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May 24, 2022

Board of Supervisors – District 4 questions

Incumbent Ron Rodrigues and challenger Reb Monaco face each
other in a runoff election for the District 4 Board of Supervisor’s
seat covering South County. In the March primary, Pat Loe won the
District 3 seat being vacated by Rita Bowling.
Rodrigues, of Union Road, and Monaco, of Tres Pinos, recently
responded in writing to the identical questions put to them by The
Pinnacle staff. We publish their answers in the hopes the
information will help you cast your ballot.
Incumbent Ron Rodrigues and challenger Reb Monaco face each other in a runoff election for the District 4 Board of Supervisor’s seat covering South County. In the March primary, Pat Loe won the District 3 seat being vacated by Rita Bowling.

Rodrigues, of Union Road, and Monaco, of Tres Pinos, recently responded in writing to the identical questions put to them by The Pinnacle staff. We publish their answers in the hopes the information will help you cast your ballot.

Rodrigues, 70, is a two-term supervisor and retired farmer who was born and reared in San Benito County. After earning his college degree at the CalPoly University in San Luis Obispo, he joined the U.S. Army. After a tour in Germany, he spent three years working in the cattle business in Nevada.

Upon returning to his home in San Benito, he eventually become a state employment manager at the Employment Development Department and worked there for 30 years. During that time he also ran his family-owned business producing apricots and walnuts. He and his wife Diane have two grown children, Mike and Debbie.

Reb Monaco, 58, has a master’s degree in education from San Jose State University. Up until his retirement this summer, he was a teacher for the Hollister School District for 32 years. He also served as an adjunct faculty member for Gavilan College for 15 years. While he was in school, Monaco worked as a bicycle mechanic in his uncle’s bike shop in San Jose, then moved to Hollister with his wife Jill in 1969. He and his family have maintained an organic walnut orchard off of Southside Road since living in the county. The Monacos have two grown children, Theran and Laura.

1) The county’s 1 percent growth cap on market-rate housing is among the toughest in the state. How do we balance the housing and economic needs of our community while protecting the natural beauty for future generations – and please be specific. If your answer includes the phrase “I will bring jobs to this community,” please be specific about your plan of attack. Do you agree with the 1 percent cap?

Ron Rodrigues: The Board of Supervisors was unanimous when we proposed a 1 percent growth cap. We had to act quickly or suffer the consequences from unmanaged growth. The balance of housing and economic needs in our community will come as a result of active recruitment of new industry and business. This process is and has been underway for many years through the EDC and other organizations. We must also maintain our focus on agriculture because it is a viable segment of our economy. The Williamson Act and agricultural easements are just two ways the county can protect its natural beauty.

The county needs “smart growth.” This will protect our environment and agricultural resources, reduce our wasteful use of land and water resources. The state will add 11.2 million more people in the next 20 years and you know there will be continued pressure on the county.

Reb Monaco: That’s a major concern in this county. I supported the 1 percent growth cap when the county passed it, but I don’t want to be married to it. We live in one of the fastest growing populations in the world. Anyone who doesn’t realize that is sticking their heads in the sand. I was one of the first candidates to come out and say we need a managed growth stand. That includes jobs and recreational facilities. It’s not just about the growth of housing.

We need to support agribusiness, provide a visible tax base and work with and support the EDC to attract business. The 1 percent growth cap might have bought the county some time for planning, but it has to be examined on a regular basis. Jobs are a major issue in our county. We especially need to work at paying our public sector workers at a livable wage. This will retain valuable county workers and give them the dignity they deserve.

2) The city and county often seem to butt heads philosophically and practically. Yet the county and its residents are impacted by decisions that are made in the city of Hollister. How can relations be improved between the two boards?

Rodrigues: All of us, the supervisors and the council, must strive to work toward the spirit of cooperation. It’s not about head-butting or differing.

There has been and will be some cooperation due to the nature of local government. For example, council members and supervisors sit on some of the same commissions. LAFCO and the Council of Governments are two of the more active ones. The Intergovernmental Committee, comprised of two council members and two supervisors, needs to be activated. The current Vets Building (renovation) project came about because of cooperation between the city and the county.

