GONZALES — Voters in Gonzales will soon be choosing a mayor and three city council members in the upcoming Nov. 6 Statewide General Election. To help voters make an informed decision, Gonzales Tribune sent out a questionnaire to all the candidates running for election, asking for their stance on city issues.
Four candidates are vying for three spots on the Gonzales City Council: Henry Martinez Sr., Paul Miller, incumbent Elizabeth Silva and Lorraine Worthy. Current Councilmembers Robert Bonincontri and Jose Lopez chose not to run for re-election.
Additionally, Gonzales Mayor Maria Orozco is seeking re-election, and will compete against local property manager Henry Martinez Jr.
Only Martinez Sr., Miller, Silva and Worthy responded to the Tribune’s questionnaire. Read their responses below:
HENRY MARTINEZ SR.
What qualifications do you have that make you a good candidate for city council?
Martinez Sr.: I have worked for members of the community for 30-plus years as a landscaper. I volunteered for La Gloria Elementary School for 25-plus years. I started and ran a Parent Patrol alongside Officer John Amaro of the Gonzales Police Department. I helped former principal of La Gloria Elementary School, Al Velasquez, start the school carnival by designing and building games for the school. During times of natural disaster, I answered the call for volunteers by aiding local fire departments during the Arroyo Seco and Big Sur fire by delivering equipment and parts. In addition to helping during fires, I volunteered during severe flooding by packing and delivering sand bags from Central Park to the community. I have served the people of Gonzales for years and my candidacy is my next step to continue serving the community.
Miller: I have been a resident of Gonzales for over 30 years and I believe I know a lot about the community. I was a police officer and chief of police in Gonzales and this provides me with a good prospective on issues the city is facing. I understand how local government works and the role a city council member would play to help to address these issues. I feel that being a city council member will allow me the opportunity to continue to service the residents of Gonzales.
Silva: I have served on our city council since 2009, and consider myself to be open-minded and I listen to all sides of an issue before making my decision that I believe is in the best interest of our residents. I have also represented our city on the Salinas Valley Recycles Board since 2011, serving as the board president from 2014 to 2016.
Worthy: I have been a small business owner for over 20 years. Before that, I was a manager at a local winery for 10 years. I have served on the Gonzales Planning Commission and currently serve on the Measure K Advisory Board. I am familiar with how the city works and am current on upcoming projects in the city. I am an engaged community volunteer who is proud of the direction our city is taking. I have always felt that this is a safe place to live and I am proud to have raised my children here.
What do you hope to accomplish as a city council member?
Martinez Sr.: As a city council member I want to be a representative for those who feel victimized or wronged by the city, and I will make myself available to them 24/7. I want to fund better Parks and Recreation services, such as all-inclusive parks, longer pool hours of operation, and low cost or free programs for residents of Gonzales. I want to help maintain a better budget and have realistic and functional goals for city projects. I hope to hold City Hall accountable for any failures to uphold a standard set forth by our residents. I also hope to be able to provide better funding to the fire department to ensure their job can be done without any setbacks. I will hold the police department accountable and make them more community oriented. Finally, I will work to fund more community outreach programs and community events for our children.
Miller: I want to contribute to the great direction I think the city is going. Our city staff works well with residents and business owners to make Gonzales a great place to live and do business in. I believe that we need to continue to support public safety, recreation and other vital services. We are lucky that our city has great leadership, hardworking staff and residents that strive to make Gonzales a wonderful place to live. Truly the “Gonzales Way.”
Silva: I hope to see new housing develop within the near future that includes a new school site, walking trails, parks and additional shopping opportunities for our residents.
Worthy: I want to continue the momentum of “The Gonzales Way.” I want to develop more programs for our seniors, engaging them in the community more actively. I want to continue to expand the city’s young professionals and youth leadership development programs for the next generation of Gonzales leaders. I want to support building the bonds of community between our law-enforcement and community members. It is important that the community come to see police officers as allies who work for positive outcomes for all people. We are already making great strides in this area under the leadership of our police chief.
How do you feel about the cannabis industry in South County?
Martinez Sr.: I believe this is a welcomed and needed industry in our local economy. The cannabis industry brings new jobs and taxes to our community. The new revenue source for local communities can be used to fund schools, roads and other projects that have been under funded for years. However, even though this new revenue will stimulate the local economy, I do believe that the cannabis industry needs to be responsible for paying for education programs for at-risk youth and young adults.
