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Pandemic concerns fueling Carmel-by-the-Sea mayor race

CARMEL MAYOR VOGFX
Carmel-by-the-Sea mayor's race pits incumbent Dave Potter against Judy Refuerzo

CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA, Calif. (KION-TV) -- Mayor Dave Potter currently holds the city's top seat on the council but on election day he could be dethroned by an up-and-comer.

Judy Refuerzo is a semi-conductor industry employee-turned yoga instructor seeking that mayoral seat on the council.

Refuerzo says she hopes to buck the trend of an "all business-oriented" council.

She says this is important because many residents have been overlooked during the pandemic.

"When Monterey County told us in April to wear masks, we didn't enforce that in Carmel-by-the-Sea," says Refuerzo. "We didn't do so until August so our residents were afraid to go shop because they didn't want to be around tourists who weren't wearing masks while we weren't enforcing it."

Mayor Potter has had the unfortunate responsibility of navigating the city through the pandemic.

He's not the only mayor to be doing so in the county, of course. He's also not the only mayor whose had to mull over budget cuts for the city.

76% of the Carmel-by-the-Sea budget comes from sales, property and transient occupancy tax -- all of which are down this year due to the pandemic.

Mayor Potter says unlike last year, there's no balanced budget to carry over from the previous year to help alleviate the situation.

"We're going to have a hard time recovering and maintaining critical services," says Potter. "We don't want to compromise public safety at all. We won't. But we want to make sure we can keep our balanced budget."

Potter says the only way to get through this pandemic is with experienced leadership. Which he says he can provide.

Potter did refer to Refuerzo as having good intentions under that same breath. Refuerzo, meanwhile, believes budget cuts have led to the city not having enough checks and balances.

She hopes to create a fire mitigation program, an idea stemming from the recent Carmel Fire, plus draw focus to public safety.

"I want to be for the residents. I have no other ties to businesses and I think I can be more fair and transparent," says Refuerzo.

Potter believes balancing working with community members and businesses can help navigate the city through its financial woes.

"I think we can work together with the community and with the residents on how we will prosper and succeed and how we'll keep Carmel-by-the-Sea to be the wonderful place that it is," says Potter.

Elections / Local Politics / Monterey County / News / Politics
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Victor Guzman

Victor Guzman is the managing editor at KION News Channel 5/46.

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