Judging from her answers during her council interview newly selected District 1 Council Member (central) Liz Wynn said she would provide some leeway in following the General Plan if an economically important project were at stake.
During her August 12 interview District 4 Council Member Greg Collins (northeast) asked her, “There’s a project that would benefit Visalia jobs but is inconsistent with the General Plan. How would you resolve that?” The General Plan is the city’s road map for development and can only rarely be amended each year.
Wynn, a former planning commissioner, answered, if it is “…not so far out of zone (with) the General Plan (I would) look at that.”
She also said she would consider public comment on the project together with staff recommendations and council members’ views.
Wynn is director of the Kaweah Delta Hospital Foundation. She said she would abstain from any votes involving hospital projects.
The only one of the six final candidates who said he would see if there was a way to bring the hypothetical project in line with the General Plan was technical specialist Steve Woods. He said he would ask why the developer proposed something that did not conform to the General Plan?
Recently it was Collins, a planner, who was the only vote on the council who opposed dropping an ag land protection scheme from the General Plan. And Woods was Collins’ first choice to replace the late Phil Cox, not Wynn.
Wynn showed similar flexibility when District 3’s (west) Brian Poochigian asked her what ordinances were good and what she would change.
Zoning regulations are a living breathing document, Wynn said. “Everything,” she said “should not be cut in stone.”
When District 2’s Brett Taylor asked if she supported the public’s decision to legal recreational marijuana, she said, the matter was a complex issue. She said she wanted to see the effect on revenue since black market sellers are undercutting the price charged by legal growers.
Candidates were also questioned about how they would address the water table dropping.
Wynn said she would practice conservation and meet with CalWater and the irrigation district to arrive at creative ways to save water.
Banker Nathan Halls said the city’s conservation steps are the correct ones. He said didn’t know what further restrictions would do to property values.
Woods gave a similar answer to Wynn but added that he would see what other cities are doing, examine long-term plans regarding recharge basins and he would seek a greater return than 50 percent when the current contract with the Tulare Irrigation District ends.
Former Judge Howard Broadman also emphasized continued conservation. He said the city has stuck its head in the ground on water issue and needs to get it out otherwise the city is “…looking at something horrible for children.”
Collins also asked all the candidates how they would handle negotiations with the city’s five different labor unions where ideas differ about what salaries and benefits should be.
Wynn said she was open to speak to anyone who had something to bring to the council’s attention.
Halls said cities have a lack of in-depth analysis of such issues. He would see how the pieces work together. Negotiating with labor unions is a relationship like a marriage, Halls said. There is, he said, discussion and give and take.
In selecting Wynn the council made a safe, middle of the road choice. Interestingly, Halls and Ruiz were the two candidates that would bring to the council expertise it does not currently have. Taylor is in real estate, Mayor Steve Nelson was in agribusiness before retiring and Poochigian is in logistics for a trucking company.
In banking Halls has spent many years evaluating loans and financial statements. Frank Ruiz is deputy county counsel for Kings County. He was correct when he said he was the only candidate with governmental experience (other than Wynn serving on the planning commission). In addition to being an attorney and legal representative to the Kings County Board of Supervisors, Ruiz is involved in child welfare and is the legal counsel to the Kings County Homeless Collaborative and chairman of a citizens’ advisory committee on law enforcement. He said the state Attorney General’s office issued an opinion stating there would be no conflict serving both the Visalia Council and the positions he has in Kings County.
When Nelsen asked the candidates why they would be the best candidate, Halls said he represented a true cross section of Visalia and touted his financial experience among other things.
Woods said he is a good listener, has a broad cross section of people as advisors and reads and analyzes.
Loren Farris, a music teacher, said since she is self-employed she has the flexibility to serve plus she has an arts background.
Broadman said he was motivated by the desire to serve and pledged he wouldn’t run when Cox’s term was up.
Four of the five Visalia City Council seats will be up for re-election in November 2022 and it is expected that Wynn will have a few challengers. Taylor’s is the only seat safe until 2024.
Wynn cited her diverse background including planning experience and her schedule flexibility.