Q&A with Gilroy City Council candidate Art Barron


Before interviewing the candidates, the Editorial Board of the
Dispatch asked each to respond to a dozen written questions. The
Editorial Board stipulated that the responses to each question be
limited to 400 words and let the candidates know that the answers
would be published at www.gilroydispatch.com and sent out to
subscribers to the Dispatch mobile application.
Here are the answers. The responses have not been edited for
grammar or clarity.
Councilman and candidate Peter Arellano was the only person in
the race who did not respond to the request.
Before interviewing the candidates, the Editorial Board of the Dispatch asked each to respond to a dozen written questions. The Editorial Board stipulated that the responses to each question be limited to 400 words and let the candidates know that the answers would be published at www.gilroydispatch.com and sent out to subscribers to the Dispatch mobile application.

Here are the answers. The responses have not been edited for grammar or clarity.

Councilman and candidate Peter Arellano was the only person in the race who did not respond to the request.

1. What are the best characteristics of Gilroy?

Gilroy is a great place to raise a family. I moved to Gilroy over 18 years ago from San Jose. The first thing I noticed about Gilroy is how friendly all of the people are. Gilroy has grown in population since then but it has kept its small town charm. Every year my wife and I volunteer at the Garlic Festival. At the Garlic Festival you can see how all of the volunteers come together to put on a great Gilroy signature event. It makes me proud when I am traveling out of the country and we meet people and they know of the Garlic Festival and comment on what a great event and place Gilroy is. Gilroy still has open space were we can ride our bikes and enjoy the foothills. As my four children grew up I coached them in Gilroy Little League and still run into many of my former players who still remember me as coach. Gilroy’s location to the beaches and the San Francisco Bay Area are also a plus. The weather is almost always good compared to other parts of the country. Gilroy Gardens is also a great benefit to Gilroy. It is a fun place to take kids and they keep many of our youth employed.

2. What does Gilroy need to improve on most?

Gilroy needs to improve the overall health of the community. As a City Gilroy leads the county in obesity and children that are not physically fit. I work for a Type II Diabetes prevention program and I attend meetings with guest speakers from the County Health Dept. and they can give you statistics on Gilroy’s poor health. This can lead to a variety of economic impacts for the city. Residents that do not have health care or can’t afford to join organized gyms need to know that there are agencies out there that can help them. Prevention is the key. Get people healthy options and get them over the barriers that are keeping them from making healthy choices. The South County Collaborative has many non profits that can assist people with health care and affordable places that offer a physical activity. The Non-profit I work for offers Martial Arts, Zumba, Youth Sports all for free or low cost. We also have Youth Health Advocates at both Gilroy High Schools that go into the afterschool programs and offer education on health, nutrition and a physical activity. As a City Councilman I would still encourage residents to seek out these services and support community events like the Gilroy Community Health Day. Youth intervention is something Gilroy needs to improve and keep encouraging our kids to stay out of gangs and off of drugs. The schools need to work more closely with non profits that have intervention programs that catch students that are at risk.

3. Do you believe that the public employee benefit system, including retirement, needs reform? If so, be specific on what you would advocate.

I do not know all of the specifics about the employee benefit system. I have been getting educated on the topic whenever I can. I have talked with some members of the AFSCME Local 101 who invited the candidates to a luncheon and I had a meeting with Jim Buessing the representative for the Fire Department union. I also attend the City of Gilroy meeting with City Manager Tom Haglund and all department managers who gave us an overview of how the city operates and the budget. In goods time when the city is generating revenue from sales receipts and building fees there was enough money to go around and everyone is happy. In the tough economic times that we have had for the last few years the piece of the pie has decreased. As a City Councilmen I would make sure there is communication between the unions and the City Council so bargaining can be done in good faith. I would encourage the city and the bargaining unions to sit down and negotiate what is fair for both the city and the working staff. From what I understand that is what happened with the AFSCME, Police and Fire members. Some gave concessions for two years and some gave concessions for one year on staffing, benefits and pay. This saved the city over a million dollars. Did all of the unions give what they could or did some give more than others? That is what I would be interested in as a City Councilman.

4. Did the City Council pursue the right course of action to shut down MediLeaf, the medical marijuana dispensary in Gilroy? Explain your position. Also, will you vote for or against state Proposition 19?