Miller: No matter how anyone feels about cannabis, it’s legal now, so we need to expect that it will become part of the South County industry. It’s a new trade and it allows the City to collect some tax dollars to help fund other needed programs. The city council already made it clear, through resolution, that we will not have dispensaries in the city. Since most crime related to the cannabis industry occurs in or around dispensaries, it was smart of our city council to not allow this industry in the city limits.
Silva: I support what we have approved for our city, which is the cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis only and the limitation as to where these businesses can be located, which is within our Industrial Park on the west side of the train tracks. Personally, I have seen the benefits of what the medicinal cannabis can provide to individuals who suffer through painful and agonizing situations and whose only respite comes from its use.
Worthy: Consumption of cannabis is a personal decision everyone must make on their own. I have empathy for the cancer patient, the child with uncontrollable seizures, and the person dealing with untreatable chronic pain. I think our city leaders have been thoughtful, measured and responsible in addressing this industry’s interest in developing cultivation facilities in the industrial business park and addressing community concerns.
When you hear about concerns from the community, what steps would you take to see that they are resolved?
Martinez Sr.: I will make myself available to all citizens as soon as a complaint or concern arises. I will investigate all complaints and concerns to the best of my ability. Finally I will not rest until a resolution has been reached even if that means admitting that the city is at fault. I want to ensure all citizens know that no one is above the law, especially not those of us in power.
Miller: It is important to make sure we put those people who have concerns in touch with the correct staff members to help with their issues. As city council members, it is our job to give residents the platform to bring those concerns to the City’s attention and then allow the staff to address it. If there’s direction needed, then the city manager will bring that to the city council. If the issue isn’t resolved at a staff level, then it becomes something the city council must address.
Silva: I have always had an “open door policy” and residents are comfortable calling or texting me, or stopping me when they see me to voice a concern or suggestion. I get the details about their concern, and ask if they’ve tried to contact anyone at City Hall. If it’s something that I need to research, I always let them know that I’ll get back to them and I do.
Worthy: For me, it is important to hear from all sides and bring all of the information to the table when addressing concerns or conflicts. Constructive conversations where both parties agree to sincerely listen to each other and work together to find a resolution are best. I think I am good at facilitating that type of dialogue. Those who complain, but have no intention of finding a solution, are just spinning their wheels and wasting precious time. I believe that respect and empathy must always be seated at the table, and personality conflicts need to be left at the door.
What are the top challenges the city is facing in the next five years?
Martinez Sr.: The biggest concern Gonzales faces is population growth with the lack of economic growth. The city has been working on expanding the population by building low-income apartments and new housing; however, there are no plans to stimulate the local economy and provide jobs or educational services to new citizens. Before new housing is completed, the city needs to bring in new businesses, such as Walmart, Arco and other franchises, to bring in new jobs and an increase in revenue for the city. Our schools need to be expanded to handle a large influx of students while maintaining small classroom sizes. If we do not fix our infrastructure before we bring in more citizens, we will be setting people up for failure.
Miller: There are many challenges that are out there. One is economic concerns. We need to find new ways to fund our programs and services. Another would be affordable housing. It’s expensive to live in Monterey County and finding housing that you can afford is challenging. We need to look at ways to build housing that our residents can afford. I was recently appointed as a commissioner for the Housing Authority of Monterey County, and look forward to bringing this new knowledge to the city council and hopefully help us address this local issue.
Silva: Addressing the bottle-neck traffic on the Fifth Street overpass with the stakeholders; having various levels of available housing for purchase or rent (low, medium and high density); ensuring our city’s utility infrastructure (water and sewer) is able to accommodate the growth of our city; providing an adequate number of police and fire department employees as we grow; and encouraging small businesses to open a business in our city (i.e.: physical therapist, eye doctor, furniture store, diner, motel, etc.).
Worthy: Thoughtful, responsible and controlled growth, infrastructure, affordable housing and attracting a diverse and vibrant grouping of small and large businesses that create jobs for residents. Everyone can agree that keeping the “small town” feel, that is the signature asset of our diverse community, is an important part of life in Gonzales.
Vote-by-mail ballots have already been sent out to local voters, and early voting has begun at the Monterey County Elections Department, 1441 Schilling Place, North Building, in Salinas. Office hours are Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Polling place locations will also be available Election Day, Nov. 6.