Monaco: We need to get beyond the personalities and start dealing collaboratively with issues. The recent name-calling and accusations are embarrassing to all the citizens of our county. We need to establish meaningful dialogue.

(The council) has made some weak decisions. But we live in a democracy and there’s room for recourse. Personal attacks hurt everybody; there are no winners and Joe Citizen becomes the victim. I do know that sometimes boards tend to give too much power to their CEOs. Staff has to be accountable to the board, and in the case of the city, staff has to be accountable to the council members – at all times.

3) Who supports your candidacy? Have any specific groups endorsed you? Will this affect your decisions as a board member? Are there any groups or organizations from which you will not accept campaign contributions?

Rodrigues: My candidacy is not supported by any special interest group nor have I been endorsed by any specific groups. Most of my monetary support comes from personal funds, with help from friends. If I were offered contributions from groups or organizations, I would evaluate them at the time of offer.

Monaco: I am supported by the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 187, the South Bay Labor Council – I am the first candidate in San Benito County that they have ever supported. I am supported by California Coalition of Law Enforcement Association. I am also supported by many local citizens.

4) Why do you want to be a supervisor? What is your experience and why are you qualified?

Rodrigues: Why do I want to be a supervisor? I am an experienced supervisor having served two terms. There is much work to be done and goals and objectives to implement as soon as possible. My concern focuses on a River Park Plan, stream cleanup, New Idria cleanup and construction of bridges and low-water crossings.

I serve on numerous committees for the benefit of the county. CSAC (Calif. State Assoc. of Counties) has a director from each county. I have been appointed by our board to represent you at the state level for the purpose of observing legislation affecting counties and learning about programs suitable for all rural counties.

I enjoy the challenge of being a county supervisor and I am a team player. Our board operates as a team and I am proud to be a member of the San Benito County Board of Supervisors.

Monaco: I have always been active in San Benito County since moving here 33 years ago.

I have served on numerous committees for the county, the Grand Jury, as a director of the Saddle Horse Assoc., a volunteer fire fighter, a member of the Farm Bureau, and I have taught in public education here in the county for 32 years, retiring in June of 2002. My experience in these many diverse leadership roles certainly qualify me to serve as a supervisor, and I want to continue to contribute to solving the problems that are going to face our county in the near and distant future.

5) The county, in recent years, has been proactive in its efforts to protect the environment as development continues – the dark skies ordinance that limits light in an effort to protect celestial views comes to mind, as does the complex rating system on which potential developers now must score high before their projects are accepted. Recently the county also enacted a ban on the clear-cutting of trees. There is now talk of a ban on ridge-top development, a move that would force builders to obscure housing built in the hills. How would you feel about such a measure? How do you weigh private property rights against the rights of future generations to enjoy as unspoiled a landscape as we can leave for them?

Rodrigues: Our environment is becoming more fragile every day – partially brought on by more population and increased growth pressures.

A dark sky ordinance, which I supported, will help protect what little celestial view remains. We have a local observatory and the new ordinance will help somewhat. The Pinnacles National Monument also appreciates “dark skies.”

A ban on clear cutting of trees is just another measure to help protect our environment. Ridge-top development has been occurring more and more as time moves on. Aesthetics and fire protection are two important ingredients to consider when an ordinance is proposed for ridge-top development.

Any proposed ordinances will be analyzed for property rights. Good planning will take this into account. My plans for the future focus on environmental protection, such as the River Park Plan, agricultural easements, the Williamson Act and stream and river cleanup.

Monaco: I would support a ban on ridge-top development. There has to be a balance of private property rights and wilderness preservation. We have to make decisions relevant to our rivers, chaparral, grazing and farming, and unique ecological and geological areas that must be preserved. Then work with property owners to encourage preservation. But we can and should not usurp the rights that property owners have under the law. It takes planning and negotiation.

6) For more than 20 years, residents living in the far southeast end of the county have been concerned about mercury poisoning and acid mine drainage coming from the abandoned New Idria Mercury Mine. Cows, humans and wildlife living downstream have been affected by toxic runoff for a century, and residents have lobbied politicians and EPA bureaucrats for years to get some kind of mitigation. What will you do to ensure its cleanup? If elected, do you plan on persuading your fellow supervisors to take some kind of real action?

