2018 Questionnaire - Paloma Saucedo

Name: Paloma Saucedo
Phone:  540-560-3750
Email: friendsofpaloma@gmail.com

Office sought:  City Council of Harrisonburg Virginia

1. Why are you seeking election/re-election; and if successful, what are your three primary goals and how do you propose to address them?

My motivation to run for City Council is based on my experience living, working and organizing across race, class, gender, sexual orientation and cultural lines. I also believe that we need more women and independent voices in positions of power and decision making. In this case, Harrisonburg City Council has been dominated by male voices for too long and that has led to limited perspectives in the manner in which the City makes important economic and political decisions. 

The main goal of my campaign, and when elected, is to advocate for a higher quality of life for every person living in Harrisonburg. This means several things, as noted in my political platform, but let me highlight some: 

First, I will be a fearless advocate for the idea that city and private development plans take into serious consideration, the needs of all neighbourhoods. It is common here that some neighborhoods benefit from community projects that improve the quality of life of homeowners, while other neighbourhoods are left behind and almost neglected. My vision is that we, the residents of this city, are able to monitor and advocate for integral concepts of development that include us all. My guiding question as a council member will be “into which areas of the city is money being invested, and how can we do better?” 

Second, advocating for a better quality of life for all also means that it is time to reevaluate unnecessary and expensive projects that the city has embarked on. The taxes we pay should never go toward unnecessary projects. Two examples of these are funds designated for jail expansion back in 2015, and the golf course almost 10 years ago, that the city is still paying for! Additionally, the city has lost opportunities to attract significant outside funding (private and public) by neglecting serious grant opportunities and partnerships. In this regard, government accountability, would be another major aspect I’d highlight. 

And last but certainly not least,  Innovation! I envision a Harrisonburg that produces sustainable and renewable energy. If Harrisonburg is going to grow and remain sustainable, we need to find ways to produce well-paying jobs, and this will come from large investments in the solar and wind industry. Other industries currently sustaining our local economy remain critically important, but they have to be complemented by forward looking areas of commerce that simultaneously present lucrative and sustainable industries of growth for the long-term. This approach requires major respect for the environment, along with water and food sources. In this regard, my approach for a thriving future for Harrisonburg looks through the lenses of environmental sustainability and climate justice for our current and future forms of economic and social growth. 

2. The health of our area economy is always a concern to REALTORS®. What will you do to advocate for economic development and small businesses?

Having a healthy economy with moderate and sustainable growth is a concern for every resident  and organization (private or public) in Harrisonburg. It is our duty to make the city function efficiently, as well as to envision a future with opportunities for all, that closes the existing gaps. 

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy because they make life possible. Although we as a city depend a great deal on large companies and institutions such as James Madison University, Sentara RMH, the retail sector, and the agricultural sector, it is small businesses that make our day-to-day lives enjoyable. The construction crew, the restaurant, the mechanic, the car dealer, the food supplier, to mention a few. My vision for fostering economic development will be based on a diversity and inclusion approach which will be reflected, for instance, in how the local chamber of commerce engages businesses of different cultural and language backgrounds. I believe that this city and our leadership has done a fairly good job in engaging and developing good relationships with existing small businesses, but the future growth of Harrisonburg will depend on how much we dare to explore new ground. A healthy economic development will depend on how welcoming our city (private and public sectors) really is, and is able to work and create opportunities in a multicultural setting.

As council person, I will also advocate for better salaries and better health conditions for long term workers, individuals with disabilities, and minority groups.We need to continue incentivizing our economy by monitoring and creating new sources of long term employment.


3. Affordable housing is a major concern for many area families. What do you support to help ease the housing crunch for local workforce families, and are there any steps that government can take to alleviate homelessness?

One of the items of my platform is to promote dignified and energy efficient housing for every person. 

First, the limitation of houses for local workforce families can and should be eased by increasing the number of home ownership. In Harrisonburg, only 37% of the people own a home, this means that it is important to understand the driving factors preventing families from acquiring a home. In my understanding, we should address and evaluate several things: a) Access to credit. b) Employment. c) Housing supply, d) Land availability, e) Home and Development costs.     

Second, I see housing as a right, but I also understand that there are many factors causing homelessness. Among them, affordable housing, mental health, employment, and medical bankruptcy. In my vision, this community can not only alleviate homelessness, it can actually eradicate it by taking (but not limiting to) the following steps:

Monitoring and evaluating the implementation of  the Ten Year Plan Goals established by the Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority. I find great value in the city’s effort to think long-term and in many of the points laid out in this plan. It might required the City to increase the capacity of this agency to operate weather it is with additional staff, data collection, and/or outreach.   

Strengthening partnerships with social services and health care providers. 

Enforce housing code, monitoring Tenant-Renter relationships and bias, and creating incentives and disincentives to guarantee permanent housing for individuals with severe needs. 

Establish prevention strategies that help identify groups and population at risk of homelessness.  

4. Fair Housing programs are critical to a community because they provide an opportunity to those that face resistance to residency with an opportunity to secure a home. How can we work together to incorporate fair housing programs into the area?

One of the ways we can work together is by forming strong coalitions with measurable goals. This of course, is easier said than done, but it will require an intentional effort to make decisions based on our community assessments. if stakeholders and resources are identified, and we learn from what has worked in other cities or jurisdictions in the country, we can adapt our own models of development and make a big difference. Eradicating or alleviating homelessness would require steps in different directions. In my understanding, some of them are: a) Seeking federal funding  for expanding the capacity of public or private housing development programs, especially aimed at creating affordable housing. b) Prevent or eliminate discriminatory housing practices. c) Educate the public on fair housing practices and laws. 

5. As an Association representing 400 REALTOR® and affiliate members who live and work in the community, what role do you see HRAR playing in housing issue discussions and how can the Association work with you to improve the community?

HRAR plays a key role and needs to be part of any city coalition building efforts to     improve our community. A better quality of life depends on the quality of our homes in a     great manner, and it is necessary to count on the expertise and insight of such a strong     network. HRAR, if possible,  could help the city in monitoring and analyzing information,     conducting resource and needs assessment, and supporting local initiatives like the rapid response housing strategies to prevent homelessness or re-housing households.     This network already offers tremendous insight and services to our community by     helping us all acquire our homes and therefore, has first hand experience on the root     causes of our housing problems. 


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