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This is the third in a series of interviews of Napa City Council candidates for the Nov. 6 election.

Ricky Hurtado hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the Napa City Council: that of a young Latino and vineyard worker’s son whose experiences mirror those of many others in his hometown.

At 27, Hurtado is the youngest of six candidates vying for two council seats in the Nov. 6 election. As a community engagement manager at the Cope Family Center, he helps guide a nonprofit that provides family support services in Napa County.

But it would be as a council member that the lifelong Napa resident says he can provide a voice to a community whose needs still can be overlooked despite its size and importance.

“I want to be a council member who represents all voices in the community, and for the City Council to reflect the diversity of the community,” he said last week in an interview. “With 40 percent of our people being Latino, I want to make sure everyone has a voice. I can bring people of all backgrounds to the table. Being Latino I think it’s an opportunity to make sure we’re all represented, whether on school boards or local, state or national stages.”

Hurtado is one of five challengers on the Napa ballot along with incumbent Council member Peter Mott, who was elected in 2006 and is seeking a fourth term. At least one challenger is assured of a council seat because Jim Krider, whom the council appointed in 2017 to complete the term of the retired Juliana Inman, declined to run.

Even as wineries, restaurants and luxury hotels increasingly define Napa’s image to outsiders, Hurtado described himself as a link to Napa’s working-class community – born of a farmworker father and a housekeeper mother, who lived in affordable housing while saving money to buy their own home.

“I have experienced firsthand the daily struggles that many in our community are faced with,” he wrote to the Register, describing his experiences working with his father in the starting at age 14.

However, Hurtado pointed to those working such jobs – as well as hospitality workers, seniors and others – as increasingly pressured by soaring rents and median home prices well north of $600,000, a daunting hurdle for the one-third of families earning $50,000 a year or less.

To start attacking the local housing shortage, Hurtado advocated teamwork between the city and Napa County to find as much surplus land as possible for residential construction – including the city’s corporation yard on Jackson Street and the county’s former Health and Human Services campus on Old Sonoma Road. He also declared his support for Measure F, the city ballot initiative that would raise the hotel room tax from 12 to 13 percent and steer the surplus into affordable housing construction. (Similar measures are in the ballot in the Napa Valley’s four other cities, along with another initiative for the unincorporated county.)

Putting homes within easier reach of the majority of Napa workers is crucial to preserving a balance between residents and tourists, according to Hurtado.

“We have families being priced out of Napa and moving to Suisun and Fairfield, which creates more traffic,” he said. “Across the Bay Area, housing affordability is one of the biggest issues that municipalities haven’t addressed.”

Hurtado was more cautious on the topic of Napa’s potential new headquarters – a four-story civic center on downtown First Street that would centralize city departments and also house the police department. Estimated to cost $120 million, including temporary office space and other expenses, the new city hall is intended to put departments currently spread over seven sites in one place, while freeing up the current City Hall block on Second Street for housing, retail and hotel development.

Opponents, however, have decried the cost and complexity of the project and sought to suspend planning until Napa officials can rethink its scale or even location. While accepting the need for more modern quarters for city government, Hurtado called for more public participation in deciding what the civic center should be – through public forums and greater outreach to city employees.

“We haven’t really connected with people in the community; when I go door to door, people don’t know what the civic center is,” he said. “We need to make sure we have more public meetings like Long Beach, (which) had over 100 meetings for their civic center. … I would like the city to communicate to all employees and hear what they would like to see for this civic center, not just the top administrators.”

On the topic of marijuana sales, Hurtado seeks a measured pace, seeking to observe how medically licensed dispensaries perform before considering whether Napa should also open the way to selling recreational cannabis products. He also pledged to oppose any zoning that would bring dispensaries into residential areas or closer to schools, from which state law requires cannabis sellers to keep at least a 600-foot distance.

If selected for the City Council, Hurtado said, he would keep his attention firmly on helping Napa remain as much of a community as possible, even as its economy changes.

“Getting to see Napa growing up, I got to experience people taking care of one another,” he said. “Going door to door now, I see the deep roots of taking care of one another, not just in times of need but every regular day. It’s that part of Napa I’m afraid we can lose by pricing our residents out.”

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.