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Gilroy
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February 4, 2023

Meet the candidates: Gilroy City Council

Six candidates are vying for three seats on the Gilroy City Council in the November election: Jan Bernstein Chargin, Dion Bracco, Tom Cline, Carol Marques, Joseph Robinson and Ronald Robinson Jr.

Voting has begun in the Nov. 8 general election, as voters throughout California have received their ballots in the mail. They can drop them off, completed and signed, at authorized locations now through Election Day.

The Gilroy Dispatch sent over questions to the six council candidates by email. Ronald Robinson Jr. did not respond by the deadline.

The following Q&A’s are being published in the order they were received.

Carol Marques

Marques worked as a junior high school teacher and academic coach with Gilroy Unified School District from 1974 until she retired in 2013.

Carol Marques

The Gilroy native served a year on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission before winning a bid in 2018 to fill a two-year term following a vacancy on the council.

After finishing outside of the top three in the 2020 council election, she was appointed to fill the remaining two years of Marie Blankley’s term, who had been elected mayor that year.

Why are you running for Gilroy City Council? 

There is still work to be done. I want to elevate Gilroy…from the un-housed to our downtown area. Addressing the real causes of homelessness is the only way to end it. Latest statistics report over 90% of the un-housed need assistance with drug rehabilitation as the gateway to a return to the workforce and housing. Our extremely low income neighbors cannot afford housing priced for their income level. I want to attract and encourage businesses to Gilroy that would provide higher paying jobs for our community and ultimately raise peoples’ standard of living to afford housing.

What are your ideas on how to meet the city’s housing needs, while also managing traffic, finances, public works and other impacts that come with such growth?

The average yearly income from businesses in Gilroy is $30,000, or about $14 per hour. After taxes, it’s approximately $487 per week. That’s not enough to live and work locally. Attracting diverse businesses that pay more and train new skills allows people to work where they live, here in Gilroy. With more housing and businesses naturally comes an increase in property and sales tax, which then finances projects and personnel in public works and safety. More robust bus and bike routes offer alternate commute options to jobs within Gilroy and outside of the city.

What steps must the City of Gilroy take to alleviate homelessness?

The un-housed is a diverse group requiring different programs to find safe housing. The working un-housed who are struggling to afford homes need to be connected with programs that can assist them with rent in a safe community. One solution may be a managed mobile home park. There, residents would then have their own home for a reasonable fee. For those struggling with mental illness or drug/alcohol issues, a roof is not enough. Long-term facilities allow for housing, medication, job training, counseling and placement. This uplifts struggling residents, integrating them back into the community.

With retirement costs rising annually, how can the City of Gilroy bolster its revenue sources to avoid potential layoffs and service cutbacks?

Let’s face it, to bolster revenue the City of Gilroy needs to maximize tax income, but not from residents. The Sharks facility will bring visitors which means we need to get serious about our Downtown. Filling all empty buildings with quality and varied businesses will entice both visitors and locals to engage locally for entertainment. Gilroy needs to attract diverse businesses that pay decent salaries, to raise the standard of living for everyone. By attracting visitors and investing in our community’s economic health the city can capitalize on the tax money from these endeavors.

What are some other issues for the City of Gilroy that you would hope to address as a returning councilmember?

We need to lay down a foundation of safety, smart transportation and economic health. Our population increase and dry hills demand that our Santa Teresa fire station be built immediately. We should also be thinking about a fifth station. The 10th Street Bridge is needed for traffic flow and safety. Competitive salaries for police and fire will keep employees and ensure public safety for our community. More businesses and a robust Downtown directly feed into our economic health. Our community deserves a vibrant Downtown, safe homes and jobs that supply a real living wage.

Dion Bracco

Bracco, a Gilroy native, was first elected to the council in 2005, and was reelected in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Dion Bracco
Dion Bracco

He founded Bracco’s Towing in 1992, which got its start in Gilroy and has since expanded to surrounding cities.

Throughout his time on the council, Bracco has served on a number of committees, including the South County Regional Wastewater Authority, South County Youth Task Force, Santa Clara County Library District Joint Powers Authority and others.

Why are you running for Gilroy City Council?

