Hanford Council Election Heats Up

Hanford residents have a wide selection of candidates this election. Three candidates are running for Area C. Mark Cole and Martin Devine are challenging incumbent Gary Pannett, who was first elected in 2012.

Area B is an open seat that has four candidates. Incumbent Russ Curry and his wife have moved to Henderson, Nevada for his wife’s health.

The open seat attracted three neophytes and one former city council member, Sue Sorensen. Kalish Morrow, Parm Johal and Glenda Dwyer have never run for political office. Dwyer is part of the Kings County Republican Central Committee, but was appointed.

Area C Race Tries to Keep it Positive

Negative campaigning started October 3, when yard signs popped up and mailers were delivered declaring Pannett “just another SEIU tax and spend liberal puppet.” The yard sign superimposed Pannett’s face on a marionette puppet.

“I spent yesterday pretty angry,” said Pannett after seeing one of the yard signs.

By the next day Pannett was laughing about the signs. He said that Hanford Issues facebook page, lead by Skip Athey and supported by former mayor Dan Chin, put up the signs and they are campaigning for Martin Devine. Pannett took over Chin’s Area C seat in 2012 and he thinks that Chin and Athey might still harbor some resentment. Pannett also said that he doesn’t always vote the way Chin and Hanford Issues followers think he should.

Chin had to step down as mayor in 2011, and did not seek reelection in 2012, amid a host of problems including a recall threat, old charges of sexual harassment, new charges of corruption, and possible serious FPPC violations.

Pannett prefers to focus on the positive and build on what Hanford has already started.

He was proud of the fact that the city lured in a new Costco. The council has also allowed for the remodeling of Hanford’s movie theaters and has relaxed restrictions on downtown hotels. Because of the changes in the ordinances two new hotels are coming to Hanford, with a third possibly in the works.

“Good things are happening in Hanford,” said Pannett. He said that downtown has seen several new businesses; a coffee shop, clothing store and a bicycle shop that relocated from Fresno. He also said that a new business center has located across from the bank building.

“This type of growth is only possible when the city cuts red tape and lets businesses thrive,” said Pannett. “After cutting fees and getting rid of restrictions we are finally making headway.”

His next goal is to get downtown property owners to clean up their properties. He said that the out-of-town owners do not maintain their properties, and that has lead to too many vacancies.

Concerning the Medical Marijuana Distribution Center, Pannett voted in favor of having the city manager and police chief travel to similar centers in Colorado and Washington state to gather information. He wants to hear what they learned before making up his mind.

Pannett plans to retire in November so he can devote his full attention to the city council. His civic experience reaches farther than sitting on the city council. He has been on the planning commission for six years, the high school board of trustees, and is the present chair of the Kings County Action Organization.

All three candidates running in Area C and B are voting for Measure K.

“Idiots Are Running Hanford”

For Martin Devine and Mark Cole this will be their first foray into the political arena. Their main reason for running is that they do not like the direction Hanford is going and believe the city needs better leadership.

Cole said he is running because he is tired of “watching the idiots in city council right now making mistakes.” He then conceded that “not all of them are idiots.”

Some examples of incompetency Cole believes are that it took the city council too long to get Costco built and that they should have handled the issues concerning Hanna Chemicals better. If they had, “Costco would have been up and running a year ago,” Cole said.

Devine pointed out that the city is growing east and west with new businesses such as Walmart and Costco, thus leaving the downtown area neglected. He said, “The new businesses are great but that the city council needs to focus the same energy on downtown.” That focus, he said, needs to be on making the absentee landlords responsible for the maintenance of their properties and getting them tenanted.

Cole agreed, saying, “The city council needs to do more to get the out-of-town owners to take care of their properties.” He wants the downtown revitalized even if it means taking over buildings by eminent domain.

Cole was endorsed by the Kings County Libertarian Party.

Besides the downtown, Devine said his first concern is public safety. He remembers the time when Hanford’s goal was to be the safest city in the Valley. Now he says the population has grown but the number of public safety workers has stayed the same. If elected, he would like to re-establish Hanford’s public safety goal. He said he normally doesn’t support increasing taxes but sees Measure K as a necessity.

Devine has received the Kings County Republican Central Committee endorsement.

Another of Cole’s main goals is getting Hidden Valley Park developed, or at least keeping it from becoming a housing development. He said that the money was already given to develop the park and that Hanford should follow the wishes of its residents.

Both Cole and Devine are against the Medical Marijuana Cultivation Center. Devine said that as long as it is federally illegal, his vote is no.

Cole is against the center because the facility will be on city land and doesn’t think the city should be a landlord to pot cultivation.

“I don’t think the city should be a pot dealer,” Cole said, adding that “if the center were on private land [I] would be all behind it.”

