County crusading to capitol

Board, staff explore lobbyist to represent San Benito

The crowd watches from the county board chambers in 2016

County supervisors Tuesday discussed hiring a lobbyist to represent the board in Sacramento.

At an early May meeting, Supervisor Robert Rivas floated the idea of hiring a lobbyist to represent San Benito County at the state level to advocate for local issues. Rivas suggested economic development funds be used for the hire.

County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa told supervisors that staff allocated money for a lobbyist in the upcoming budget for Fiscal Year 2017-2018

“In our development of the budget, we did actually earmark $120,000 for this,” Espinosa said at Tuesday’s special meeting.

Rivas said he’d been an advocate for hiring a county lobbyist since he was a college student.

“We need advocacy in Sacramento and advocacy for our county when it comes to issues,” Rivas said. “Some of these issues, obviously, are attached to funding. If we hire a lobbyist, they’re not going to bring millions of dollars to our county, but certainly they’re going to score some victories for us and bring resources back to our county.”

He said that while it wouldn’t be an open check, it would be worth a try.

“I know we flirted with the idea in the past, but I think it’s time we do something about it.”

The rest of the county supervisors, except an absent Supervisor Mark Medina, agreed with Rivas.

“I think it’s past time we go forward with hiring a lobbyist to plead our case in Sacramento,” Supervisor Jerry Muenzer said.

Supervisor Anthony Botelho suggested hiring a lobbyist to represent San Benito County at both the state and federal levels.

“National issues affect our county as well,” Botelho said. “Use of (Bureau of Land Management) land, Clear Creek reopening, possible oil excavation on federal land. The impact that will have on our county is tremendous and I think we have to have a consistent voice that is able to articulate that to our elected leaders at the federal level and state level. If we’re able to put this together and have the follow through, it could be a real positive thing for San Benito County. I certainly support the concept.”

Chairman Jaime De La Cruz liked the idea.

“Having a lobbyist in these two key places opens up doors,” De La Cruz said. “We might not see the investment, we might not see the gains today. But I think in two to three years, those small investments will start showing dividends down the road.”

Espinosa said the board should create an ad hoc committee to find an option for the county. De La Cruz appointed Supervisor Rivas and himself to the committee at the end of the discussion.

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