At this moment, the Gilroy City Council is carefully balanced between common-sense members and those who support a more radical agenda. I endorse traditional Gilroy values that embrace faith, family and work. I oppose the agenda of political extremists who promote policies that have created a tax, crime and homelessness nightmare in other parts of California. My priorities will continue to be Public Safety, Fiscal Responsibility, Ending the Homeless Crisis, and Strengthening our Economy by creating better-paying jobs, supporting and growing new businesses, encouraging the growth of tourism, and making housing more affordable for first-time home buyers.

What are your ideas on how to meet the city’s housing needs, while also managing traffic, finances, public works and other impacts that come with such growth?

Whether we like it or not, we are mandated by the state to meet certain housing requirements. The critical issue is affordability. We should incentivize developers—through reforms to the fee and regulatory structure—to place a greater emphasis on lower-cost “start-up” housing like condos or co-ops which permit young workers (many of whom are single and work in Silicon Valley) to take the first step toward home ownership, while building equity to afford a bigger home down the road. All growth must be carefully managed to minimize impacts on traffic and infrastructure.

What steps must the City of Gilroy take to alleviate homelessness?

I support building a new drug rehabilitation and mental health facility in Gilroy to provide our homeless population with the housing and health services they need to build new lives, enroll in school, or begin working again. We can make such a facility a model for other communities struggling with this problem. At the same time, I advocate a “zero-tolerance” policy toward anyone who refuses help when offered, harasses or endangers our residents, or engages in crime or drug use, especially near schools or playgrounds. We have responsibilities to the homeless, but they also have responsibilities to the broader community.

With retirement costs rising annually, how can the City of Gilroy bolster its revenue sources to avoid potential layoffs and service cutbacks?

I have already worked to reform soaring pension costs as a member of the Council. More work still needs to be done there. We must also increase our efforts to generate new revenue for the city by attracting large employers and Silicon Valley companies who will contribute to our tax base and pay higher salaries. Gilroy has everything needed to provide these employers with a successful working environment. We also have multiple opportunities to make Gilroy a tourism destination with our wineries, arrival of the Sharks and Gilroy Gardens (especially with Great America closing in a few years).

What are some other issues for the City of Gilroy that you would hope to address as a returning councilmember?

The residents of Gilroy are demanding that the issue of clean and safe streets and neighborhoods be prioritized, as well as safe schools. That’s why getting control of the homeless crisis and legislation at the state level which has practically decriminalized certain types of crimes must be addressed. I’m proud that crime has dropped 24% since I became a member of the Council. But, it’s not enough. We see murder and mayhem throughout the nation in cities run by radical extremists and DAs. We don’t want that happening here and I’m determined not to let it happen here.

Joseph Robinson

Robinson worked for 17 years as a special educator, teaching throughout New York City before moving to California, where he taught in Campbell and Willow Glen.

Joseph Robinson
Joseph Robinson

He and his family moved to Gilroy four years ago, where he volunteers at the Gilroy Museum. He also served on the Gilroy Historic Heritage Committee as chair.

Why are you running for Gilroy City Council?

I was approached after a meet and greet and asked if I would run. At that time, a non-conservative candidate had yet to emerge in this race. I had been watching city council videos since the pandemic. Things I cared about came before the council and sometimes the result was hard to stomach. Other times, a rabbit was pulled from a hat. 

What did I care so much about? Was it cultural diversity, walkable streets, bike infrastructure, affordable, climate-efficient housing, public transportation, upzoning, things to do for the young, local history, a thriving arts community, a vibrant downtown, gun safety? Well, it’s all of those things, of course, but picture them happening simultaneously as one thing: a future for Gilroy.

What are your ideas on how to meet the city’s housing needs, while also managing traffic, finances, public works and other impacts that come with such growth?

As demonstrated by the community input on the Housing Element, meeting Gilroy’s housing needs means providing housing for current residents with very low, low and moderate incomes, as well as the elderly, the unhoused, and those with special needs. The question seems to imply that we want or need to build market rate housing on the outskirts of town to attract new residents, therefore attracting new growth, which is not a priority of mine, nor should it be anybody’s. So we’re not talking about building out new infrastructure, but building for density near town using existing infrastructure. We will build climate efficient homes downtown, or within walking distance of public transportation, with streets that prioritize walking, biking and buses over cars. These homes will be built with the excellent craftsmanship of local union tradespeople, creating good jobs for Gilroyans.

What steps must the City of Gilroy take to alleviate homelessness?

