From a former mayor: Get involved!

Instead of just complaining about what’s happening, step into the conversation, Woody Fridae says.

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By Woody Fridae Many complain about government, but few get involved.   For a perspective, a typical complaint I hear is nowadays is: “What about the parking? Why haven’t they fixed this?” Yes, we have a parking problem now, but the problem we used to have was far worse.  In 1995, most of the downtown businesses were struggling as the town languished with few resources. There was little to do downtown, and no one was parking downtown,  not to belittle the parking problem we have now. It is real, but the problem we had before was a far worse problem. Even though we were building new houses, jobs were going elsewhere and businesses were failing. When John Donlevy became our city manager, he began to revitalize our economy and build enthusiasm for Winters.  He spearheaded two California Redevelopment projects and brought in millions of dollars to kick start our local economy. Mr. Donlevy began to inspire new confidence and leadership among the city staff, promoting from within, and encouraging and guiding our local personnel to gain the training needed for higher responsibility. I commend this and the recent city councils over the past twenty years on the improvements that they, in concert with the City Manager, have made to Winters. I was a part of the council and mayor for some of those years, and on the whole, I think we did a good job.  Though we have made some mistakes, I believe most of our work was on the right path to keeping our small-town feel, yet a prosperous and an exciting place to be. Since Donlevy came, Winters built three new parks, gave the downtown a facelift, refurbished the train bridge into a pedestrian and bike path, and replaced the car bridge. We revised our downtown Master Plan and saved a failing, antiquated sewer system.  We built a Public Safety Facility that will serve the community far into the future. These are only a few of the improvements that come to mind. All this has been done with an emphasis on business with modest residential expansion. Most importantly, we finally achieved some progress in gaining more jobs than houses, an imbalance that had plagued us for decades. But now,  Winters is being asked to annex hundreds of acres north of town, leapfrogging a zone called the Sphere of Influence, a region we identified in the 1992 General Plan for future development.  This new expansion being considered would double the footprint of the city, and would hurt our jobs/housing ratio. And we are at a point that the community should become more involved. This is a big move for the city. I ask the City Council to hold some public forums to take the pulse of what people want.  Do we expand quickly north, into good farmland, or do we develop the lower quality, hilly land already in the Sphere of Influence?  And at what pace should we expand? Whatever we do, the council will find citizens willing partners in trying to forge a cohesive compromise.  We need to grow and provide more housing; but how quickly, where, and what type of housing is a question that we need to consider carefully.   I suggest that we schedule well-advertised town hall meetings, and that everyone participates and becomes an active part of this conversation.  Our town has made many good decisions in the past and it made some mistakes. It needs citizen participation to stay on the right path. This is not to say this should become an “us-against-them” issue, but rather we need to join the process and take responsibility for our future.]]>

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