Gilroy Councilman Peter Leroe-Muñoz, a former San Benito County deputy district attorney who works in San Jose for the tech industry’s Silicon Valley Leadership Group, is running on a public safety and economic development platform. The Harvard-educated attorney has attracted contributions from the housing development industry, which is not surprising given his past role as a leading champion of one of the worst development schemes ever hatched for Gilroy: a 721-acre, 4000-unit plan that sparked a 2016 LAFCO lawsuit against the city and prompted voters to boot Mayor Perry Woodward out of office and overwhelmingly pass an urban growth boundary.
Leroe-Muñoz admits “we could have done a better job with the community” by getting information out earlier. He made the motion for the project’s approval after backroom deals had been cut by former mayors Woodward and Don Gage. Leroe-Muñoz also believes there is “no problem between the Gilroy Police Department and the Latino community,” though tensions flared after a Feb. 25 death that remains under investigation.
San Benito County Supervisor Robert Rivas, on the other hand, seems to be in close touch with his constituents. When business leaders opposed a 2014 initiative to restrict oil drilling in San Benito County, Rivas went out on a limb. He took early leadership in the anti-fracking movement, which despite $2 million in spending by Big Oil, carried 59 percent of the votes and inspired similar initiatives in other California counties.
Petrol purveyors have targeted Rivas with $320,000 in independent expenditures to portray him as soft on crime. While Leroe-Muñoz doesn’t appear to mind them raising the public safety issue, he says he doesn’t support fracking or other enhanced extraction techniques because of water supply contamination concerns.
Rivas has run a campaign of diversity and inclusion, while Leroe-Muñoz has aligned himself with business interests. Rivas, who has raised more than twice the funding as his leading opponent, is endorsed by political arms of the state’s teachers, nurses and public employee unions; Leroe-Muñoz sounds alarms about CalPERS’ unfunded pension liabilities.
A political science college instructor, Rivas believes the vibrancy of downtowns is important and sees Morgan Hill-style revitalization and high density housing as preferable to sprawl.
While both have local roots and either candidate could competently represent this region’s residents in Sacramento, Rivas is more closely aligned with the sentiments of people who live here. He was on the right side of a defining issue in the county he represents, while Leroe-Muñoz was on the wrong side of a watershed moment in the city where he holds elected office.
We recommend a vote for Robert Rivas in the June 5 primary.