Four Candidates Vie for Area B

Four candidates are running for Hanford City Council District B vying to fill the seat left open by the incumbent Russ Curry. Those candidates are Sue Sorensen, Glenda Dwyer, Parm Johal and Kalish Morrow.

Sorensen was on the city council from 2008 to 2012, the last year of which she was mayor. She declined to defend her seat in 2012 because of the dysfunction that had taken over Hanford’s government. During her time on the dais, the city council went through eight members and four city managers.

Darrel Pyle took over as city manager in 2012, and has been the manager ever since.

In 2014, Sorensen was one of five people running for Kings County Supervisor District 4, but lost in the June primary.

Sorenson did not respond to the Valley Voice’s request for an interview, but, according to a Hanford Sentinel profile, she is getting back in the saddle because she is passionate about community service and wants to make Hanford a better place for businesses and families.

Her goals, according to the article, are “completing the general plan, developing direction for the Courthouse/Bastille and addressing zoning and establishing incentives to give businesses the support they need will give our city a desired vision for the future.”

Kalish Morrow is a fresh Hanford face and new to politics. She and her husband moved to town in 2011, and they have two small boys. They met when he was skydiving and she was the parachute rigger.

Morrow thinks Hanford residents should vote for her because, “I have a track record of getting things done.” She helped get the Art Hop started and has been successful in increasing foot traffic in Hanford’s downtown Saturday by convincing businesses to extend their hours and hold popular workshops on the weekends.

“I have respect for the other candidates but I get things done and not just promise.”

As a small downtown business owner, Morrow’s first concern is the difficulty in competing with big box stores and chains in areas like 12th Street and Lacy Avenue. Shoppers gravitate to that area and Morrow and many of her associates believe that a couple of chain stores in downtown would increase foot traffic. Morrow said that Hanford tried to get The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on a visible corner but it did not happen.

Another goal of Morrow’s is to make sure that Hidden Valley stays a park and does not become one more subdivision. Her fear is that the city will sell the land to a developer with the first good offer. She has voiced her opinion against the city staff’s trying to change the zoning to residential, and wants Hanford to increase its park acres per resident to acceptable levels.

Her final goal is to have the city do a better job of meeting the needs of active military and veterans.

In terms of the Medical Marijuana Distribution Center, she appreciates all the due diligence the city is doing. Morrow said as long as they do it right, she is for the center.

Glenda Dwyer, current member of the Kings County Republican Central Committee, is also concerned about downtown. She has been going to city council and Kings County Supervisor meetings since 2010 and is well versed on the problems facing the city.

While pounding the pavement during her campaign, she has heard many responses from residents as to what is keeping them from downtown. Some of their answers include the homeless, vacancies and absentee landlords not maintaining their properties. Business owners are discouraged from locating downtown because of onerous ordinances, high rents and overpriced buildings, all of which add to the high vacancy rate.

Dwyer supports the ideas coming out of the group Main Street Hanford and has many ideas herself. Between the two they came up with piping music out to the people strolling along the sidewalk, providing wifi and benches for the youth, and adding more public art and murals. Dwyer also said the area could use a good steak house without a bar for families and mixed-use housing where apartments sit on top of the businesses.

Dwyer was also enthusiastic about putting a convention center in the heart of the city.

In Hanford’s updated General Plan, Hidden Valley Park is zoned residential and that concerns Dwyer. She said that everyone wants to compare Hanford’s downtown to Visalia’s “but not when it comes to open space. Hanford is way below the national average when it comes to acres of park space per resident.”

Even if California votes in favor of Proposition 64, Dwyer is voting against the Medical Marijuana Distribution Center. “It doesn’t mean we have to have it in our county just because California votes for it,” she said. “I see possible issues with the law and the supervisors, district attorney and sheriff are all against it.”

Parm Johal was raised in Hanford and came back home a few years ago to help his parents run their family business. He said that he is already sick of the politics and he hasn’t even been elected yet. “I see a lot of bickering and fighting and nothing getting done for the community,” he said.

If he is elected he wants to make the best decisions for the people and will put politics aside when representing his district.

One example of this is Johal is personally against the use of recreational marijuana. He is willing to put his beliefs aside and weigh the positives and the negatives of the Medical Marijuana Distribution Center, especially when it comes to creating jobs.

Johal decided to run when he saw that politics were affecting his family’s business. He said the city council gives big businesses perks and waives fees while cracking down on the little guy. He said in 2013 his business was fined $100 because they advertised on a sign that they were now selling burritos.

‘You need to be a lawyer to understand the sign ordinance. It’s not written for lay people.” He said that the city council needs to give the same opportunities and flexibility to the little guy as the big box stores.

“Let’s make it fair and have everyone play by the same rules,” he said.

As far as Hidden Valley Park, he said, “Let’s just be transparent about it. Are we selling the park or not?”

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