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June 27, 2022

Meet the candidates: San Benito County Supervisor, District 4

Three vie for Tiffany’s seat on five-member board

Three candidates are on the June 7 ballot for San Benito County Supervisor District 4: Tony Avilla, Angela Curro and Elia Salinas. 

Avilla grew up in Santa Clara County and served in the U.S. Air Force before he began working for his family’s construction company, he told the Free Lance. He and his wife started two small businesses. Avilla has also worked in the retail grocery business for more than 30 years. He has coached youth baseball and softball, and served in leadership positions in his church. 

Curro was born and raised in Clackamas County, Oregon, and moved with her family to San Jose when she was 14. She married her husband in 2001, and the couple had their son in 2002, Curro said. The family moved to Ridgemark in 2004. She is a retired election administrator, and throughout her career has worked in various positions in San Benito, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties.

Salinas is a business woman and a “local Government Accountability Activist,” according to her candidate statement submitted to the county elections office. She has attended more than 150 board of supervisors meetings, often speaking up on project or spending proposals and asking questions during public comment. 

Supervisorial District 4 includes the vast rural southern portion of the county as well as the Ridgemark community. 

Below are the candidates’ answers to questions from the Free Lance. 

Tony Avilla

Why are you running for San Benito County Supervisor?

I am running as a concerned citizen to bring greater transparency to county government. I want to see significant improvement to our roads and other infrastructure to maintain the quality of life we have in our county. With crime rising across the county; we need to recruit, train and retain the best law enforcement personnel.  

Tony Avilla

Our county’s strong dependence on agriculture and ranching demands that we wisely manage our limited water resources. I intend to stay closely involved with the housing growth in our county. Growing our tourism industry is important to me.

What do you think will be the most pressing needs for San Benito County over the next four years, and how would you address these needs as a supervisor?

Without addressing the rising crime problem, our citizens will not be safe to accomplish their family obligations. I intend to work toward increased communication and cooperation between the Board of Supervisors and the sheriff and police departments, maintaining the safety of our residents as a top priority.  

Highway 25 improvements are a long-standing problem. I will do everything I can to work with Santa Clara County and state and federal agencies to get the funding we need and the projects started to provide the transportation infrastructure our citizens deserve.

Homelessness has become an increasing concern in San Benito County. As a Supervisor, how would you aim to address concerns related to local homelessness?

Homelessness is a growing problem across our state, and SBC is no exception. There are multiple reasons for homelessness and each of them needs to be addressed appropriately and by the right agencies. I intend to work with county mental health, law enforcement, nutrition experts, housing agencies and educational institutions to provide the solutions best tailored to each individual. 

Too many homeless still refuse the help they truly need. We need to work toward the development of programs that will be attractive to them.

San Benito County is also a rapidly growing community. How would you use your influence on the board of supervisors to ensure the benefits of commercial and residential growth are balanced with the potentially harmful impacts?

With growing communities comes the need for increased resources, law enforcement, transportation routes and other government services. We need businesses to grow our county’s revenue and we need housing and school resources to provide for the workers and their families.  

The harmful impacts that result from this growth may be increased crime, congestion and school crowding. I will work with all relevant government and non-government agencies to both plan and implement short term, as well long term, solutions to potentially harmful impacts.  Supervisors cannot do this alone. But supervisors can bring together the assets needed to grow our county successfully.

The condition of public roadways is notably bad in San Benito County, and the county’s regular sources of revenue are not enough to improve and continue to maintain the roads. Do you have any ideas on how to seek more funding for roads, or do more with the funds that are available?

There are multiple sources of funding to supplement county resources for our roads. There are state grants specifically available to rural counties. Plus, we need to seek out and apply for every grant that we are eligible for, both at the state and federal levels.  

And we need to explore other sources of government funding—federal infrastructure programs, state highway improvement programs and partnerships with neighboring counties. Finally, we need to be creative in developing fundraising within the county in ways that do not add to the tax burden of our residents, which always impact low-income earners the hardest.

Angela Curro

Why are you running for San Benito County Supervisor?

San Benito County is growing. We can’t stop it, so we need to be smart about it. I am running for supervisor to ensure that we are strategic with our growth, hold local government accountable and support the health, education and safety of our residents. I will work to connect and unite our community by ensuring continuous communication that is factual and transparent. We must strengthen our economy without burdening our residents. Together we can keep San Benito County moving forward.

Angela Curro

What do you think will be the most pressing needs for San Benito County over the next four years, and how would you address these needs as a supervisor?

The top issues in District 4 are:

– Failing Infrastructure, including roads, traffic, and essential services (water, sewer and broadband) 

– Public Safety 

– Affordable Housing

If elected, I will work with community leaders and experts to address these issues by supporting economic recovery and development. We must attract the types of commercial and industrial development that improves our tax base and still maintains our rural heritage. This includes supporting current local and new businesses that provide livable wages and support local careers.

We need to build trust between the community and law enforcement through strong partnerships and communication. I will support public outreach and law enforcement training.  Together we can bridge our differences and unite our community to ensure everyone is safe.  

Residential development must make sense and affordable housing needs to be a high priority. I am not a supporter of sprawling residential development in the unincorporated areas of the county. Any new residential development in the county must be sustainable and maintainable.  As a community, if we can’t support and maintain new residential development, then we shouldn’t build it!

As a supervisor, how would you aim to address concerns related to local homelessness?

