Four vie for Woodland City Council seats

There’s the lifelong Woodland resident and the community advocate, along with a longtime business owner who has dedicated years as a civic volunteer and the experienced hand on the City Council.

All are vying for Woodland City Council at a crucial time for the Yolo County city. The new council will work to update its general plan; mull growth both north and south of the city; try to attract more businesses to its historic downtown; and shepherd the construction of the Surface Water Project, Woodland’s multimillion-dollar joint venture with nearby Davis to supply Sacramento River water to the two cities.

Angel Barajas, a Woodland Joint Unified School District trustee; advocate and community journalist Bobby Harris; longtime business owner Steve Harris; and City Councilman Bill Marble are facing off for the two council seats next Tuesday. Woodland Mayor Marlin “Skip” Davies is not seeking re-election.

Barajas, at 32, is the youngest candidate in the race. He has served as a Woodland schools trustee since 2010 and sits on the boards of the Yolo County Fair and the Woodland Community College Foundation. He is also a past parks and recreation commissioner.

“I was born and raised in Woodland and I’m invested in the community,” Barajas said. He has said public safety staffing and funding will be his top priority, if elected, and says he will work to revitalize the city’s historic downtown. The schools trustee also supports the city’s Measure J, a quarter-cent sales tax hike to help fund youth and senior services and extend library hours.

Barajas wants to see the completion of the residential Spring Lake Development Area in the southeast part of the city. But he says any development in Woodland should be part of a “balanced-growth approach” that is supported by water, sewer and other infrastructure and that protects the city’s prime agricultural land.

Community advocate Bobby Harris, who ran for City Council in 2008, 2010 and 2012, has been a dogged watcher of Woodland political and development issues through his Yolo Sun blog. He returns to the fray as the race’s stated progressive voice for the city’s underclass.

“Times are changing much faster than a politically one-legged council can keep up with,” Harris, 62, said in remarks last week on Woodland public access station Wave TV. “Diversity is needed – class-based diversity – on the City Council. ... Poor people can help get the job of justice done, for they best understand it.”

Harris’ broad platform has some familiar themes – creating a more pedestrian-friendly downtown that can lure customers to its shops, businesses and restaurants; and expanding the city’s library. He also wants to attract more agribusiness to Woodland and says the city must work with developers to make housing more affordable and accessible to more Woodland residents.

Next week’s election marks athletic club owner Steve Harris’ first bid for public office. A longtime fixture in Elks, Kiwanis and the Woodland Chamber of Commerce, he also sits on the board of Yolo Employment Services, which helps provide jobs for the developmentally disabled.

“I’ve been very involved in the city,” Steve Harris said, suggesting his work with the business community and clubs has given him “a pretty good feel for the city.”

Harris, 63, has made economic development and the city’s business environment the centerpiece of his campaign and said his business and community experience are well suited to City Hall.

“We have a need for a pro-business environment. We need to put people to work,” Steve Harris said of the city, which has a jobless rate just below 10 percent. “Bottom line, you can’t just tax people, you have to put them to work.”

Woodland City Councilman Bill Marble is emphasizing his experience on the council, where he has served since 2006. A family dentist by trade, he has chaired the joint powers agency overseeing the Surface Water Project; served on the committee that helped to draw the city’s first-ever council district maps; and is working on the city’s 2035 general plan update. The first district-based elections are set for 2016.

“We have a very young council,” Marble said. “It’s critical to have experience on council to guide through that process.”

He said the city’s work with federal flood control authorities to move hundreds of homes and land out of floodplain designation and to find solutions to flooding along Cache Creek will encourage firms to do business in Woodland.

“The flood solution is critical to creating jobs,” he said. “It will help not only with job creation, but quality businesses will want to come here.”

Recently, Woodland leaders agreed to accept more than $31 million in low-interest infrastructure loans from a state revolving fund for the city’s portion of the Surface Water Project. Another $111.3 million was part of a funding agreement between the state and the joint Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency for the project.

The project is “a good reason to keep some experience on the council for the next four years,” Marble said.