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Daily Republic Election Questions- Alma Hernandez

 

Driving Question:

While mayors only have one vote in City Council decisions, it is a position of leadership. Name three critical issues facing the city and state how you would influence public policy and council collaboration on these issues.

 

Responses:

 

Cleanliness and Beautification

Critical Issue:

One of the top priorities I have heard from residents is the need to clean and beautify our city. Having such a windy city, we have an issue with trash being blown from overflowing trash bins, littering, and illegal dumping. We also have had issues with overgrown weeds, maintenance of public spaces, illegal encampments, neglected empty business spaces, and lack of code enforcement to enforce and regulate city and building ordinances.

 

Influence Policy:

As the issues that are driving the need for cleanliness and beautification are multifaceted, so is the need for different policies to mitigate these issues. 

  • Establishing a Citywide Beautification Committee that empowers the voices of our residents to help influence the funding priorities of the city in regards to cleanliness and beautification projects. I have engaged with members who live in different parts of our city and depending on which area of Suisun City they live, their view on what needs to be cleaned and improved varies. City officials and staff need direct input from our residents to guide these priorities and ensure we fund and implement solutions to address the diverse needs. 

    • Council Collaboration: I would ask that councilmembers help shape this policy by providing input on how the committee is formed, how we encourage participation from residents who live in different parts of the community, and how we fund and support projects that come out of this committee.

 

  • Establishing a Code Compliance Program that educates members of our community regarding what code enforcement is, the laws, policies, and ordinances that need to be upheld, and also enforces these laws when infractions are being made. I believe that through education and enforcement and in partnership with residents, neighborhood associations, public service agencies, and city departments, we can improve the quality of living and working conditions in Suisun City.

    • Council Collaboration: I would ask that councilmembers help shape this policy by providing input on how this program is implemented in the city and generate ideas on community partners who can help support the educational components of this program.

 

  • Establishing a Citywide Maintenance Review to create greater transparency of the challenges in being able to maintain the city and identifying solutions and funding priorities. For example, in response to overgrown weeds, this year we funded the purchase of two industrial mowers (currently on back order) to expedite and facilitate the ability of our Public Works to complete weed abatement and maintenance throughout the city, saving us equipment rentals costs over time and giving us greater ability to mow on a schedule that works better for the city. We need to implement this type of review beyond a singular issue and address the maintenance needs citywide. This will give us greater perspective on the various needs, help us strategize, seek or identify funding (grants, restricted funds, or general funds), identify any inefficiencies and areas of improvement, and start increasing our capacity over time even when challenged by limited funding.

    • Council Collaboration: I would ask that councilmembers familiarize themselves with our Public Works Department and learn about the current limitations and challenges we face. I would ask councilmembers to provide input on how we shape this policy and help establish the metrics in how we measure success. 


 

Homelessness

Critical Issue: 

Homelessness is a complex and multifaceted issue. Suisun City residents have identified this as a priority and concern. The concerns that I have received include a concern for the individuals who are unsheltered and in need of assistance, a concern for personal safety, a concern regarding the illegal encampments and the trash this generates, and a fear of fires that could be started in a homeless encampment. 

 

Influence Policy:

This issue requires resources beyond those that Suisun City can navigate alone. With limited funding, staffing, and resources, we find ourselves challenged by our own limitations. We must continue to work towards increasing revenues so that we can fund the resources needed. We must also continue to work with and advocate for our needs in the recently established Regional Homelessness Committee, which is one step forward in advocating for resources and regional strategies to address this issue. Below are other areas I believe would benefit our community.

  • Establishing a Homeless Prevention Program that supports, in conjunction with county and state service providers, a way in which Suisun City residents, or their family members, can navigate the available services and programs that can help mitigate their situation prior to becoming homeless. As an example, this may include an easily accessible page on our website that guides community members through how they can attain rental assistance, domestic violence assistance, substance abuse assistance, mental health assistance, and more. The information should be accessible in multiple languages and lead to a service provider. This may include our Suisun City Housing Authority, Solano County Services, state programs and community liaisons. 

    • Council Collaboration: I would ask that councilmembers provide input on how this policy or program can be established in our city and additional methods to connecting people to services. I would ask that they help identify local community groups and non-profits who could help facilitate access of that information to members of our community in need (this may include our Suisun City Family Resource Center, local faith based organizations, and more).

