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7 vie for council
Seven candidates for Willows City Council put their best foot forward on Thursday, when they faced a crowd of interested or undecided voters at an election forum.
The event was hosted by the Chamber of Commerce as an opportunity for the public to hear what candidates plan to bring to the table, and possibly for the first time to simply watch how well candidates interact with each other on the dais.
Voters said incumbents Gary Hansen and Mayor Vince Holvik were at a slight disadvantage, having to field questions about recent decisions they've made that have been perceived as very unpopular, as well as having to deal with extremely negative campaign strategies over the past few weeks.
Holvik and Hansen face opposition on the ballot by Bill Spears, Trudi DeVoss, Lawrence Mello, Larry Domenighini and Mike Butler, all hoping to pick up one of three open seats on the City Council.
"Overall, I thought everybody presented themselves very well," said resident Barbara LaDoucer. "I'm not sure I believe everything that was said, but everyone did a good job putting forth their positions."
Although the entire event stretched nearly four hours — resulting in some people leaving early — each candidate was given only a few minutes to convince voters why they should vote for them.
They spent the remaining time fielding questions.
Holvik said the economy has been brutal on the city the past four years, forcing the City Council to cut to the bare bones.
He said the city has survived without sacrificing essential services and that it can survive without expending it remaining reserves.
But that means following the course the city set when it decided not to spend more money than it gets in as revenue, he said.
"We are in a war fighting for our future and our survival," Holvik said. "Cities everywhere are in big financial trouble. Now is not the time for big changes."
For the most part, all the candidates agreed on some important strategies for surviving the economic storm, including asking more from the public in terms of volunteerism.
The also agreed they have to balance the budget without cutting critical services further.
Hansen said it is a matter of the city living within its means, and believes the city can manage without any further cuts to departments.
"I want Willows to be the shining community it was when I was growing up, but we have a lot of work a head of us," Hansen said. "I have the experience, the perseverance and the dedication to do this job."
Domenighini hopes to use his strength in working with Orland and Glenn County officials to form partnerships that can reduce the burden on individual agencies, even if that means sharing critical services.
"The city and county's relationship has been less than ideal," Domenighini said. "You have to develop partnerships. You can't just reject them out of hand."
Mello believes the city needs to tackle small things that help build the revenue base, such as better signs that directs people from Wood Street to the downtown — for community events, shopping and the farmers market.
"It's the little ideas that all add up," he said.
Butler too said taking small stabs at big problems also adds up when it comes to saving the city money, including asking for more volunteers from the public, whether it's fundraising for the library or picking up trash when they see in on the city streets.
"I'm in this for the betterment of the city," he said. "I have no hidden motives or personal agenda."
DeVoss, who voters at the forum first thought was a dark horse in the race, had another opinion following the event.
Most said they liked her ability to articulate her ideas, in addition to her willingness to listen to the concerns of the general public.
"I'm not a politician," said DeVoss, who hopes to include the use social media as outreach to the public. "I'm not in this for any other reason but to be a voice for the citizens. I guarantee if there is 40 people standing at the podium, then I am going to listen."
Spears, the city police chief until the end of the year when his contract expires, also voiced a desire to see the City Council include the public in more matters.
If elected, he wants the public involved in budget discussions before cost measures reach the City Council for a decision.
To do that, he said he would see budget subcommittee meetings open to the public and to department heads.
"We need to get people in and we need to work together to make things happen," he said. "The unity of community is the success of tomorrow."
Following the forum, a few voters said the event was helpful, even if the speakers didn't really sway them from how they felt about the issues going in.
Butte College candidates Gene Massa and David Vodden also spoke, as did opponents and supporters of Measures P and Q.
"I had a pretty good idea how I was going to vote before I got here," said Joe Hinton. "But I'm more sure now than I was before. I think the information was helpful."
Some voters at the event said they expected to see the same people who have attended the recent City Council meetings, and were happily surprised to see a few new faces in the crowd.
Chamber of Commerce President Jaime Millen said anything that gets people out to vote is a good thing.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.