Watsonville City Council candidates sound off
There are a total of seven candidates in the Watsonville City Council race. Watsonville’s council is districted, and two of the candidates—District Three’s Bill Neighbors and District Seven’s Nancy Bilicich—are running unopposed. The remaining candidates are Marty Corley, Eduardo Montesino and Nick Rivera in District Four, and Daniel Dodge and Gabriel Gonzalez in District Five. Rivera, Gonzalez and Bilicich did not participate in the questionnaire.
GT: What specific ideas do you have to help bring in jobs and spur economic growth?
Dodge: I am very supportive of the Manabe-Ow Business Park project. This project will provide the City of Watsonville with the land that is needed to create future employment growth. It is vital to our economical development. The 2005 City of Watsonville General Plan stated that area is expected to provide close to 2,100 new jobs.
The new Cabrillo College Technology Center that is being created in Downtown Watsonville is another project that has exciting potential for the city … These are examples of creative partnerships that the city must explore further to plan for the economic future for our residents.
Corley: As a councilperson I would work closely with the City Redevelopment Agency and the Chamber of Commerce along with local business owners to look outside the box to bring in new business to Watsonville. We need to aggressively seek new business [for] Watsonville. Watsonville has a lot to offer to a new business that comes to this (our) city. This will take a lot of energy and time but as a city we need to bring in new jobs.
Montesino: Currently, too many of our citizens are unemployed or must leave our city and make long commutes to find economic opportunity. I will demand better for our workforce. Not only will I work to restore businesses to vacant buildings, I will help Watsonville prepare for the future demands of our young and growing workforce by attracting quality businesses and good paying jobs. I will support the Manabe-Ow Business development, a plan that is expected to bring 2,000 light industrial jobs to Watsonville citizens, with a minimal projected impact on our agriculture industry and environment. Finally, to facilitate our economic growth and keep our citizens moving forward, I will focus on improving roads and expanding transportation options.
Neighbors: The city council and City Manager must work together with [the Pajaro Valley] Chamber and other groups to get business to come to Watsonville; however we must do everything we can to keep the ones we have. We must make Watsonville attractive.
GT: How can the City of Watsonville better engage its youth?
Dodge: Our Public Library located in the Civic Center is state of the art and serves as the only Internet access for many youth in our city. The Parks and Recreation Department, in operating with its limited budget, reaches out to youth with its after school programs. Our Police Department, which has had an emphasis in Community Policing policies in the past, must continue to work with the nonprofit community and the Pajaro Valley Unified School District to provide alternatives to incarceration.
Corley: We need to ensure that there are sufficient programs for our children in the community whether it’s sports, computers, music or just a safe place for our youths when they are not in school … We have to find ways to keep our children out of gangs and give them a reason to learn and succeed in school. We have to create jobs for them while they learn a skill to be self-sufficient if they chose not to go to college. We need to promote the Santa Cruz County Office of Education summer youth employment program.
Montesino: One of my biggest concerns is that our youth don’t currently have a positive, safe space to congregate. Extracurricular activities for youth are similarly limited; right now we have some athletics available, but this is not enough … I’d like to create a positive, safe, and accessible space where youth can do extracurricular ‘one stop shopping’ and get involved in activities like folkloric dance, athletics, martial arts, music, technology, and volunteerism. When young people find a passion for an activity like folkloric dance or social service, they develop confidence, self-awareness, and vital life skills like teamwork and effective communication.
Neighbors: By keeping programs like Watsonville Police Activity League [PAL] and other sports program going. It is imperative that we have PAL … We must have things for our young people to do. We need the Bowling Alley back open.
GT: What would be your first order of business at a Watsonville City Councilperson?
Dodge: The City of Watsonville will have some interesting challenges to face over the next year. Special interests will most likely bring forth challenges to the General Plan of the City of Watsonville.
I hope to be a bridge between the community, the city, the nonprofit sector and the business community. We need to have constructive dialogue between North and South County to be able to address our transportation issues.
I would like to proceed on the Manabe–Ow project as I believe it is the economic jumpstart that the city needs. I believe next year’s census will show us that Watsonville has a chance to become the largest city in the county.
Corley: I would look into the fluoride issue that Watsonville is facing.
Montesino: My first order of business will be to direct staff [on] making sure the Manabe-Ow business development moves forward. We cannot let more funding go by. Watsonville and our youth depend on this new development. We cannot waste more time.
Neighbors: Let everyone know that they are important and I do care about their concerns and needs and I will always listen … I am here to represent the community as a whole, not just a district.