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?
I believe that Gilroy is a unique community that possesses many desirable characteristics from the standpoint of several different segments of residents, organizations and visitors to this community. I regard these segments as families, seniors, young adults, young students, leisure businesses and activities, service businesses, education, arts/culture, visitors, civic and governmental elements, – just to mention a few. In regard to these segments, I’ll use the term “Publics” to describe them in general. In some communities, the goals and interests of these ‘Publics” produce conflict, divisiveness and unhappiness. This is decisively not so in Gilroy. What then is the ‘Glue” or characteristics that make this community of Gilroy a unique and desirable community? I have now been a resident of Gilroy for 30 years with my family. I consider myself somewhat of an involved resident. Some of my friends jokingly refer to me as a “newcomer”. Rather than be offended by this characterization, I feel Pride in being thus branded by real longtime residents. To me, it indicates an underlying strength of community, i.e. We are Gilroyans and Proud of It.
In addition to unquestionable Community Pride, other aspects of the “Glue” that binds us together are a genuine Friendliness and Hospitality of Gilroyans. As a former Easterner, I immediately noticed this and recalled Western stories, history, movies and descriptions as simply- “This is the Western Way”. From these foundations of Pride, Friendliness, Hospitality, it is easy to see the other ingredients of this all important “Glue” that binds us.
In my opinion, here are a few of the more important and prevalent other ingredients. In the word of realtors, certainly Location is a major ingredient. Our Location is within desirable Northern California but close to Central California. Proximity to major significant areas of ocean, mountains, natural wonders, valleys, major metropolitan areas, historically unique small communities simply means great places for leisure activities for individuals and families alike.
Within the City of Gilroy, who would dispute our unique characteristics of a Well Planned Community, Great Weather, Recreational Activities, comparatively Safe Community, Desirable Place to Live, Interesting History, Unique Foods/Wineries, Scenic Views, Inherent Desire for Further Improvement and many more. Finally, I consider that the name on the label of this can of Glue absolutely must contain the warning –
Beware of the Active Ingredient of VOLUNTEERISM- It is Severely Habit Forming.
In summary, am I proud to be a Gilroyan? You Betchum, Red Ryder!
2. What does Gilroy need to improve on most?
In my unabashedly laudatory comments about Gilroy in the prior question, I very clearly included the positive characteristic of Inherent Desire for Further Improvement. To suggest or imply that there is not room for improvement, even significant improvement, is simply naive thinking. I’ll choose a few of the most prevalent areas that need improvement.
Probably near the top of the list of needed improvements is the issue of the unemployment rate in Gilroy and nearby communities within a reasonable commuting distance. This is obviously a longstanding problem and very difficult to resolve or even make a significant or near term improvement. The need for a higher employment rate is obviously and undeniably beneficial to the well being of the community as a whole. A higher employment rate can result from general improvement of the overall economic conditions for local businesses, large and small. .
Another area for necessary improvement in Gilroy is dealing effectively with the Crime Rate. High crime rate literally drags down a community in many varied ways. Addressing the crime issue is not solely the responsibility of the city government and the Police Department. Participation in the resolution or improvement of this issue is a shared responsibility of businesses, families, school/educational institutions, and individuals. Everyone must be aware of this problem and the degrading effects it has on our community and everyone must contribute towards resolution.
In Gilroy, the area of Education also needs improvement and resolution. At the present time, some of our schools are operating with less than satisfactory academic performance. This problem obviously results in degradation of the educational level of our youthful students which further results in longer term negative influence as these students seek higher levels of education to prepare themselves for greater lifetime achievements. Correction and improvement of this problem area also is not easy and involves the continuing efforts of educational administrators, parents, students businesses or organizations which are supportive of our local educational institutions.
In summary, in my opinion, the subjects of Unemployment, Crime Rate and Education are three of the more important areas in Gilroy that need significant attention and improvement.
3. Do you believe that the public employee benefit system, including retirement, needs reform? If so, be specific on what you would advocate?
The Public Employee Benefit System will most assuredly undergo stringent review and considerations for change at all levels of this system. This need for change is generated by many different factors and events. There is the negative effect of the recession on investments of PERS, the unknown time period of the economic downturn, the perception of the public regarding the relative safety of public employment compared to the vagaries of private sector employment, declining revenue sources of public entities such as lower property tax, sales taxes, etc which negatively impacts the sustainability of the benefit and retirement system, lack of sufficient transparency of these systems by an increasingly concerned public, abuses of the provisions of the PERS system by governing bodies, internal policies and procedures which may produce unforeseen and unintended negative consequences, the relatively long time periods necessary to effect changes in the system due to bargaining unit contract periods, need for legislative action to effect some changes, need for study and policy changes at the highest levels of PERS. In short, the PERS system is not conducive to short term significant or structural changes, howsoever desirable.