There are various approaches to alleviating homelessness that are being bandied about, as this is a statewide problem. Is it increasing the housing stock overall? Is it offering unused city property for safe encampments? Is it repurposing motel rooms or building tiny houses? One thing is for sure, attempts already made have been less than useless. Nobody likes homelessness, most especially the homeless themselves. I would support what I consider to be the most humane solution, as I believe that would also be the lasting solution, to restore the lives of the unhoused, to the degree possible, as members of this community. Social housing with in-house services is the ideal, and I will always advocate for that, but, as I understand it, it’s not an available option at present.    

With retirement costs rising annually, how can the City of Gilroy bolster its revenue sources to avoid potential layoffs and service cutbacks?

The first thing you have to do is elect people whose entire ideology doesn’t revolve around shrinking government by cutting off revenue sources. I know, it sounds crazy. You currently have a super-majority who prefer “hard choices” to seeking new sources of revenue. They want to practice “fiscal discipline” both in good times and bad, so bad times are especially bad. This phenomenon is known as budget austerity, and it is motivated by an uncompromising rightwing libertarianism, which is practiced here in Gilroy. In this regard especially, these are foxes guarding the hen house. As someone who believes in traditional, democratic, American governmental institutions, and in public service generally, I would look for sources of revenue wherever I could find them. The more staff and services, the better for everybody, obviously. Staff work very hard. They deserve our support.

What are some other issues for the City of Gilroy that you would hope to address as a councilmember?

I would like to see a community center downtown, or near downtown, with a swimming pool, sports facilities, and programming for the young—something that kids from low income neighborhoods have easy access to. I would like to see the downtown blocked off from cars, so that Gilroyans have a sociable space to convene, so businesses old and new benefit from foot traffic, so that there can always be things going on and places to be seen, the arts, cultural events, busking and small concerts. I’d like to see people from Morgan Hill come down here for a change. I bet a lot of the people that fumbled the bag on the Redevelopment Agency love to eat at Ladera Grill. It makes them feel special.

Tom Cline

Cline has volunteered for the Gilroy Garlic Festival for the past eight years, four of those on the Board of Directors, was named president in 2019 and was to serve his one-year term in 2020 until the pandemic hit.

Tom Cline
Tom Cline

He has also volunteered at New Hope Community Church for more than 30 years, and been involved on the boards of various other local organizations.

Cline has owned Cline Glass Contractors since 2011.

Why are you running for Gilroy City Council?

After deep personal reflection, I have decided to step up and serve my community by representing you, the residents of Gilroy, on the City Council. I find that too often the decisions coming out of the council chambers only split the council and, more importantly, split the community and divert attention away from addressing the serious needs of Gilroy. The goal of mine is to find common ground, through a commonsense approach that benefits the common good for the entire community.

What are your ideas on how to meet the city’s housing needs, while also managing traffic, finances, public works and other impacts that come with such growth?

In Gilroy, our housing outpaces our job growth, which means our residents are leaving Gilroy for jobs outside the city. My goal is to have housing at all income levels to allow our residents the opportunity to find housing that meets their family and financial needs. More importantly, I want to understand how a project impacts traffic, public safety, neighborhoods, schools and because of our drought-water. I’ll vote to support good projects but I’m also willing to vote against projects that don’t promote quality housing or our community’s quality of life. 

What steps must the City of Gilroy take to alleviate homelessness?

Homelessness is an issue that affects everyone in our community. While Gilroy residents have a big heart, we must rely on County, State and the Federal government to provide money and services for what is becoming a societal problem. Gilroy can try to partner with affordable housing builders, but we also need to provide services for the homeless that will ensure their success such as mental health, drug abuse and job training. I’m willing to work with community members and elected officials from the different levels of government to gather the resources we need. 

With retirement costs rising annually, how can the City of Gilroy bolster its revenue sources to avoid potential layoffs and service cutbacks?

As a union-operated business owner, I’m acutely aware of rising costs with everything from equipment to labor. Gilroy is no different. As retirement and other costs increase, I want to provide budget oversight to control spending while also trying to generate new revenue. The Chamber of Commerce (GilPAC) has endorsed my campaign because I will work to attract, retain and expand businesses locally that generate new jobs and higher wages. Overall, strong economic policies generate local jobs and much-needed revenue to the city that promotes our quality of life. We must demonstrate that Gilroy is “open for business.”

What are some other issues for the City of Gilroy that you would hope to address as a councilmember?

