Our Three Choices for City Council

Gilroy faces a future that needs to be molded by representatives
with real political courage. They must be able to think
independently, communicate with constituents and, most importantly,
face up to the real pressures of directing policy for a city of
50,000.
Gilroy faces a future that needs to be molded by representatives with real political courage. They must be able to think independently, communicate with constituents and, most importantly, face up to the real pressures of directing policy for a city of 50,000. Gilroy is no longer just a small rural community which hosts one of the world’s best festivals. Times have changed. Gilroy is big-box-stored stored out. The city coffers will grow substantially for a few more years from new sales tax receipts, but then reality will set in.

A number of years back we invoked an old saying related to the management of our city: Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.

That saying will apply more in the future than ever before.

Gilroy’s leaders will face increasing pressure to build more homes, will be required make crucial decisions about downtown and preservation of the Hecker Pass corridor and other key lands and will need to evaluate the costs and benefits of industrial opportunities.

Moreover, these council members will have to demonstrate a new sophistication with regards to regional matters – in particular the huge development proposals that could surround Gilroy. Sargent Ranch, just south of Gilroy’s borders, could become home to a Native American housing development site in partnership with entrepreneur Wayne Pierce. DMB group is eyeing land just south and east of us in San Benito County for a massive housing project. Will council members shed their provincial skins and shape regional policies that impact Gilroy’s future?

Perhaps the most important issue our leaders will face is binding arbitration for the city’s public safety employees. Already, more than 80 percent of the city’s budget is consumed by public safety employees. That percentage is way out of line with budgetary common sense. Gilroyans should be getting more for their big-box city sales tax dollars than bloated benefits for firefighters and police officers. If our city leaders won’t fight binding arbitration – by at least putting it on the ballot for voters to decide – then they are condemning future elected leaders to deal with a problem that will likely bankrupt the city.

Unfortunately, political courage is a commodity that is sorely needed but often in short supply.

That said, our recommendations and comments are:

Peter Arellano

His stance on the need for an outside agency, unelected and unrepresentative of Gilroy residents, to control land use decisions in our city is a position we find untenable. The Local Agency Formation Commission has hardly treated Gilroy fairly on land annexation issues, and it’s clear that their agenda often trumps what’s good for Gilroy. The former councilman, who lost his seat two years ago, does have an eye for certain issues the current council has ignored, particularly public transit. If he’s elected he should serve as Gilroy’s representative to the Valley Transportation Authority.

Arellano, 55, is a physician with Kaiser Permanante. In addition to his support for LAFCO, he championed the controversial approval to place a health clinic in downtown Gilroy. After due consideration, we did not agree with that position.

Lastly, in response to the question of binding arbitration, he wrote: “I will not vote for ending binding arbitration, nor for subjecting arbitration’s outcome to voter approval.”

That position demonstrates a lack of concern for the city’s long-term health.

Dion Bracco – Dispatch pick

It’s difficult to discern who Dion Bracco is politically at this point. How could he state unequivocally “I do not favor binding arbitration” in The Dispatch questionnaire, then earn the endorsement of the firefighter’s union?

Despite concerns that Bracco will place politics above personal convictions, we believe he deserves an opportunity to prove otherwise. At his best, he’s a straight-talking businessman who is fiscally conservative and accessible to the public. The 47-year-old owner and president of Brace’s towing narrowly lost a council seat two years ago and has since served as the Chairman of the City Planning Commission. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty and, unlike at least one seated council member, he’s an active part of our community participating in everything from the Memorial Day Parade to serving on the Downtown Specific Task Force to assisting the Lord’s Table. Half the battle is just showing up, and Dion has won that battle.

Beyond that, he took a stand against the allowing the building of six homes on two lots on Miller Avenue in one of the city’s established neighborhoods, a stand unfortunately overruled on a split council decision.

He’s also a voice that could tip the scales and finally force the city into repairing the massive sidewalk safety problem that it created by dictating the planting of street trees with invasive root systems.

Bracco is moderate and thoughtful. If he sticks to his gut sensibilities, maintains his independence and puts politics second, he could build a long legacy of respect and community service. He has earned the opportunity to do just that.

Bob Dillon – Dispatch pick

He’s our clear top choice in this race. The plain spoken and articulate incumbent clearly struggles with tough decisions about what’s best for the city. He won election in 1996 after giving up his 11-year run as a local columnist in The Dispatch.

Dillon understands that the city is on a dangerous path with regards to binding arbitration. He has lately hedged his bet on the issue, but we hope that’s simply a temporary lapse from his usual rock-solid pragmatism. Said Dillon: “… pluses in the city budget aren’t necessarily the property of bargaining units. They belong to the citizens. I believe our public safety people are well compensated and have good benefits.” He’s exactly right and his position is not confrontational, but practical. In practice, Dillon has been a staunch supporter of the police and fire departments. Because of that, and in spite of his position against binding arbitration, he won the endorsement of the police officers. The firefighters, unfortunately, could not look beyond their sacred-cow wedge issue.