This is also true at the local city government level where bargaining unit contracts are on a 2-3 year time schedule. At the local level, I would advocate that the City Council maintain an a constant awareness of the issues and changes being considered at the higher levels of the PERS systems and be supportive of positive changes, that we build a list of possible changes to be considered at the next bargaining time, that we have a program for keeping the public aware of these higher level changes and potential local changes in order to lessen adversarial attitudes among the public, the local government and the employees. Specifically, some of the issues that are controllable to some extent are wages, details of benefits, contribution levels of employee and management, staffing, overtime controls, training needs, and retirement criteria. I would advocate that the Council build and maintain this awareness and identification of possible changes on regular review schedule such as twice per year. In this way the Council would have a higher level of readiness, in advance, for successful negotiations rather that the present system of developing and effecting change needs at the specific time of negotiation. This method necessarily involves more study time and work on the part of the Council but I strongly feel that closer identification and management of potential changes to wage, benefit and retirement provisions is vitally necessary.
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?
I believe that the City Council properly pursued the right course of action regarding the Medileaf dispensary in Gilroy. The basic issue was that Medileaf proceeded to conduct business in Gilroy ultimately in violation of permit requirements that had been properly established by local government ordinances and processes. When Medileaf persisted in this despite direction from the City to “Cease”, it was necessary for the City to initiate further action to preserve the provisions of the existing policies and to preserve standards by which other businesses would be held accountable. To do otherwise is simply inviting non compliance attitudes and actions by others. The City should clearly require adherence to soundly established policies.
Nevertheless, the City recognized that in any dispute, both parties have rights which must be respected. In this case, Medileaf had the unquestioned right to pursue the matter in the court system and the City had the responsibility to allow that action and to persist in maintaining the rights of the City. Unfortunately, the processes of the Courts necessarily require financial expenditures by both parties. I believe that the City made the correct decision to expend the necessary funds to pursue the rights of the City. The Council obviously felt that long term considerations justified this expenditure rather than create a further problem with respect to possible future similar instances by other businesses.
Another portion of this question requests my position on Prop 19, the Marijuana Legalization issue. How I will vote on this Proposition is, like all private citizen votes, personal and confidential. Therefore, I respectfully decline to respond to that portion of the question.
Regarding the somewhat related and intertwined issue of utilization of marijuana for medical purposes, this issue is not specifically the subject of any pending voting action. I am currently supportive of the utilization of marijuana for medical purposes with certain conditions. I believe that there must be stringent controls over the manufacture and distribution of such products such as FDA product approval and that authorization for use be controlled similar to current approved prescription, not “referral”, processes by properly licensed physicians I also believe that distribution to patients be through properly licensed pharmacies. In my view, the need seems to be there for individuals afflicted with various ailments but sufficient controls are not yet available. It is my hope that regulation will be in effect at some time in the future.
5. What is your perception of the current Gilroy City Council?
The present City Council has been working together for at least the last 3 years and 5 years for some members. I believe they are all diligent Council members who take their work seriously. Furthermore, I believe that they all .feel they are duly considering the views and opinions of their constituents in the Council decision making processes.
During my campaign for the current City Council election, I have been seeking the opinions and views of my friends, associates, random Gilroy residents and business persons and organizations. I have been finding that many people believe that the current Council is not working together as well as they should and that this attitude of insufficient cooperativeness and collaboration is adversely affecting decisions by the City Council. These public opinions generally coincide with my own opinions formulated as I have observed Council operations over the past few years.
During my prior experiences as a Gilroy Councilman over three terms, I believe that members of the Council worked well together and, even though there were differences of opinions, there was a prevalent attitude of mutual respect of opinions held by other Council members. This prevalent attitude resulted in lively discussions, deliberations and, I believe, a sound decision making process by the Council as a whole. In my experience, a healthy attitude of professionalism, cooperativeness, collaboration and mutual respect of divergent opinions at the management level is a hallmark of an effective organization. This is how it should be for the Gilroy City Council. If I am elected as Councilman in November, I would advocate these attitudes among Council members. The end result will certainly mean better decision making by our elected officials and a more effective City government organization.
6. Would you seriously consider contracting out for city public safety services? Why or why not?
As the question is posed, the issue of “contracting out” generally refers to the substantial city functions of entire Police or Fire Departments.
