Mayoral candidates compete in a forum

The three candidates for City Council faced off in Paradise City Council Chambers on Thursday night at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Mayor Steve Crowder with challengers Ron Lassonde and Stuart Lee Bannister discussed issues ranging from how to bring business to paradise to the potential construction of a sewer, and they even touched on the potential of annexing Magalia .

The three candidates didn’t really disagree on many of the topics discussed, except for the potential annexation of Magalia.

Lassonde, who is the chairman of the Paradise Planning Commission and a member of the Citizens’ Oversight Committee for Measure V, told the audience that he spent 21 years in the US Air Force where he became a lieutenant colonel. and said his priorities include completing the Sewer in Paradise, attracting new business and wanting to remove barriers to building homes.

He also said he would like to make downtown Paradise more walkable and make Paradise the destination town instead of a dormitory community for Chico.

Bannister also said he would like to make it easier for people to build in Paradise, especially owner-builders; he also advocated bringing in new business.

“I want to make sure my kids and the kids in Paradise have a town they’re proud to inherit, a town that has jobs waiting for them after they graduate,” he said. “One that has things to do on the weekends instead of going to Chico or Redding or Roseville too.”

Crowder noted that he was elected to office just two days before the campfire hit Paradise and said he spent the entire day helping evacuate the ridge.

Crowder highlighted the progress the city has made since the campfire and how quickly it has grown.

“Before the fire, we might have built 20 new houses a year,” he said. “At the moment, we are doing 500 houses a year. We have a Building Resilience Center dedicated to nothing but rebuilding.

Like both challengers, Crowder expressed support for the sewer and said businesses are already coming to town.

“We had new businesses, such as Tractor Supply, a new grocery store,” Crowder said. “And Big Lots are coming. We are also the fastest growing city in California,”

The first question of the evening was posed to Bannister about bringing new businesses to Paradise and Bannister said he would reach out to new businesses.

“I would just encourage the company personally to come and invite them to visit our town of Paradise,” he said.

In response to this question, Crowder noted that the town has been successful in attracting businesses, including a distillery and brewery, which are on their way. He also said Paradise’s director of economic development is already contacting businesses to gauge their interest.

However, he always noted that the best thing Paradise could do to bring business to town is to have the sewer built.

Lassonde echoed Crowder’s stance on the sewer, saying downtown businesses were already suffering from septic systems before the fire and that would be key to attracting business.

Candidates were also asked about the possibility of bringing an emergency room or hospital back to the Ridge after the fire.

Crowder said he led discussions with Adventist Health regarding the stand-alone emergency room that won state support in 2019 with a bill that would allow Paradise to be the only municipality in California to do so. have a.

He said he and Adventist Health were working on it, but noted that they were still waiting for their settlement from Pacific Gas and Electric. He also said Adventist Health has done its own feasibility study that shows the Ridge can support a hospital, but if not, it’s willing to reach out to other providers to gauge their interest in providing. the hospital.

Lassonde said he believes that as Paradise continues to grow, Adventist Health will see the benefit of having a hospital back in Paradise.

Bannister also said he appreciated Crowder’s work on the issue and agreed that it was important for Paradise to re-establish at least one emergency room on the Ridge,

The subject of Magalia annexation also came up in a question, Lassonde said it was something he hadn’t thought much about, but he said that while there were people who would like to be annexed by Paradise, he said there were still others who liked to live outside the city limits in unincorporated Butte County where there were fewer rules to follow.

“First and foremost they have to come and ask and beyond that there’s a lot more for the city to look at the numbers,” he said. “The city needs to look at the capacity to absorb that. The city needs to consider all the ramifications of bringing something of this size into the city.

And he said it had to be something that benefits Paradise because that’s the board’s number 1 goal and anything that detracts from that would be something that he wouldn’t be in favor of.

Bannister said he supported the idea of ​​annexing Magalia to Heaven.

“I like to go big or go home. I think it could help this town economically,” he said. “I think the people of Magalia would appreciate it. there and let’s do it.

However, Crowder was less enthusiastic about the idea that the city had different priorities at this point and that such a proposal would be a distraction from that.

“I think our focus right now has to be rebuilding Paradise before we branch out and look at something else,” Crowder said. “When paradise is built, maybe that’s something we could look into if they want to. But right now we don’t have the staff. We don’t have the police.

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