This City of Gilroy had no choice but to shut MediLeaf down because they were operating without proper business license. Anyone who wants to do business in Gilroy has to go through the proper procedures to operate a business in Gilroy. As a former Planning Commissioner I know that there are zoning restrictions on what type of business can operate at certain locations in the city. This is done to ensure that Marijuana Dispensaries do not end up next to a school or somewhere else where kids will be located. Marijuana is a drug and when used strictly for medical purposes can have medical benefits for people with cancer and other medical conditions. I do not think that Marijuana Dispensaries are properly regulated. There are not enough restrictions on whom and where they buy the Marijuana from. Anyone who pulls up with a trunk load of Marijuana can sell it to them. We as citizens have to know where the Marijuana is coming from and who is benefitting. We do not want to support or have organized crime profit off of a Gilroy business. If it is solely for medical purposes than let real doctors prescribe it at their pharmacies and clinics. I would not support Proposition 19 because there are too many loop holes in the proposition on when people can be under the influence and when it would be illegal to be under the influence. Some law enforcement people I talk to say that decriminalizing Marijuana would free up some of the time spent in court system and would let them focus on more serious crimes.

5. What is your perception of the current Gilroy City Council?

I think the current City Council has improved the way they communicate from a year or two ago. After the last election I think there was some political fallout from candidates who had run against each other. This was evident when there would be a discussion at a Council meeting and the tone was not professional. This was not a positive environment that would encourage them to work together and do what is right for the residents of Gilroy. Now I see more of an open discussion on the issues and not targeted as personal attacks. I hope to continue the positive trend if elected and I understand that all council members do not have to agree on everything but you can disagree without turning people off. As a Planning Commissioner I was able to work professionally with all other commissioners and we were all able to get our points across during discussion without trying to make the other commissioners look bad.

6. Would you seriously consider contracting out for city public safety services? Why or why not?

I do not have enough information on the how much the city would save and what impact it would have on the current employees. I would be concerned as a City Councilman on response times, quality of service and how this would impact the city budget long term. Would this include dispatching of emergency calls and where would they be located? Would there still be a community connection between the contracted out public safety service employees and Gilroy? I would need all of the facts on the table before I could decide one way or another.

7. What is downtown’s role in the community? Is it important? If so, what would you do to revitalize the area?

The downtown should be the gathering place for all Gilroy residents to come together for community events and to patronize businesses. I talk to some Gilroy residents who have a bad perception of the Downtown. They think that it is unsafe and there is nothing there for them. In reality it is a safe place to shop and eat. There is a variety of shops and restaurants. The only violence that has happened in the downtown has happened when the bars close at 2am. You can go to the library, play billiards, bowling, workout at a gym, play indoor soccer, visit a bookstore and a coffee shop. There is also a variety of small shops from clothes to shoe repair. There are several Mexican Restaurants to choose as well as OD’s Kitchen, Lizzarran Tapas Bar, Garlic City Cafe, Sott’s at the Bowling Alley and Station 55. Could the Downtown benefit from more variety of restaurants and more storefronts occupied? Yes. That can be done by getting the URM Buildings occupied. Gary Walton a downtown developer and other people with an interest in downtown have gone to Oakland to see how they are occupying their URM Buildings. Oakland has still made the buildings safe for customers but they have eased up on the restrictions which have cut vacancies dramatically. We already have many people living downtown who need a place to eat and shop. As a City Councilman I would encourage and be willing to sit on a committee that would bring together the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Association, Visitor’s Bureau, The Dispatch and the Economic Development office to make Gilroy’s Downtown a vibrant and fun place to be. The Gilroy Art’s Alliance has already opened shop where the future Cultural Center is going to be located and is planning many events there. On 7th and Eigleberry the Downtown Demonstration Garden is open and educating students on how to grow your own fruit and vegetables. Gilroy needs a Farmers Market Downtown!