I am opposed to contracting out these services for the City of Gilroy. Contracting out may be advantageous for some communities, particularly smaller communities such as Saratoga in Santa Clara County. I believe that considering the size of Gilroy it would not necessarily be advantageous. Certainly, cost is a factor to consider, but as the city grows further, the cost factor may not always be advantageous. In my view, a more important consideration is that, if these services were contracted out, the responsibility for the level, quality and cost of services would be borne by a governing board not elected by nor responsible to the citizens of Gilroy. In my opinion, the significant functions of public safety are far too important to be relegated to governing boards not directly responsible to Gilroy citizens. Even if lesser costs were a current consideration, there is no guarantee that future costs resulting from expansion of required city services would be beneficial.
7. What is downtown’s role in the community? Is it important? If so, what would you do to revitalize the area?
Even the word “Downtown” probably has a very interesting historical connotation. In my view, a Downtown is The Central Place of Community Interest, both in times past and now. Today it holds a place of nostalgia and vibrancy for the Community. Even if the vibrancy is waning, Downtowns literally cry out to be preserved and maintained. This is no less true for our City of Gilroy.
Even though the Downtown of Gilroy is no longer the retail center of the City as it once was, it continues as a very definite Central Place of Community Interest. This then is the present role of Downtown in our community. I believe it continues to be important and necessary to the image of Gilroy for our residents and visitors to Gilroy.
Revitalization of the Downtown has been the concern of local government and organizations for many years. A common theme of Downtown Revitalization has been historical preservation. In recent years, there have been significant projects relating to Streetscape, Façade Improvement, Signage, Historical Statuaries, Public Art, Preservation of Older Buildings, Traffic/Pedestrian Improvements and Safety and Lighting Improvements. I would definitely foster continuation of these efforts through the use of local available funds, State or Federal Grants that may continue to be available and encouragement of private or property owner development and investment funds. The current effort to seek a viable solution to the problem of Un-Reinforced Masonry Buildings is a very important issue and I totally support early and reasonable resolution of this problem.
Additionally, as the Downtown continues to improve from a structural standpoint, there is strong community interest to reach the goal of achieving A Community Place of Interest for Downtown. The many community events, mostly seasonal celebrations which are held downtown foster this image. I am supportive of continuing these events and celebrations. Such events have the synergistic effect of positive improvement to the business climate of Downtown Gilroy.
8. What ideas do you have for economic development and job creation? Please be specific.
At the present time, the tasks of Economic Development and Jobs Creation is certainly one of the more challenging but nevertheless important efforts facing our community. Over the past years, the City Government, Chamber of Commerce, Visitors Bureau, Gilroy Downtown Development Corporation, Economic Development Corporation, major developers and major business owners have been acting in concert to address the economic development of Gilroy.
I would advocate strong continuance of the present collaborative efforts of these organizations. Furthermore, I would advocate examining possible changes to current policies or procedures so as to be prepared to continue this effort when economic conditions improve.
The City Council has always been cognizant of the need for incentives to promote economic development. These incentives have included such items as suspension or deferral of development fees, exceptions to development requirements and modification to development procedures to streamline or shorten the development process. I am supportive of these incentives insofar as they may be feasible. At he present time, I advocate early review of the current Development Impact Fee structure to insure that they are currently reflective of the underlying costs of the City for these various Impact Fees.
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?
There are several attributes which I have rather assiduously followed over my lifetime that I consider would help me be an effective Councilmember. First and foremost, I believe in diligent, hard work in whatever task or endeavor I face. I strive to be knowledgeable in the tasks I pursue and to be aggressive about accepting responsibility and leadership. I know that I can effectively work well in groups with a cooperative attitude to accomplish group goals. I am a firm believer in sound, long range planning in organizations and, most importantly, to plan for unusual emergency events which may occur.
I have a deep dedication to the principles of our nation and believe that everyone should “give back” and serve the goals of our nation and all the organizations to which we belong. I encourage others to follow these attributes and principles. Regarding service on the Gilroy City Council, I believe I bring my experience, dedication, education and personally held principles to the “table” for the benefit of the residents of Gilroy.
At this point, I am feeling rather uncomfortable using so many references to “I can” or “I will” in this response. I much prefer using the term “We can” or “We will”..
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?
During my prior service for three terms as a Councilman, I recall that the Public Safety portion of the Gilroy budget was approximately 73%. That level seemed to be a somewhat reasonable balance between public safety and other city services. Furthermore, that level seemed to be consistent with other communities of similar size. Budget review actions and review of public safety needs were examined by the Council to further reduce the Public Safety portion wherever possible.
