In the race for San Benito County Supervisor, four candidates are running for two open seats. In District 3 the candidates are Patricia Loe and Peter Hernandez; in District 4 the candidates are incumbent Jerry Muenzer and Jim Gillio.
Loe served on the Hollister City Council, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors, the San Benito Council of Governments Behavioral Health Board and the County Planning Commission. Hernandez is a Hollister School District trustee and small business owner.
Muenzer has been supervisor for District 4 since 2011. Gillio is completing an appointed term as District 4 Hollister City Council member.
In a Facebook post, the Free Lance asked readers what issues they would like to hear their elected representatives discuss. Each candidate was given the same questions.
The questions were:
- What kind of growth, if any, is beneficial for the county? Why?
- What’s the biggest issue the county currently faces?
- What can the supervisors do to bring business to San Benito?
The most beneficial growth for the county is economic growth related to the creation of jobs by bringing in new commercial and industrial businesses. The benefits are widespread for both the economic base of the county through an increased source of taxes for providing services and for residents by reducing the unemployment rates, providing an increase in local jobs with less commuting and a corresponding improvement on the local quality of life. The door swings both ways in that commercial development attracts industrial development and the other way around.
Improving the infrastructure related to traffic circulation throughout San Benito County, and that includes working to widen Highway 25. This is one of my top four priorities, and I will collaborate with other San Benito County leaders to immediately start working with the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), Santa Clara County leaders, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) and Caltrans. If the local sales tax Measure G passes, we will not get a new Highway 25 right away. It is going to take a great deal of effort for its completion, and I will work to establish clear understandings and expectations with the CTC and Santa Clara County. The experience and working knowledge that I have gained through my work on Measure A and other highway and road issues has provided me with the knowhow to start working on these projects immediately. If Measure G does not pass, I will still work to establish partnerships that will benefit our county and continue to make traffic improvements one of my top priorities.
The Board of Supervisors needs to take the lead in attracting companies from Silicon Valley to bring satellite businesses to San Benito County. This can be accomplished through collaboration with the cities of Hollister and San Juan Bautista to establish the format for presentations. This is one of my top four priorities: to ensure that a committee established by the supervisors will broker a meeting between local and Silicon Valley business leaders and organizations to negotiate creative ways to bring new businesses and jobs to our community that ensures financial benefits to all parties involved.
Slower, smarter growth. This gives local governing bodies the chance to work together on a holistic approach to solving or problems today and into the future. It’s hard to be considerate of all the details needed to be addressed when dealing with planning for growth without being detail-oriented and prudent in ensuring the success of our community. The end outcome should be a plan that draws in higher-paying jobs and more businesses into our community, incurs a plan to solve our infrastructure and Highway 25 issues, and creates a better quality of life. “It all starts with a vision,” and we need to execute on that vision.
I have talked to many voters in my district, and they all agree our county is at a critical crossroads. The biggest issue by far is the focus only on residential growth and roads. That focus is not only not sustainable, but also not safe. I believe San Benito County will see the most amazing opportunity it has ever had to be a healthy, vibrant and safe community. But it’s going to take new leadership to take us out of the thinking that has created the mistakes of the past.
We need to work together with the city and decide what type of businesses we would like to recruit to our community and build a strategy around that vision.
We also need to be at a place where we have qualified staff, policies and procedures that expect outcomes. At the end of the day, if businesses have a belief they will be supported we will as a community be successful.
Commercial growth, business expansion and new business, will be my No. 1 growth priority. Any residential growth should be in-fill. Non-contiguous or “leapfrog” development should be discouraged. Residential development should be revenue neutral with police/fire, parks and infrastructure maintenance through the Community Facilities District structure, which allows for any new home to pay for their future impact. As a community we are in need of workforce housing and options for young people just starting out their adult lives; currently there are little to no rental units available in our area.
On a day-to-day basis county leaders must deal with many issues and be prepared to take on issues with innovative ideas and strategies. After walking neighborhoods, attending events and hosting meet-and-greets over the last year, three top issues I have heard often in our community are public safety (law enforcement, EMS and fire protection especially in rural areas), economic development (bringing living-wage jobs here to San Benito County) and repairing our infrastructure (local county roads and regional roads).
According to AMBAG (Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments) 11,694 of our local residents commute out of San Benito County every day. Our county has fallen behind on job creation and commercial growth. As a community we need to welcome the expansion of local business and recruit new businesses that are able to pay a living wage and support our local community. Specifically, we should be leveraging our recently adopted Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy to leverage grant funds from the state and federal government to build business parks and improve our infrastructure. At the county level we should be investing in economic development through the Economic Development Corporation to contact, recruit and assist new and existing businesses to add more jobs here in our county.
Incumbent Supervisor Jerry Muenzer did not reply to the Free Lance’s requests.