Rodrigues: I have personally testified before the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento on May 24, 2002. I spoke about most of New Idria’s problems and how widespread it is.

County staff, Congressman Sam Farr’s office and I were on a conference call on Sept. 16 with the Congressional Liaison for EPA Region 9. We discussed the problem and the need for cleanup. This will be monitored by county staff, and we’ll continue to seek out cleanup funds.

I have also been involved in meetings with the Panoche/Silver Creek Watershed Coordinated Resource Management and Planning Team. They are fully aware of the New Idria problem and that most of New Idria’s drainage ends up in the valley.

The current Board of Supervisors concurs with the necessity of a plan of action for that area.

Monaco: I think it’s a real problem. I have read the Woods Report (a compilation on the history and ongoing efforts to clean up the New Idria watershed since 1988) and consulted with knowledgeable people on the subject for clarification. The contamination is a serious, complex problem, with no easy solution; otherwise it would have probably been solved by now.

It’s unfortunate that it affects only an isolated area and relatively few people in that section of the county, making funding so difficult. But I think that all agencies responsible for effecting these kinds of problems, like the EPA, state and federal environmental and water resource agencies and our own county supervisors need to work together in a unified way to solve this ongoing problem.

7) Hollister’s long-term wastewater plan doesn’t seem to address regional water issues as presented in the newly announced groundwater management plan for the county. What can the county do to get city decision-makers to cooperate on the groundwater plan, and possibly make the new city sewage fix more synergetic to the needs of the county?

Rodrigues: The groundwater management plan, which builds on a previous plan, were both developed cooperatively with the City of Hollister, San Juan Bautista, Sunnyslope Water District and San Benito County Water District. The plan outlines a proposed course of action to develop water quality and quantity for San Benito’s residential, commercial and agricultural users.

The county was disappointed when the city of Hollister’s long-term wastewater management plan was revealed, because it did not appear to address the goals and objectives of the “cooperatively” agreed upon groundwater management plan.

However, the public disclosure process and the California Environmental Quality Act, which is mandated for projects such as Hollister’s wastewater treatment plan, ensures county participation. We are confident that the effort already underway, which entails interaction with the Regional Water Quality Control Board to work with Hollister on revisions of its plan, will prove successful in meeting regional needs of our water supply.

Monaco: I’ve dealt with this issue since 1998 when I was on the Grand Jury. We had gone up to Gilroy to see how they fixed their sewage treatment problems. I disagree with the supervisors for going to the RWQCB meeting (in Salinas) and recommending the fine for the city.

The city has to deal with their sewage issue. The county may have every right to get angry about that, but they have to work with the city to resolve this problem. It might be that neither plan solves the problem. Let’s step outside of the box. I’m not going to point to the city and call them asinine idiots. I’m willing to say let’s go back and try again.

The city affects the county. We need to offer assistance in the form of support at the state level, grant applications and involvement.

8) What’ the answer to the issue of Ridgemark road maintenance?

Rodrigues: Ridgemark road maintenance has become a real issue. I have been working with various homeowners groups (at Ridgemark) over the years in trying to find a solution to the problem. At first, it appeared that making their county service area (#9) handle it would work, if all the homeowners agreed. I have requested over the years that there be a consensus or unity among the residents of Ridgemark. To my disappointment, this didn’t happen.

After listening to the pros and cons, the supervisors were unanimous in deciding not to enact street maintenance as a part of CSA #9. The main reason was to avoid the county becoming embroiled in litigation due to liability issues.

A Community Service District was proposed since it will resolve questions and issues facing the Ridgemark area. Most people say less government is better and this presents an opportunity to obtain funds and manage strictly maintenance of the roads without local government interfering with the process. This most certainly has more advantages than would a county service area.

Monaco: It’s a major muddled-up decision. The people of Ridgemark have to decide how they want their roads managed. They own them. It’s probably at the point where it has to be put to a vote to those people. Have at least 51 percent carry it, and whatever they decide, as a supervisor I would take their wishes to the board.

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