3 takeaways from Weed's candidate forum
“The residents of Weed deserve better than dirty politicking,” city council candidate Ron Stock announced at a candidate forum hosted Monday evening by Siskiyou Media Council.
Stock, along with candidates Brian Palmer, Mark Mazzoni, Sue Tavalero and Bob Hall all participated in the Oct. 19 forum and shared their thoughts on a range of topics, from economic development to the city's sales tax measure on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Each candidate sat at their own table and wore a mask while not speaking to adhere to COVID-19 prevention guidelines. The event, held at the Weed Community Center, was moderated by College of the Siskiyous president Stephen Schoonmaker.
During his introduction, Stock - who retired earlier this year as Weed's city manager - chose to address an "anonymous flier" that he said was recently distributed in Weed.
“The mailer is nothing more than an effort to smear my good name with falsehoods and mischaracterizations, and I will not stand for it," Stock said, adding that he contacted the California Fair Political Practices Commission and has filed a complaint with the city attorney. He promised to "continue to purse an appropriate resolution."
Tavalero, a Weed citizen since 1993 and the town's current mayor, is seeking a second term on the council to continue the positive work she started four years ago. Bob Hall, who is seeking a fourth term, has a long history of volunteerism and activism in the community.
They are defending their seats against Stock, Mazzoni and Palmer.
Stock said he doesn't agree with the direction of the current city council and wants to use his unique insight into city workings to help Weed thrive.
Mazzoni, a retired coach and longtime Weed citizen, said he'd like to be the voice of the people by listening to their concerns and reflecting their values on the city council.
Palmer, owner of Black Butte Towing, agrees that it's important to give Weed citizens a voice. He said if elected, he'll be sure to "work for them."
The forum is available to view in its entirety at Siskiyou Media Council’s Facebook page and the City of Weed’s website. Here are three takeaways from the meeting.
1. Water rights, housing, and economic development are hot topics
Many candidates were in agreement that securing the town’s water rights, as well as continuing to revitalize the downtown area are important issues that the city has been facing for some time.
"In order to grow, the city must have its own water rights," said Stock. Mazzoni agreed that water rights are important and also said a balanced budget and the need to encourage business development are compelling issues.
Tavalero believes that housing, while a national crisis, is also major crisis in the city of Weed. “When I say housing, I mean houses, not just apartments, we have those ... but it would be great to have affordable homes that people could buy.” Tavalero believes that those who own homes would be more inclined to invest in their community and in community pride.
Hall said the city needs more livable wage jobs. ”Understanding the labor force will benefit the community and set young people up for he ordeal they are about to go through in life,” he said. The creation of a strong labor force would make it possible for people to work regular hours, purchase a home an “actually live” their lives.
Palmer said stronger workforce could come out of developing a “legal and usable” Love’s Truck Stop in South Weed. Currently, the truck stop is involved in litigation with a non-Weed city entity. Palmer said he doesn't support "anything not ‘federally legal’" in Weed.
2. Two candidates support a quarter penny sales tax increase, three don't
While Tavalero and Hall are proponents of Measure M - which proposes a quarter cent sales tax to help the city's special districts squeak by. Funding would be dispersed by the council and will be used to assist the Recreation and Parks District and the Cemetery District. The other three candidates aren't so sure.
"My problem is that the council, whether I’m on it or not, they decide where the money goes," said Mazzoni, who has served on the Parks and Recreation board. "It needs to go to the Rec Center and that cemetery.” Mazzoni also believes the city could use Measure M to create jobs.
“I don’t know where the city’s money went,” said Palmer. He went on to note that the city has put money into its police and fire department, but wondered where else it is distributed.
Stock, who is opposed to Measure M, believes the the council “hasn’t been honest with citizens.”
“The Parks and Rec District built a building that’s too large, and can’t afford to operate it,” he said, adding that a sales tax could be a burden on those who are poor or living on fixed incomes.
3. Restaurants, entertainment, active building owners sought to revitalize downtown
Tavalero said she drives down Weed's Main Street every day on her way home. “I look at it on a daily basis," she said. "I often think that the road tilts to one side due to all the businesses being on one side."
Hall and Tavalero have been working to cultivate Main Street over the years through volunteer and Rotary efforts. Each spoke of recent problems in the area because building owners are not local. Most owners live out of the area, they said.
“Some of the buildings are owned by people who are in town and apparently, (the derelict buildings) don’t bother them,” said Tavalero.
Palmer, along with Mazzoni, said the downtown area should go in a different direction.
“I look at Weed and it’s not going to ever be the same as when we were kids. ... I think some of those days are gone,” said Mazzoni. He said city should work to create a downtown area that has businesses residents can be involved in.
Palmer would like to see businesses that locals need and want, like restaurants or entertainment. “When they want to shop, they go to Medford and they go to Red Lobster. We need to bring something in," he said “I’d love to see the Black Butte bar open again."
Hall believes that the city is changing, and the only way it can come together is by businesses working together with the community.
“We need complimentary businesses ... We don’t need just one major thing downtown. We need to understand that the city will never be what it was when you just went to one market or store.”
Hall noted that people who come to town believe it's interesting, but “then they find that nothing is here.”
Stock, who said he previously helped a city in Colorado in 2010 land a government award for the Best Economic Development Program in the state for downtown development, called attention to the town of Etna.
“It takes a unique type of business to be successful," Stock said. "What you need to concentrate on is food and entertainment. Five Marys and Denny Bar prove my point. People will go out of the way to go to a good restaurant. If you have a good band, they’ll go out of the way to see that."
Stock noted that by providing some type of incentive, businesses may start coming into town. “If I’m on the council, I’ll push for that,” he said.