the city needs to publish more of its news and plans in Spanish, and proposed a Spanish-language text message service to reach those who primarily speak Spanish.

Lisa Baker noted that certain funding from the government requires translation, but that Winters can still do more, speaking in support of a text service in Spanish.

Michael Olivas described a two-way street, with the City Council needing to do outreach as well as asking the Hispanic community to participate more in civic involvement.

Carol Scianna also spoke in favor of more translation,
suggesting the City Manager’s update should be in Spanish, and that the City Council should focus on going where people already are.

In what ways is Winters vulnerable to Climate Change, and what is a specific way it can be helped?

Vallecillo noted the risk of wildfires in the west and south of the city and said the City Council could implement more policing of vulnerable areas to prevent them.

Baker suggested the city should be wary of where it expands because of fire risk, and also said water storage could be improved

Olivas said to mitigate fire risk, the city should build buffer zones, and work on weed abatement, infrastructure, and improvements to the older part of town.

Scianna reiterated the dangers of fire to Winters and said ensuring that homes and buildings have adequate smoke filtration systems to protect citizens from smoke inhalation.

Regarding water, Casavecchia opined that the city’s water storage management can be improved, and said the City Council should look into how connecting new houses to water systems affect Winters’ water supply.

What does a good Winters Joint Unified School District and City Council relationship look like?

Baker said though the Winters JUSD has bigger jurisdiction than the City Council, both have similar goals for their students and hoped that past partnerships could continue with the new superintendent.

Olivas noted his tenure on the Winters JUSD school board, as well as noting the utility of the joint 2×2 City Council-Winters JUSD meetings. Olivas also argued that both groups should work with the police more.

Scianna said she also saw the 2×2 meetings as a good asset for collaboration and communication, noting that these and similar instances of sharing spaces are good for fostering a working relationship.

Casavecchia spoke frankly about difficulties in the relationship in recent years and said both groups, along with the new superintendent, should look into improving communication to keep collaboration amiable and effective.

Vallecillo also spoke to the importance of 2×2 meetings as a means of focusing on solving problems and collaborating on shared goals.

What are your thoughts on the capacity of commercial and housing projects on Grant Avenue, and whether that limits development options? 

Olivas expressed his total support for the Grant Avenue master plan and said, as a City Council member, he would work to implement the plan as best he could.

Scianna posited that the City Council may need to look at zoning and land use as the plan occupies much of the remaining land on that side of time but otherwise expressed support for the plan.

Casavecchia said the plan is good, but suggested the City Council, along with Caltrans, look into Grant Avenue itself to decrease the speed of cars in the area.

Vallecillo reiterated the problems of the General Plan in regard to this issue, as the plan may impede efforts at increasing the safety of highway crossings around the Grant Avenue project.

Baker discussed her previous roles on commissions related to this project and expressed a similar point that some revisions and zoning work on this project would require a change to the General Plan.

What is the No. One problem for Winters in the next 12 months, and what is your solution?

According to Scianna, the availability of water should the rains fail and providing shelter for unhoused people would be the preeminent issues of the next year.

City finance is the biggest issue Casavecchia saw in Winters’ future, and he hopes to work from the City Council to ameliorate the decade-long deficit in the city’s reserve fund while continuing to provide necessary services.

Vallecillo also said water is the most likely problem and said the Council should look into working with farmers to recharge groundwater reserves.

Baker broadly noted climate-related issues, including water, heat, and drought, and their effect on the city’s infrastructure and people. She said that the precarious state of the economy may cause problems.

Olivas said that the City Council can’t control the weather, but that it can control the budget and Winters’ fiscal health, as well as restating his view that Winters should work with the police to monitor Winters’ youths in relation to drugs like fentanyl.

How would you encourage industrial and commercial development? 

Casavecchia would hope to see the industrial sector more closely support existing commercial systems in town, and that the City Council should work with local businesses to determine what needs need to be met.

Vallecillo noted the importance of creating space for business and encouraging the agri-tech industry, perhaps in partnership with UC Davis, to keep Winters’ agriculture modern and efficient.

Baker expressed her support for maximizing space with joint ventures and remote job opportunities to keep commercial opportunities within Winters itself.

Olivas stated his experience in development and said that improvements to infrastructure are key to attracting and keeping developers in Winters.

Scianna noted that Winters has existing infrastructure, and said the Council should work with existing businesses to encourage sustainable and helpful development.

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