Hanford residents will head to the ballot box on January 23, 2018, where they will be faced with two questions: should City Council Member Francisco Ramirez be recalled, and if so, who should replace him?
Ramirez was first elected in 2014 and represents District D. If 50 percent plus one voters say yes to the recall, then the replacement candidate with the highest number of votes wins.
In that case, voters will have a tough choice between two long-time and active Hanford residents, Shelly Barker and Paula Massey.
According to Jennifer Gomez, Hanford City Clerk, the nomination period ends November 9–but she is not anticipating other candidates coming forward. She reported that the paperwork normally takes about a week to compete and that no one else had inquired about running.
Shelly Barker – “Being on the City Council is the highest level of service”
Barker didn’t comment on whether or not Ramirez should be recalled but said she has a passion for serving her community. “I am hoping to perhaps bring fresh optics to the council.”
Barker’s goals if elected would be to expand youth activities while at the same time be cost effective. She wants to
provide the same opportunities to all kids despite their socioeconomic status. She would like to start with Hanford’s youth sports programs and then work on art and technology youth programs.
Safety is another important issue and Barker says it ties into keeping Hanford’s youth engaged. Hanford has been labeled as one of the safest cities in the Central Valley and Barker wants to keep it that way. Prior to moving here as a young adult, Barker did her research to find a community oriented, clean and safe city. “I decided Hanford would be a great place to raise children. And I have no regrets in doing so.”
Barker does not agree with the direction the city council has taken regarding downtown zoning. Though there are still some protective zoning rules in place, they have been whittled away by the current council. Zoning changes such as allowing mini-fridges and coffee makers in hotel rooms, and allowing furniture stores outside down town passed earlier this year and are believed to be detrimental to the area.
Barker says, “Maintaining the zoning restrictions is critical. This downtown is our small business owners ‘bread and butter.’ And thanks to them, the true heart and soul of Hanford. We must take care of these trailblazers, and begin fostering concrete ideas in order to revitalize.”
Paula Massey Says “No Vote, No Voice, No Change”
Massey has also been involved in the Hanford youth community, focusing on education. Her involvement with children spans over 30 years.
She has home schooled her kids, was a principal of a private school, and is involved in Women with a Vision that focuses on childhood literacy.
Massey is also concerned about safety on the south side and sees where there could be improvements.
One such improvement would be installing crosswalks at Douty and Irwin Streets next to Lincoln Elementary School. She said that, not only is there a school, but apartments and many kids that need the crosswalks.
Her main goal in representing District D is to see the south side coming together as a community.
Massey says that there a several non-profits working in the area and that it would be good if they could network. She would like to see more town-hall meetings.
Massey said that Ramirez has held some meetings but they concerned the recall or he was handing out awards in an auditorium. She said it wasn’t an environment where people could talk.
“My hope is to bring the community together, African American, Hispanic, and everyone.
“Some people want carrots and some people want cake. I say let’s make carrot cake.”
Massey disagrees with the protective zoning for the downtown. “When you go downtown you see a lot of empty buildings. We don’t need more restrictions we need to open things up.”
She feels a furniture store should be able to locate anywhere in town and that the restrictions have been a hardship on the local Target and Walmart.
Massey feels a deeper investigation needs to go into why Hanford’s downtown buildings are empty and admires Visalia’s night life.
“We have no nice restaurants to go to after seeing a show at the Fox. We need to look at what we can do to improve the nightlife in Hanford.”
Neither Massey nor Barker were born in Hanford but both raised their kids there and their grandchildren attend local schools.
Barker and Massey agree that Hidden Valley Park is an asset for the community.
Massey said that she would love to see something like Fresno’s Woodward Park in Hanford.
Woodward is a popular city asset with a bird sanctuary and Japanese Garden that attracts visitors from all over the Valley.
Barker agrees, saying that it seems that the people of Hanford have clearly “spoken with an obvious passion for preservation.”
“I would like to see the Hidden Valley Park put on the upcoming November [2018 general election] ballot. Honestly, in my opinion, a lot more needs to be left up to the citizens who pay taxes here.”