Race wide open after mayor’s bow

– Depending on whom you ask, Mayor Tom Springer’s decision not
to run for re-election is either a sincere announcement from a
battle weary politician or a strategic ploy to sway the City
Council race.
GILROY – Depending on whom you ask, Mayor Tom Springer’s decision not to run for re-election is either a sincere announcement from a battle weary politician or a strategic ploy to sway the City Council race.

Springer announced Friday he would not seek re-election for mayor and had no plans to pursue a political career in the future. Since then, the news has been taken at face value by some, but scrutinized by others who anticipate Councilman Peter Arellano to make a mayoral bid against the only current candidate Councilman Al Pinheiro.

A Pinheiro-Arellano race would pit two longtime Gilroyans who of late have found themselves casting opposite votes on more than one major political issue.

Pinheiro supported the controversial annexation of Day Road, a financial incentive package to help lure commercial developers and a proposed ban on placing medical clinics in historic downtown. Arellano, who recently helped launch a grassroots group called Gilroy First!, opposed all of these.

Springer stopped short of endorsing Arellano during an interview Monday, but said he hopes the medical doctor casts himself into the mayoral race.

“Peter and I have opposing philosophical and political views so I don’t know if I can endorse him, but I have great respect for Peter,” Springer said. “He’s a good candidate to bring into the mix.”

Arellano confirmed that he will run in the November 2003 election, but has yet to decide if he will vie for mayor or the regular City Council seat he currently holds. He said he will announce his intentions after he meets with his re-election committee this weekend.

“It was nice of the mayor to say those words,” Arellano said. “But I haven’t even considered whether I’ll run for mayor. I’ll be prepared to make an announcement next week.”

Arellano has until Aug. 8 to file for the City Council election and until Aug. 13 to file a mayoral candidacy. If he runs for mayor, Arellano effectively gives up his seat on Council.

Springer’s announcement, which was made in the midst of Garlic Festival weekend, threw yet another question mark into the future make-up of the Gilroy City Council.

Councilman Charlie Morales has been under pressure to resign his seat in light of his June 29 drunken driving arrest, when his blood alcohol tested at .23 – nearly three times the legal limit. Morales’ trial begins in September. He faces up to a year in jail for what is his second DUI in four years. His seat expires in 2005.

Other City Council candidates – Incumbent Roland Velasco, Planning Commissioner Paul Correa and Planning Commission Chair Russ Valiquette – said Monday they had no desire to be mayor, at least over the next four years. The only other candidate, Shawn Weymouth, could not be reached before deadline.

If no one challenges Pinheiro, City Council must vote by Aug. 21 to appoint him as mayor. He would take over Gilroy’s top political seat in November when Springer’s seat expires. If City Council makes no such decision, Pinheiro’s will be the lone name on the mayoral ballot.

“I’m waiting for the filing date deadline to pass before I believe it,” former City Councilwoman Connie Rogers said regarding Springer’s decision not to run for mayor. “He could just be testing the waters to see how much political support he has.”

Rogers, who lost a re-election bid six years ago, said she has been asked by people if she is considering another Council bid. She confirmed Monday she will not be running.

“One politician per family is enough,” quipped Rogers, whose husband Jim is president of the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education.

Springer remains adamant his decision is final. The eight-year Council veteran said Monday he will not seek any role in politics, including sitting on committees or other panels that advise City Council.

“I kind of want nothing to do with it,” Springer said. “Whatever I might say or suggest could always be looked at as second guessing and that wouldn’t be fair to anyone.”

Springer received criticism in recent months for second guessing Gilroy Unified School District’s process to select a site for a second comprehensive high school. Springer advocated for a site selection process that would use more city resources and expertise to choose the best spot for a new high school.

When the Day Road property was annexed into Gilroy boundaries last week without reviewing the environmental impacts from a potential high school site, Springer called Council’s 4-2 decision a breach of ethics and claimed it was not the first such breach in recent weeks.

When a special committee recommended a property for the city’s arts and cultural center, some members, according to Springer, had a conflict of interest because they live near the site and potentially will benefit from increased property values.

Some read Springer’s charges as sour grapes from a man whose mission to serve the public sometimes gets blurred by hubris.

“I think the mayor needs to learn how to lose,” Councilman Bob Dillon said. “He’s probably just tired. This is his eighth year on the Council. That happens.”

Springer Monday acknowledged a certain level of fatigue has set in, but rejects the notion he based his decisions to enter and leave politics on ego.

“Those who really know me will tell you I’m not in this for ego,” Springer said. “When I first ran for mayor I was reluctant to run.

“I don’t care about legacy. If I’m not remembered that won’t bother me, I don’t even want an obituary written about me in the newspaper. I do hope though that I’ve always made the right decision in issues big and small.”