Shake-up on the Council

Peter Arellano, center, checks the updated Gilroy City Council

Big victory for Craig Gartman; Peter Arellano and Dion Bracco
set to take over council seats
Gilroy – Incumbent Craig Gartman cruised to a second city council term Tuesday night, leading the five-man pack in a wire-to-wire victory. Planning Commissioner Dion Bracco ran second to win a council seat and voters resurrected the political life of Peter Arellano, a local physician and former councilman who lost a re-election bid two years ago. Arellano claimed the third council slot.

The impressive victory for Gartman, who has been lauded for his attention to detail on issues, came despite a recently strained relationship with Mayor Al Pinheiro, who publicly chastised Gartman and two other council members in October for discussing city policy outside council chambers.

A few days later, the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce passed Gartman over for an endorsement, with one member of the board of directors also raising serious concerns about the mayor’s criticism.

“A lot of people said ‘you got it in the bag,’ but you never know. I was nervous,” Gartman said. “You don’t know what kind of impact not getting the Chamber endorsement has had. If I had gotten the Chamber’s endorsement, how many more votes would I have gotten?”

Bracco, after missing a council berth in 2003 by just 70 votes, said endorsements played a key role in his strong second-place finish. This campaign season, Bracco pulled down endorsements from the Chamber of Commerce, the fire and police unions and Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage.

“It’s name recognition,” Bracco said. “Two years ago, a lot of people told me I didn’t have enough experience. The endorsements made a big difference.”

Arellano, who received endorsements from local environmental and labor groups, camped out at Planning Commissioner Cat Tucker’s house to watch election results trickle in. He credited his campaign strategy for any success he might have as midnight approached and he watched his lead over incumbent Bob Dillon grow wider for the third and final council seat.

“It was a door-to-door, meet the person face-to-face campaign,” said Arellano, who served one four-year term on council between 1999 and 2003. “If the trend continues and I come out the winner, I think that’s what made the difference.”

Arellano’s election throws the council make-up into the realm of unpredictability. Bracco, Dillon and Gartman shared similar views on the need to place sidewalk repair at the top of the city’s priority list, as well as constructing parks before new homes go up. Arellano, while acknowledging those concerns, has not committed to pushing them to the top of his list. His strongest opinions center on environmental and growth issues. For instance, he supports the city’s participation in a regional Open Space Authority whereas Dillon opposed such a move.

Dillon, who finished last, spent the evening anxiously watching his council seat slip away to Arellano on a large projector screen at Happy Dog Pizza, where he and fellow candidates Bracco and Gartman were hosting dozens of supporters.

“As you sit here watching the screen, you wonder what mistakes you made and what you could have done differently,” Dillon said.

His biggest regret? Leaving a 200-word candidate statement off the ballot brochure that goes into the mailbox of the 17,000-plus voters in Gilroy. Dillon omitted the statement in an effort to highlight his commitment to watching the city’s bottom line. In retrospect, he said he should have done as Gartman, who filed a statement but used campaign funds to reimburse the city for the $1,500 in filing fees.

A few dozen people joined Charlie Morales at Tassos Old House restaurant off First Street to await results.

Many political observers believe Morales hurt his chances by taking sides against neighbors of a controversial housing project on Miller Avenue, one of the city’s showcase streets.

“I ran the best campaign I ever ran in my tenure,” said Morales, who focused on education, public safety, and ways to increase tax revenues while other candidates held fast to anti-tax positions.

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