8. What ideas do you have for economic development and job creation? Please be specific.

Gilroy needs to attract good paying jobs that have benefits for employees. Gilroy cannot rely on retail and building for the economic base. We all saw how hard the city budget was impacted negatively when people stop buying and builders stop building. Gilroy is a great location for businesses to relocate or start up. We are less than a half an hour to Silicon Valley and about an hour to the central valley. Gilroy is at the crossroads to Highway 101 and 152. I would like to see the plan that the Economic Development Director has to attract good paying jobs to Gilroy. I would encourage all of the entities mentioned above for the downtown to also work together to develop a plan for attracting big businesses to Gilroy. I worked with the former Economic Development Director Larry Cope to try and bring the Sonoma Chicken Coop to Gilroy. We went and gave a presentation to the principal investor and he liked what he saw in Gilroy and had identified a couple locations that he thought would work here. Unfortunately the economy went on a downturn and he had to focus on the restaurants he had open already before adding a new one. We can revisit him again or go after other businesses that are already considering Gilroy as a location to expand into.

9. Tell us something about you personally that wouldn’t show up on your resume, but that would help make you an effective Council member?

I am good at collaborating and organizing people for partnerships and events. With the bad economy the City of Gilroy needs to partner more with other entities to get projects built and programs funded. The City has already partnered with Gilroy Unified School District on joint use facilities which benefit many in the Gilroy community. I would encourage more of this. There may be other businesses that may want to partner with Gilroy to get the Cultural Center built and the Sports Park completed. The Parks and Recreation Dept. is becoming creative in forming partnerships with nonprofits and athletic organizations that already offer services that they offer. This can keep programs going or expand other programs that are needed. Take this model and use it in other departments. I have already worked with many community members and agencies who are stake holders in the Gilroy. Many of them have Gilroy’s best interest in mind when it comes to the community. I would keep the communication open with the Non-profit sector, Education (GUSD, Gavilan), Downtown Association, Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Gilroy, Art’s Alliance and others to move Gilroy forward.

10. Are city expenditures properly balanced between public safety and other city services such as parks and recreation? If not, what change would you advocate?

Public Safety takes up more of the city budget because that is a priority for city residents. Parks and Recreation is also important to keep our parks in good condition and to keep at risk youth off the streets. Each city department has different budgets based on their job descriptions pay rate, experience and staffing needs. As a public safety employee you have additional training to be able to serve as a Police or Fireman. Public service employees have more danger associated with their jobs compared to a Parks and Recreation employees. Public Service employees also work longer shifts and are on call 24/7. These factors make the difference in the city expenditures compared to other city services.

11. In calendar year 2009, 30 city employees made more than $20,000 in overtime pay led by Fire Captains Ed Bozzo ($54,368 in OT pay), Paul Butler ($41,267 in OT pay) and Chris Weber ($36,554 in OT pay). Is this a city management issue? If so, what changes would you advocate?

As a City Councilman I would find out why and where overtime is being used. If overtime is unavoidable because of emergencies (fires, police emergencies or natural disasters) or other unforeseen reasons then who pays for it? Does it come out of city, county or state budgets? If the city employees are working overtime to fill in for other employees due to illness or medical conditions the manager for that department should be able to tell you why they are short staffed. In regards to safety personnel there may be injuries due to the nature of their work. If it is injuries what type of injuries are occurring and are they avoidable? If they are avoidable maybe there needs to be more safety training and work to reduce injuries at work. Maybe there are non work injuries and there is still a need for staff to fill in. Because these jobs require special training they have a limited pool of employees to call from. The issue for the City Manager is how to reduce overtime at these positions. This could be done by hiring some staff as on call hires to fill in as needed.

12. What is your vision for Gilroy and what would you do specifically to advance that vision?

My vision for Gilroy is to help build a community that comes together with the same energy and enthusiasm for other events outside of the Garlic Festival. The Downtown has many events. Some are well attended (Car show) and some only attract a handful of people (Friday Night Concerts). All of Gilroy residents should know what the downtown has to offer. Help build an economic base that supports Gilroy’s budget for the long term. Support the Art’s Alliance so they can put on events that attract all Gilroy residents to come out enjoy a variety of entertainment that they offer. Encourage a plaza where residents can gather outside to enjoy these performances.

Again, thank you for your time and we look forward to seeing you on the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 28 at Lizarran Restaurant downtown. I’ll be sending out a confirmation with the designated time slots following your responses regarding your preferred time.

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