Council candidates talk about the issues

The Nov. 6 election is just a month away, and Gilroy residents will be voting for four City Council members. Three council members will be elected to a four-year seat, and one will be elected to a two-year seat.

Campaign signs are popping up on street corners, vacant lots and front yards across the city, and candidates have been courting endorsements, speaking to groups and walking door to door, signaling that the campaign is underway.

The six candidates running in the four-year race are incumbents Marie Blankley, Dion Bracco and Peter Leroe-Muñoz and challengers Tom Fischer, Reid Lerner and Tim Renggli. Running for the two-year seat are incumbent Dan Harney and challenger Carol Marques.

The Gilroy Dispatch recently asked residents to identify the top issues in this year’s city election. Based on comments taken from Facebook, the Dispatch asked council candidates three questions.

Each candidate was given an opportunity to respond in writing to the questions, with roughly 150 words for each candidate. Here are their answers.

TWO-YEAR SEAT

Dan Harney

1. What would be your solution for homeless encampments?

Homeless encampments are a public health concern.  We need to enforce our Gilroy city codes and ordinances related to trespassing and illegal encampments. We have partnered with Santa Clara Valley Water District in cleaning up the creeks and have also began a new partnership with the Compassion Center for site cleanups.   

Dan Harney

2. What types of businesses should be on Monterey Street and what incentives should the city use to attract those businesses?

Downtown should be a gathering place where our community can come together for any reason. Businesses and services should cater to the needs of our population by providing dining, arts and culture, entertainment, along with specialty retail and services.  We need to reduce or eliminate impact fees, streamline our permitting and provide expedited approvals—cut the red tape.

3. What can the city do to create more private-sector jobs?

Private-sector jobs are critical to our local economy. Our city must identify available land and pre-entitle the types of uses so that we can easily attract investors. Much like downtown, we need to streamline the application and approval process. Businesses need to view the city as a reliable partner that can remove obstacles and get their business growing fast.

Carol Marques

1. Homeless encampments

With grant money from the private sector, land could be purchased and homes constructed for local homeless Gilroy families. In return, these adults must be employed or volunteer hours weekly to maintain their eligibility. The residents are committed to being drug- and alcohol-free to promote a healthy family environment.

Carol Marques

2. Monterey Street businesses

Hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, theaters and the sports park could be built to the south. North of Leavesley could support large companies that bring jobs to the area. The City would have to have shovel-ready properties and streamline the permit process to get the companies opening quickly.

3. Private sector jobs

The City can make it easier to start a business/company here by reviewing its policies and streamlining the length of time to get a business open in Gilroy. Revitalization of downtown will show companies that Gilroy cares and that it would be economically feasible for them to locate here.

FOUR-YEAR SEAT

Marie Blankley

1. Homeless encampments

Homeless encampments are illegal and pose health and safety concerns. Gilroy should work  with local and county-wide organizations that are developing plans to combat homelessness. All communities within Santa Clara County need to shoulder their own proportionate share of this dilemma. To learn more, visit MarieBlankley.com.

Marie Blankley

2. Monterey Street businesses

The best incentive the City could give to attract businesses is to get out of the way. An efficient, straightforward and comprehensive process from the beginning provides business owners with the understanding they need to make decisions, and a timetable that they can count on and invest in.

3. Private sector jobs

Only the private sector can create private sector jobs. The city can welcome the private sector and the jobs they bring by thanking them for considering Gilroy, walking them through the red-tape process, addressing their needs and removing the hurdles that are within our control.

Dion Bracco

1. Homeless encampments

The homeless encampment issue continues to drain our resources. Homeless from San Francisco and San Jose are being sent to Gilroy. We must put a stop to this practice insofar as taxpayers are subsidizing some of the homeless who have made no effort to help themselves.

Dion Bracco

2. Monterey Street businesses

Properties on Monterey Road would require a huge investment on the part of the property owners, and I don’t believe we should tie their hands on what kind of businesses can be located outside the city core.

3. Private sector jobs

The issue of economic development that would bring jobs to Gilroy is something the council has been working on with our economic development consultant, and I support using fee waivers and incentive programs to attract high-paying businesses here, and the incentives would depend on the kind of business and number of employees and the benefit to the city.

Tom Fischer

1. Homeless encampments

Homelessness is not just a local issue, it is regional. We need more affordable housing. In the short term, when an encampment is removed we need a place where the people can go. San Jose is experimenting with a tent city. That is something I am following with interest.

Tom Fischer

2. Monterey Street businesses

I am open to many types of businesses; we should let the market decide what businesses locate there. We should maintain high standards. I am not in favor of waiving impact fees but do think a new nexus study should be done to determine if those fees are fair.

3. Private sector jobs

I am open to many types of businesses; we should let the market decide what businesses locate there. We should maintain high standards. I am not in favor of waiving impact fees but do think a new nexus study should be done to determine if those fees are fair.

Peter Leroe-Muñoz

1. Homeless encampments

City staff should work with police to identify the largest encampments and notify inhabitants of efforts to clear these sites. The sites should be cleared, and staff can assist in moving and temporarily storing unclaimed property. Police and city staff can monitor cleared areas to prevent further encampments.

Peter Leroe-Muñoz

2. Monterey Street businesses

Our community deserves a vibrant downtown, which includes a critical mass of diverse restaurants, cafes, retail stores, professional service providers and entertainment options. Incentives to attract these businesses include creating more downtown parking, inclusive zoning, and reducing filing and impact fees.

3. Private sector jobs

To compete against regional cities for jobs, we need to upgrade our digital infrastructure to ensure that businesses will have the fastest internet, robust coverage and secure network capabilities. We can’t wait for businesses to find us; city leadership must work with our Economic Development Corporation to recruit businesses.

Reid Lerner

1. Homeless encampments

There is a shortage of legal campgrounds and RV parks in the Bay Area. I will work with county, regional and state governments to create more local campgrounds and RV parks for everyone. I will also work with private companies to invest in more local campgrounds and RV parks for everyone.

Reid Lerner

2. Monterey Street businesses

Many of the businesses that should be on Monterey are already here, including restaurants, furniture stores, art galleries, and entertainment. The Gilroy Downtown Specific Plan and Downtown Strategic Plan show our community vision for an attractive and sustainable city center. Gilroy’s lower land prices, labor costs and central location are existing incentives that attract businesses.

3. Private sector jobs

The City of Gilroy should have a stronger “Buy Local” policy. The city spends millions of dollars each year on goods and services from businesses located outside our area that should have been purchased locally. The ripple effect of buying local is real. When we buy local, we are investing in our community and encouraging local prosperity.

Tim Renggli

1. Homeless encampments

Continue to work with the police and Compassion Center on this incredibly complicated situation. I am not sure if there is an easy answer to this question.

Tim Renggli

2. Monterey Street businesses

The city should offer discounts to the necessary fees that are required to open a new business in Gilroy and offer priority planning and permitting to attract new businesses to Monterey Street.

3. Private sector jobs

We need to move forward with redeveloping the downtown to attract more small businesses and the jobs that come with them. Small businesses are the engine that runs the economy of this city and nation. Tax revenue will go up with the new ventures downtown, which will allow the city to hire more police and begin adding money to our unfunded pension liabilities.

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