At the present time, my understanding is that the Public Safety portion of the budget is in the range of 80%-82%, a significant increase since early 1990’s. Recent bargaining unit settlements resulted in some significant savings in expected expenditures for Public Safety. These changes included items such as reduced staffing on fire equipment, downward changes to retirement system, substantial change in city contribution for pensions and adoption of a two-tier compensation system. These changes necessarily resulted in some near term reduction to Public Safety portion of the budget and further reduction in longer term expenditures and concomitant lessening of the Public Safety percentage of the budget.
Therefore, the percentage allocation for Public Safety is on a downward trend toward a level comparable to prior years. The opportunity for further reductions is necessarily limited to bargaining unit contact negotiations 2-3 years from now. As noted above in the response to the question regarding Public Benefit System, there may very well be system changes at higher levels that could result in lower expenditures at the local level. Given these circumstances, it is somewhat difficult to determine the specific further changes that could be made at the local level. I would advocate that the City Council continue close attention and examination of the needs, service levels and expenditures of the Public Safety areas with a goal of reducing the Public Safety percentage of the budget to the former range of mid 70%.
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?
The costs and requirements for significant levels of overtime is unquestionably an important city management issue that clearly needs to be addressed by the City Council. Prior to advocating any changes solely on the basis of the data presented in this question, I would critically examine any and all supporting detailed information which caused these levels of overtime. I assume that there may very well be justifiable rationale to support the need for overtime. Some of these reasons for overtime use may be temporary or one-time needs due to previous staffing criteria of 4/engine rather than recently approved 3/engine, staffing vacancies due to current recruiting, staffing vacancies due to illness of other fire personnel, personnel away from normal duties due to training or personnel on extended outside Gilroy duties such as wild fires in other areas. In addition, there may be overtime costs that may be reimbursable to the City for fire personnel services provided to outside areas such as temporary assignment to wildfires.
Once the overtime data has been analyzed in detail to determine causes, then the level of overtime that may be necessary on an on going regular basis may be determined. At this point, the question of possible actions to reduce or eliminate continuing overtime costs can be determined.
In summary, prior to advocating any policy changes, I would analyze and validate the overtime data to determine the expected continuing level of overtime costs, net of any reimbursable funds from other agencies. At that point, the Council should determine specific actions necessary to further reduce or eliminate overtime costs.
12. What is your vision for Gilroy and what would you do specifically to advance that vision?
My vision for Gilroy is embodied in the currently adopted General Plan. This document is generated periodically after very extensive review, study and development by extensive public and organizational input. It then is subjected to extensive Public Hearing and Public Comment before being adopted by the City Council. The current General Plan (GP) was approved in approximately 2002. As I recall, I served on the General Plan Updater Committee during my previous terms on the City Council or about 1995. This Committee of nearly 30 members met for several months to recommend the GP to the Planning Commission and the Council.
The General Plan is basically a Land Use document and forms the basis for several subordinate Plans and documents such as the Urban Service Area Plan, the Transportation Master Plan, the Utility Service Plan and several other long and short range planning and financial documents. The General Plan typically has a 15-20 year planning horizon and should therefore be reviewed or updated in that time period.
The General Plan typically doesn’t address other somewhat subjective matters which may constitute the “Visions of Gilroy” by various organizations or individuals. These Visions of Gilroy are generally addressed descriptively and repeatedly until they tend to form Generally Accepted Community Feeling about long term community desires. Some of these descriptive subjects may be as follows:
Small Town Atmosphere, Moderate Growth Rate, Vibrant Business Community, Availability of Employment, No Traffic Congestion, Leisure Activities, Good Schools, Appreciation for History, Agriculture Products, Wineries, Clean Industry, Good Government, Safe Community, Medical Facilities, Retail Facilities, Strong Financial Structure, Youth Sports Activities, Arts/Culture Emphasis, a Pleasant Place to Visit and many others.
I wholeheartedly share these descriptive Visions of Gilroy and I strive to maintain, strengthen and expand this Vision. These subjects become ingrained in the hearts and minds of our citizens and then easily become the Community Norms for development of the more technical planning documents such as the above mentioned General Plan.
Regarding my specific actions to further Visions of Gilroy, I would encourage cooperative and collaborative attitudes among all community organizations in order to foster further development and solidification of the Visions of Gilroy. As a Councilman, I would advocate updating of medium and long rang planning documents and policies so that these Visions of Gilroy can be realized.
Q&A with candidate Art Barron
Q&A with candidate Dion Bracco
Q&A with candidate Pasquale Greco
Q&A with candidate Peter Leroe-Muñoz
Q&A with candidate Russ Valiquette