Six candidates audition for three seats at Nevada City Council forum
Six candidates hoping to fill three seats up for grabs on the Nevada City Council addressed parking, homelessness, fire safety and 5G wireless telecom regulations at a League of Women Voters of Nevada County candidate forum Monday night.
Incumbent council members David Parker and Reinette Senum joined challengers Rick Ewald, Daniela Fernandez, Douglass Fleming, and Lorraine Reich in answering questions from the community to help determine who will make up the five-person council when residents vote March 3.
Incumbent council member Valerie Moberg is not running for re-election. The top three vote-getters will win seats on the council.
The candidates largely agreed on many issues, with all hopefuls confirming the importance of maintaining the downtown courthouse, working together collaboratively, supporting Firewise communities, expanding the housing and parking supply, and growing local business.
Candidates began to differentiate themselves on the issue of the recently passed 5G wireless telecom ordinance, which the city is continuing to revise to add protections from potential environmental concerns while staying within the limitations set by the state and the Federal Communications Commission.
Parker said that while he wants to have a strong ordinance he will not risk going so far that it skirts up against regulations that could open the city up to a lawsuit from governing agencies or telecom companies.
“My support is to have the best ordinance that gives the most legal opportunities to protect our community,” Parker said. “I’m not prepared to make a decision that could put Nevada City into legal jeopardy.”
According to Ewald, Nevada City needs to recognize and work within its own jurisdictional limits.
“I don’t think the City Council has the ability to override something like this, however, we do have the ability to make the best ordinance that we can come up with,” Ewald said. “If it’s going to change, it’s going to have to come from above the local level.”
Fleming agreed with the approach the city has taken so far and wants to ensure other issues are not being overlooked because of the city’s attention on this matter.
“I think the city right now has gone as far as they can, given current regulations federally,” Fleming said. “Can we revise it? Certainly, but I don’t think we can let it distract us from all the other issues facing our city. There are so many other issues that are just as important, if not more so in some cases.”
Similarly, Fernandez said she hoped the focus would move away from restricting unwanted technology to bringing in the resources residents want.
“I do not support 5G millimeter wave technology, however I do think we have a broadband issue in Nevada City,” Fernandez said. “I would like to shift the conversation from what we don’t want to moving forward with what we do want and taking steps towards that.”
Reich said she would like the current ordinance strengthened due to health concerns.
“I think we are currently being very well exposed to much of the microwave technology through the use of our cell phones — we’re already living in a soup,” Reich said. “I’m profoundly against it until the environmental protections have done their review.”
According to Senum, who has been pushing for changes to the ordinance since before it’s current version was passed, she’s confident the revisions being worked on now will provide enough protections if enacted.
“The ordinance we‘re working on right now is up for some amendment changes,” Senum said. “We have a wonderful working group and I have high faith in the city that ultimately we will make the right decision to protect the constituents to the fullest extent of the law.”
In response to a question about their philosophy for funding city services, Reich advocated for looking at reducing the salary of city staff or freezing salary increases in an effort to reduce expenses, a proposal all other candidates disagreed with.
“I know what I said was not popular but I have seen waste,” Reich said. “I do think there are ways we can cut the fat among the employees.”
The next League of Women Voters of Nevada County candidate forum this Thursday will feature candidates for the District 1 U.S. congressional race, followed by a District 1 state Senate forum Feb. 6.
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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