COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of day-to-day life.
Those changes will no doubt create significant economic challenges at the local, state, and federal level in the upcoming year.
In Tulare, nearly every city council candidate identified the economic effects of COVID-19 as the most important issue the city will face in 2021. Along with the economy, here are a few other key issues candidates addressed.
Councilmembers Greg Nunley and Carlton Jones didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Economic impacts of COVID-19
Mayor Jose Sigala said one of the top issues for the city is balancing the budget. This year will be even more challenging given the statewide shutdown.
District 5 candidate Courtney Oliver said if elected she will aim to support small business “by way of resources and sustainability.”
Oliver’s opponent Mario Flores is also running on the platform of providing support for small businesses. He is looking to find a balance between keeping business open and residents safe during the pandemic.
“How do we support local businesses during COVID,” he said.
Tulare’s chronically unsheltered homeless population remains a concern for the city.
In the category of largely urban, Tulare County is ranked No. 1 in the nation with the highest percentage of chronically homeless people who are unsheltered — 286 or 96%, according to the 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress.
Sigala formed a homeless task force, on which councilwoman Terry Sayre is a member. The mayor is running on the promise to “continue to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods and to continue to press for our fair share of resources.”
Sigala’s opponent Clara Bernardo also pointed toward homelessness as a key issue.
“Our biggest issue is definitely the homeless problem that we cannot find a resolution to,” she said. “It won’t be easy unless we can all come together and utilize all the resources afforded to us by our local government, state government, and hopefully federal.”
She said there is no “one-size-fits-all” for Tulare’s homeless issue.
“We owe it to our local businesses and our families, especially the kids, to help bring some kind of resolve to this issue,” she said.
District 5 candidate Patrick Isherwood listed homelessness as a top issue for the city.
“Constructively address the homeless issue as it relates to available resources for those in need and making sure our laws are enforced,” he said.
In August, Tulare City Council voted to allocate $500,000 in state grant funding to the Lighthouse Rescue Mission to develop a temporary, 136-bed emergency homeless shelter in the city.
However, some believe more concrete action is needed.
“So far, all that has been done is to keep kicking the can down the road,” District 3 candidate Steve Harrell said.
Transparency and communication
Tulare City Council has struggled to tackle key issues due to discord among its members. Those running against incumbents in all three districts pointed toward a lack of transparency and communication within the current council makeup.
Harrell and Isherwood (District 3 and District 5, respectively) joined forces and promise both districts that they will work together to address the city’s needs.
“If Patrick and I are elected, the two of us together will provide a cohesive relationship with the three other council members,” Harrell said. “The council can start addressing the needs of the people of Tulare and not having to deal with all the drama and subversive conduct of two current council members.”
District 5 candidate Grady Dodson also addressed a need for transparency and improved communication.
“I would like to bring integrity, re-establish trust between the city council and residents of Tulare through open communication and transparency,” Dodson said.
Bernardo said she will bring transparency to the council, especially for those who live on the westside.
“I want to be transparent and informative for the residents of the west side and in general because we need a representative that is approachable for all citizens not just the supposed affluent,” she said. “I want to be able to bring unity not only to the council but to the community as a whole.”
Sheyanne Romero covers Tulare County public safety, local government and business for the Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register newspapers. Follow her on Twitter @sheyanne_VTD. Get alerts and keep up on all things Tulare County for as little as $1 a month. Subscribe today.