Shortly after being reelected to the Nevada City Council, former Mayor Reinette Senum resigned from her position in July, leaving a vacant seat.
Now newcomers Amy Cobden, Catalina Llanos and Gary Petersen are on the November election ballot to fill that seat.
The council opted not to appoint a replacement before the election.
The winner will fill the remainder of Senum’s term, which ends July 2024.
Though initially reluctant to be in the public eye, Amy Cobden said she decided to run to in order to get more scientists in positions of power.
“The seat opened up and I felt compelled to sign up, because I feel like now more than ever, we need scientists in all kinds of elected positions, weighing in on issues that concern us that not everyone is necessarily trained to deal with,” Cobden said. “This is a time where so much is going on nationally, and I feel so strongly about so many issues that I would rather step up and take a chance then sit back and do nothing.”
After struggling to find a job in her field, Cobden said her focus would be on the economy, with plans to foster the cannabis industry and hopes to create a thinktank for businesses in the area.
“We’re not necessarily hiring someone to come in and revamp the city or the economy so much as creatively troubleshoot,” she said. “As a voter myself, I’m looking for someone who is going to approach these problems from new angles.”
On housing, she said she supports the city in streamlining the process of building affordable housing, allowing homeowners to create more units, and would like to see more countywide collaboration.
“I learned real quick, what a tremendous, expensive process building in this county and city is… it was really complicated and sort of fraught,” Cobden said. “I do know that the city has made allowances for people to make it easier to build low income rentals and that’s great. I think that’s such a good step in the right direction.”
Cobden said following August’s counter-protests, the council should open dialogue with the city residents and the police, and suggested moves like sensitivity training for the police and the anti-bias task force would be positive next steps.
“A lot of people are really angry and a lot of people in the community have lost a really important piece of trust in local law enforcement,” Cobden said. “Instead of just screaming, yelling, I feel compelled to facilitate communication.”
Catalina Llanos lived in her car for two months when she first moved to the county, and said increasing in-fill and non-traditional housing would be essential to make housing more affordable.
“The concept of in-fill takes the old crumbling buildings and empty lots, like some in the 7 Hills business district, to turn them into something that works for our present time/future.” Llanos said. “We’ve got a few parcels that are vacant, so those can be developed to create affordable housing.”
Llanos said she would increase pandemic friendly community events like Nevada County’s recent car hop, which would help small businesses and improve community wellbeing.
“I thought (the carhop) was incredible. It allowed small businesses and tiny startups to put up their food and have the community access it in a healthy, safe way,” she said. “With the pandemic, there are a lot of businesses hurting due to the indoor/outdoor dilemma, and I think there are ways to make the outdoor thing work in a healthy way… community is the answer, coming out and really supporting one another.”
On the violent August counter-protest, Llanos said she supports the Black Lives Matter movement and was proud of the community for taking a stand.
“It was awful, because counter-protesters clearly showed up to cause a ruckus. They did not use their words wisely and resorted to violence. That should never be done,” Llanos said. “I support the movement, and I’m a part of it. I’ve experienced the effects, and the movement is for people like me to be treated like human beings. If people weren’t protesting, like our ancestors did before us, I would not be able to be a colored woman candidate for council.”
Llanos said despite being relatively new to the community, her experience in fire safety, small business and relationship-building make her ready to serve.
“I have a really big heart and a very strong mind. Those two things are important right now, so that people can restore faith and trust in their leaders and just feel like someone can compel and listen to them without bias.”
Gary Petersen said with decades of experience working with local government as a former Public Works director, he’ll be able to step in to the council and contribute right away.
“Looking around when the vacancy that opened up, what my experience and knowledge tells me is there’s some tough challenges ahead for the city and I bring a lot of experience,” Petersen said. “I’ve been through a lot, doing a lot with cities with 45 years of local government experience, so I ultimately just felt like I couldn’t stand by and not do something to help us get through all this.”
Petersen said he’d center resiliency and preparedness in dealing with his main issues: the economy, water availability, and fire mitigation.
“We need to make sure that we’re organized in the right way,” he said. “It’s not just about fire, it’s about planning ahead to prevent fire. It’s about what happens when a fire comes. It’s about evacuation routes. And then it’s about the resources and the resources for planning. And this is one of the things that the council does is guide a lot of resources.”
Economically, Petersen said bringing fiber to the city will be crucial to attracting and retaining business. On housing, he said the city would have to look into possibly changing zoning codes to encourage higher density building.
“We also need to understand how Airbnb impacts permanent housing stock, and that balance needs to be stuck with because we really do need permanent housing,” Petersen said. “What does higher density housing look like? And do we have zoning codes that could be adjusted or looked at to increase that opportunity? I’m all for protecting quality and the character of our community, but we also have to take these issues head on.”
He said he would take a direct approach in dealing with PG&E.
“I feel pretty strongly about that PG&E is heavy handed. You can look, do your research all throughout the state. They’re butchering trees everywhere.”
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email [email protected] or call 530-477-4229.
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