I believe the first and most important responsibility to our residents is public safety and it will be my number one priority. I have been endorsed by the Gilroy Police Officers Association, Gilroy Firefighters Association and Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen because of my commitment to keeping Gilroy safe. I also want to ensure that Gilroy’s budget reflects the needs of the community. I know how to challenge assumptions by asking the tough questions regarding revenue and expenses. The city should do a better job of thinking past today to plan for future growth and infrastructure requirements. 

Jan Bernstein Chargin

Bernstein Chargin, a 20-year Gilroy resident, is a retired Gavilan College administrator who is active in organizations that address homelessness and housing.

Jan Bernstein Chargin
Jan Bernstein Chargin

She is the cofounder and a board member of PitStop Outreach, which works with unhoused residents of Gilroy to improve their safety, health and well-being. She has also previously served on the boards of the Gilroy Compassion Center and Gilroy Arts Alliance, among other local organizations.

Bernstein Chargin recently retired as the Director of Public Information at Gavilan College.

Why are you running for Gilroy City Council?

Although I wasn’t born in Gilroy, Gilroy is my home. I raised my three children here, volunteered at the Garlic Festival, cheered at games, and for 20 wonderful years served the community as Director of Public Information at Gavilan College. I’ve also seen problems and tried to fix them, through service with the Compassion Center and PitStop Outreach. When I retired in December, it was with an eye towards continuing to serve the community. I like solving problems, working together to get things done, and going through the details and process of policymaking.

What are your ideas on how to meet the city’s housing needs, while also managing traffic, finances, public works and other impacts that come with such growth? 

I am a proponent of Smart Growth. We need to create housing that is affordable at every income level—especially for the heart of our community: retail workers, service workers, caregivers and agricultural workers. Lower cost housing is higher density housing, and this should be strategically located: near transit, near stores, and include bike parking, transit passes and walkable environments so people who are already struggling don’t have to take on the added expense of a car. Denser development is less expensive to service, requires fewer miles of road to maintain, and preserves open space for generations to come.

What steps must the City of Gilroy take to alleviate homelessness?

The good news is we are finally making some progress on homelessness. Since July, 40 unhoused people in Gilroy have gotten housing through the county’s care coordination system, more than we have ever seen in such a short period of time. Measure A housing projects are opening, and with each one, people get off the street. I am delighted that Gilroy is entering an MOU with the county to develop permanent supportive housing on county land in Gilroy. Many people need special services in addition to housing, such as mental health care or addiction treatment. But the core of the matter is housing, without which none of these interventions can work. In the meantime, the city must work together with service providers to reduce the impacts of homelessness, by making provisions for garbage removal and sanitation for people still unhoused.

With retirement costs rising annually, how can the City of Gilroy bolster its revenue sources to avoid potential layoffs and service cutbacks?

Gilroy has often tried to “go it alone” instead of leveraging resources through grants from the state and federal governments. We must be proactive in identifying our goals and seeking grant funding to realize them. We also need to consider new sources of tax revenue. We must work to attract the companies that provide the high-paying jobs to which many of our residents currently commute, and encourage new businesses that will bring in additional tax revenue.

What are some other issues for the City of Gilroy that you would hope to address as a councilmember? 

Many young people in Gilroy are suffering and in need of positive activities and opportunities. The pandemic was hard on everyone but especially so on young people. Too many have resorted to violence to solve problems. Too many young lives have been lost. I support what many young people are now asking for: a Youth Center where they can gather safely, interact with positive role models, and participate in healthy activities in sports and the arts, which many families can’t afford to provide on their own. I would like to invite young people from throughout the city to help develop the vision, and then work with them to make it happen.

Staff Report
A staff member edited this provided article.

Please leave a comment

3 COMMENTS

  1. Vote Bracco. He is the only one that knows the history of Gilroy and the issues we face. He has been in the community all his life and that is the best qualification out of all of them.

      • Lies are like ar$e h0!es, everyone has one. Bracco’s businesses are in the cities’ industrial areas not the ag land. Blame the county and city for the the rezoning. How about blight from the city of Gilroy and Morgan Hill burying thousands of acres of prime farmland with ugly corporate conglomerate built homes? Maybe you should focus on that instead of an independent businessman that has contributed to the community for generations. Bracco,s Yelp reviews are very good.I am sure you are probably obsessed not only with Bracco, likely with Trump and Republicans too.

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