Dillon, 58, operates his own process serving business. He is a former library commissioner who has stay involved in the Herculean effort to secure more funding to expand the Gilroy library. though that effort to date has been unsuccessful, his efforts are indicative of his commitment to the community.

He opposed the plan to build higher-density housing on Miller Avenue and, in a politically risky move, decided not to include a 200-word statement in ballot pamphlets sent to every voter thus saving the city $1,500 in filing fees. His righteous protest of exorbitant fees imposed by the county registrar of voters reflects the best Dillon has to offer: Positions based on principle.

That fits in with his determination to fix the city’s sidewalks. Dillon, frustrated by the lack of city action, can’t understand why the city won’t clean up its own mess and use its outstanding credit rating to borrow against future revenues and fix the city’s crumbling sidewalks en masse. It’s typical of his no-nonsense, understandable approach.

Dillon gives residents a clear view on how he reaches positions, and those positions make sense. Gilroyans should re-elect him.

Craig Gartman – Dispatch pick

Touting his attention to detail, Craig Gartman, a nine-year Gilroy resident, asks Gilroy voters to send him back to the City Council dais. Gartman doesn’t just skim documents, he pours over them causing some to criticize him as a nit-picker and others to praise his diligence. The latter is more accurate. Gartman, 47, is sharp, articulate and clearly enjoys city politics – perhaps to a fault at times.

Our main concern revolves not around his positions or his abilities. Rather, it’s an observational sense that he has a tendency to play Machiavellian politics which taint his relationships with council members and impede his ability to build consensus. That’s a strike we believe he can overcome.

His four years on the council and four years on the planning commission separate him from the pack. Given his serious commitment to studying the issues, that’s a wealth of knowledge and experience that’s difficult to replace.

His position on binding arbitration is, unfortunately, crafty. Essentially, Gartman says, it doesn’t matter if the voters in Gilroy overturn binding arbitration because a state law would invoke binding arbitration anyway. Reporter Serdar Tumgoren debunked that stand in a recent story, and it’s disheartening that Gartman chose to duck the heart of the matter.

Nonetheless, the 47-year-old financial planner, is well equipped for a second term.

Gartman is poised to help Gilroy on a regional level. He has the smarts and skills to spar with policy makers on the Valley Transportation Authority board, for example, or deal with the key players and politics involved in large developments proposed for areas surrounding Gilroy. He can be a formidable foe, and in that regional role would battle valiantly for Gilroy’s interests.

He often steps up on a community level and helps out, whether it’s soliciting donations for the Gilroy Little League World Series team to or taking on the duties of running the Memorial Day parade.

He’s on board with downtown revitalization and is committed to fixing the city’s sidewalks. He opposed the Miller Avenue housing proposal and vows to make good this term on a campaign promise to make sure city parks get built before residents move into a new neighborhood. Those positions are, like Gartman, solid. Gartman for council.

Charles Morales

It’s been a long time since Charles Morales hasn’t been on the Gilroy City Council. The 59-year-old incumbent, retired Santa Clara County probation officer and lifelong Gilroyan is seeking a fourth term and is running perhaps the most organized campaign he has ever run, perhaps to overcome the stigma of a third driving under the influence conviction booked two years ago.

Morales has known his re-election would be an uphill battle, and his efforts to clarify and project his positions have reflected that.

There is no question that Morales cares about Gilroy and its future, but though we have endorsed him previously we believe it is time for him to step aside. If he is not re-elected, Morales will no doubt stay involved in community affairs and continue to be an asset to Gilroy.

Morales is often ponderous when asked to answer specifically, but he’s been direct on binding arbitration. Even though he lists budget concerns as the top issue facing the city, he backs binding arbitration – the biggest threat to a balanced city budget – without reservation. That’s simply not a logical position, and it’s not responsible to essentially suggest that plenty of other city services go by the wayside to continue funding fire and police salary and benefit increases.

There are other pressing position concerns. Though it’s an unrealistic conversation at present, his early support for a university-affiliated South County site in the pristine Uvas Valley that would essentially allow housing development in exchange for a bio-medical-based school is a grandiose, confounding proposal. Besides encouraging sprawl, it would makes sense to locate any such campus adjacent to Gavilan College.

Morales recently became the swing vote to approve higher-density housing on Miller Avenue, a position we strongly disagreed with. And though we respect his service to Gilroy, we cannot encourage voters to give him a fourth term.

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