Homelessness is mostly due to lack of affordable housing, even though there is a portion of individuals that suffer from substance abuse and mental health issues. Homelessness isn’t just a city or county issue. It is a state and national problem.  

We can’t solve the homeless issue just by building homes. There needs to be a step-by-step approach to solving the overall cause of homelessness. We must improve our outreach efforts by working collaboratively with the community and organizations. The county must work to bring more business opportunities to our community, which will support a livable wage. Identifying the root cause of our local homelessness is essential to ensure the corrective options are successful for everyone.  

I have 11 years of direct experience in construction and most of those years were in affordable and transitional housing. In my experience, it is about connecting people to services and support. Working with local nonprofit organizations and businesses is key. Together we can create a path to reducing and hopefully ending homelessness in our community.  

How would you use your influence on the board of supervisors to ensure the benefits of commercial and residential growth are balanced with the potentially harmful impacts?

The revenue challenges of the county are substantial. The agriculture industry is our largest and must be protected. However, stopping new industrial and commercial development will cripple the county. This would have a negative impact on the services to our community. Without growth we will not be able to fix our infrastructure problems. To ensure growth is controlled, we need to review and update our General Plan to ensure that zoned areas for commercial development are clearly identified, without any loopholes for developers. At the same time, we need to preserve areas zoned for rural and agricultural uses.  

Building commercial development in authorized zoned areas is essential to solving our current revenue shortages. The increased revenue from new developments will allow us to address the problems facing our community: older infrastructure, upkeep of roads, lack of affordable housing and public safety concerns. 

Our current property and sales tax revenue is not enough to meet the needs of our community. We need to have a step-by-step approach to development that maintains the rural beauty of our county, and also allows us to successfully serve our residents.  

Preserving rural and agricultural land must always be one of our primary focuses. Smart growth that maintains our rural heritage is essential to the welfare of San Benito County. If we work together as a community, we can have both.  

Do you have any ideas on how to seek more funding for roads, or do more with the funds that are available?

San Benito County has a crippling revenue issue. Due to Proposition 13, the county only receives approximately 11 cents to each property tax dollar. We cannot sustain the required services and infrastructure on our property tax revenue. I have a three-point plan to address our revenue issue.

1) We must promote economic development not only for the city but the unincorporated area of the county. We need to bring businesses that keep not only tax dollars in our community but also grab tax dollars from out-of-town travelers driving through our county.  

2) There must be a push, not just from the Board of Supervisors, but from our community to force the state to fund these unfunded state mandates. This has been introduced with AB-1773, which will offset the revenue loss from the Williamson Act. I am a complete supporter of the Williamson Act. However, the state didn’t hold up their end of the deal. They stopped funding the difference in property tax. They also have stopped funding any state mandated programs. The state can’t keep burdening the counties when they have a $23 billion surplus. San Benito County needs to receive our fair share.

3) We need to promote our community to buy locally. When we bring businesses to San Benito County, we need to ensure that our local residents keep our tax dollars in our community. Stop funding Santa Clara County, buy locally. Promote our new businesses and when elected I will do just that by working with the Business Council, Chamber of Commerce and many other local nonprofit organizations. Together we can keep San Benito County moving forward to a brighter future for all our residents.  

Elia Salinas

Why are you running for San Benito County Supervisor?

As an active member of the community, I have a historical understanding of the issues affecting SBC. Having attended county Board of Supervisors meeting consistently for the last seven years, my foundation of knowledge and participation in these meetings is an asset to moving forward with my vision of SBC as a Supervisor for the next 50-100 years, and not placing bandaids to temporarily solve issues. 

Elia Salinas

What do you think will be the most pressing needs for San Benito County over the next four years, and how would you address these needs as a supervisor?

The most “pressing needs” are the same as they have been for decades: road maintenance, affordable housing, youth recreational activities and lack of broadband to name a few.  

The Board of Supervisors approved hiring a lobbyist with the specific intent to seek state funds for SBC for the regional park and broadband. However, this should not hinder the supervisors from personally advocating on behalf of SBC in Sacramento. 

SB1 and Measure G funds are being allocated toward Highway 25, city and county roads. The County has a five-year plan for roads attached hereto for the public to review.

https://www.cosb.us/home/showpublisheddocument/6911/637576172841770000

As a Supervisor, how would you aim to address concerns related to local homelessness?

Hollister, San Juan Bautista and SBC must all work together on not just a local but nationwide issue. I’ve been advocating for years on tiny homes. The lobbyist has been directed by the BOS to seek state funds for a tiny homes project. The Mental Health Department must improve capacity and availability to SBC residents in need.   

How would you use your influence on the board of supervisors to ensure the benefits of commercial and residential growth are balanced with the potentially harmful impacts?

With San Benito County having grown at 1.1% in the last 10 years, we should continue looking toward the future with measured growth while protecting our rural and agricultural lands with continuing collaboration with a San Benito County Agricultural Land Trust. Emphasis should be made on affordable housing.

Do you have any ideas on how to seek more funding for roads, or do more with the funds that are available?

The General Plan has designated appropriate zoned properties where commercial development will bring much needed economic development. These properties—called “nodes” specifically on the Highway 101 corridor with millions of vehicles that pass by San Benito County on a monthly basis—would bring greatly needed tax revenue. Said tax revenues will greatly benefit our roads, fire and law enforcement. 

SBC must seek its portion of the “Physical Infrastructure Bill” designated for highways, roads and bridges. 

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