Robin Barraza: 2021 candidate for Batavia City Council, Ward 7

  • Robin Barraza

    Robin Barraza

 
Updated 3/15/2021 9:18 PM

Robin Barraza and Sarah Vogelsinger are running for one, 4-year seat in Ward 7 on the Batavia City Council.

Bio

 

City: Batavia

Occupation: School District Administrator, small business owner

Employer: Elgin Area School District U-46

Civic involvement: Attend city council meetings, career in public service

Q&A

Q. How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state and federal authorities?

A. I believe that my role as a city alderman is to give a voice to constituents in all situations; representing constituents is not inconsistent with following state and federal guidelines and laws. During a pandemic, deferring to state and federal authorities allows for a more consistent and coordinated response, which is most effective in preventing COVID related illnesses and deaths, and will get us back to normal as quickly as possible. I understand that people are exhausted from quarantining, wearing masks, and not seeing friends and loved ones for almost a year, but it is important to follow guidelines put forth by the CDC, state and county health departments, and the state and federal governments in order to prevent the further spread of the COVID virus.

Q. Did your town continue to adequately serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to providing services. If not, please cite a specific example ofwhat could have been done better.

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A. Yes, I believe the City of Batavia adequately served its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic. They quickly moved to conducting public meetings online, maintaining public access. There was little to no disruption of regularly provided city services, and the city consistently communicated information and updates on changes from the state government and the health departments on COVID response guidelines, as well as testing and vaccination information. The city also worked with local organizations to communicate information for those in need of food and clothing; additionally, they worked with local organizations to help promote and support local restaurants and businesses as they struggled through the restrictions placed on their operations.

Q. In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crises?

A. As a city government, it is important to be prepared for future public health crises. Working with the health departments, nearby municipalities, and other governmental agencies to develop a clear process for sharing information and resources, as well as coordinating acquisition and distribution of needed resources, is an important part of a crisis response plan. Identifying roles and responsibilities of each member of city government prior to a health crisis helps facilitate a timely, coherent, and effective response if and when a crisis occurs. Having a plan and sharing it with the public assures constituents that their local government is prepared to help them access needed information, resources and support during a public health crisis.

Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?

A. Local government should always strive to be as fiscally responsible and transparent as possible. Regular evaluation and audits of budgetary expenses is part of responsible stewardship of public funds. Tax cuts can result in a reduction or elimination of services, so elected officials must be aware of the services and amenities their constituents value and want, and continue or cut services accordingly. It is also the responsibility of local government to create favorable conditions for business growth and development, with the goal of developing a broad tax base. Increasing revenue reduces the need to cut services or increase taxes/fees to maintain services. The current City Council has made progress toward increasing the tax base through their support of small business development, most notably through the successful implementation of the Boardwalk Shops last summer, but there is still much potential for growth in this area.

Q. What do you see as the most important infrastructure project you must address? Why and how should it be paid for? Conversely, during these uncertain economic times, what infrastructure project can be put on the back burner?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A. The most important infrastructure project is the oversight of the One Washington Place development. A complex, multiyear development project will require active involvement from the city to be able to quickly and satisfactorily address any unexpected issues that arise, as well as to maintain communication with constituents on the progress of each phase of development. This development will have an impact on the entire city, especially the downtown area, so it is critical that the city government monitor and remain involved and informed throughout the entire process. Paying for this project has been addressed (and debated at length over the past few years) through the public/private partnership between the city and the developer, and through the most recent creation and approval of a new TIF district.

An infrastructure project that should be considered at a future date would be the second bridge across the river. This project has come up several times over the years in discussions about traffic issues, and is listed as a transportation goal on the city's 2019-2023 Strategic Plan. The One Washington Place development will likely create additional traffic issues on Wilson Street, so while a second bridge is a priority, it could wait until more is known about the effects of the downtown development on traffic flow.

Q. Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board/council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?

A. I agree with the stance that has been taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in Batavia. After the referendum vote last November, in which a significant majority of voters approved of recreational marijuana sales in Batavia, the City Council acted to support the will of the voters. The City Council has been thoughtful and considerate of where dispensaries may be located, by recently passing an ordinance establishing zoning restrictions and setback requirements. By allowing dispensaries to operate in Batavia, the City Council has created an opportunity for tax revenue that did not previously exist and that other municipalities in the area have benefitted from.

Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?

A. Through discussions with Batavia residents and after reading through the National Community Survey Results from 2020, it is clear that developing the downtown area is a priority for many. Residents want a downtown area that is vibrant, attractive and accessible. Most commonly referenced is the desire for more shops, restaurants and activities, so that people have more options for recreation in their own town, rather than having to travel to neighboring towns. One of the issues that comes up frequently in conversations and was shared on the survey is the unattractive facades of some of the buildings downtown, specifically the privately owned strip malls. This past December, the Streetscape Committee on the City Council shared some interesting ideas around working with local business and commercial property owners to support micro development projects (paint, landscaping) that are relatively inexpensive but contribute to the overall visual cohesiveness and attractiveness of the downtown area. While I can't claim it as my idea, it's one that I haven't heard people talking about outside of this meeting, and I strongly support developing ideas for creating positive change without incurring taxpayer expense.

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