 

  • Strengthen our Homeless Intervention. Due to limited resources, Suisun City Police, Fire, and Public Works departments coordinate one day a month to clean up homeless encampments. They provide the legal noticing required, coordinate with county mental and health service providers, they schedule the cleanup resources needed, and rotate each month the location they service. Although these efforts are much needed and help provide some mitigation, it simply is not enough. In addition, due to limited funding, Suisun City currently funds only two beds at our contracted homeless shelter. We need to seek additional funding to dedicate cleanup services on a more frequent basis, directly fund a service provider who can work with those who are chronically homeless in Suisun City to support their transition into transitional housing with wrap-around services and long-term housing, and increase the number of shelter beds accessible to unsheltered individuals in Suisun City.

    • Council Collaboration: I would seek and invite input from councilmembers on how we identify funding (grants, restricted funds,or  general funds) to strengthen our homeless intervention services. I would invite councilmembers to bring creative thoughts, solutions, and perspectives in helping think through how we support our staff and collaboration with other stakeholders or agencies who can help in intervention efforts.

 

  • Increase our Advocacy Efforts. Although Suisun City is part of the Regional Homelessness Committee, we still need to identify the areas specific to our city in which additional targeted advocacy is needed. This may include advocating for access to funding, services, and areas of work that we can directly advocate to our county, state, and federal officials. We have to actively engage in reviewing the federal and state policies that will affect us locally and identify how they may impact us. 

    • Council Collaboration: I would seek to ask councilmembers to consider proposing that legislative updates be part of the information we receive on a regular basis and that we direct staff to address how, if, or when advocacy efforts are needed.

 

Greater Transparency in City Governance and Community Input

 

Critical Issue:

A concern I have received from residents is a lack of information from our city regarding the status of projects that are taking place, a desire to have financial data regarding city spending more easily accessible, easier accessibility to city services, and more opportunities to provide direct feedback on issues, concerns, or areas to improve on. 



 

Influence Policy:

Our community wants to be informed about the status of their concerns on a regular basis, have access to what to the city is doing be more accessible, and more opportunities to engage and provide feedback and input on the direction of our city.

  • Implementing a Community Engagement Strategy. At this time, Suisun City provides opportunities for residents to participate in community surveys, promotes opportunities to engage with our collaborators and partners who work with us directly, and hosts an annual State of The City that provides residents with opportunities to learn about what the city is doing and provide input (in addition to our regular council meetings). By implementing a Community Engagment Strategy, we can be more intentional about meeting people where they are and addressing community concerns. This can mean hosting  community workshops around specific topics that residents have concerns about, providing different methods residents can stay informed about projects in our city and their status, and rolling out engagement tools in which they can more easily report issues, concerns, and provide feedback.

    • Council Collaboration: I would ask councilmembers to provide their ideas of how we can engage with residents more regularly and ask them to help provide direction to staff on how we can implement new strategies.

 

  • Implement an Annual Customer Service Review. I believe we have wonderful city staff who do their best under challenging circumstances to support the needs of our residents. It is important, however, to continue to improve how our residents, small businesses, and those who work with our city experience the customer service they receive. This will help us prioritize areas in which we can improve and potentially designate funding where it is needed to do so (i.e. software improvements, process improvements, etc.)

    • Council Collaboration: I would ask that councilemembers help shape what an Annual Customer Service Review should consist of,  measure, and the process we would implement to make decisions on how we improve.

 

  • Improve how we communicate and outreach to community members about decisions or issues of great concern to the public. As we transition to micro-transit, as we engage with the Regional Homelessness Committee, and as we make decisions on how we mitigate for sea level rise or make decisions on the 30 Acre Site (30 acres of land off of Highway 12 to be developed), inform and educate residents about Measure S (a 1% general sales tax that can be used to fund public safety, roads, maintenance, etc.)  that we need to make it easier for members of our community to understand the work taking place, have opportunities to address concerns, and have opportunities for input. There is a need to identify how Suisun City can implement a policy that ensures residents are maintained aware of the decisions being made that affect them.

    • Council Collaboration: I would invite councilemmbers to help design and provide direction on how to improve the way in which we keep our residents informed. This may result in seeking or programming funding to reach these goals or seek community partners and collaborators to support.