2014 Candidates Forum for Primary Election

On Wednesday, May 14, The San Benito County Farm Bureau (SBCFB) sponsored a 2014 Candidates’ Forum for the District 4 County Supervisors’ race between incumbent Jerry Muenzer and challengers Victor Gomez and Daniel Recht. The event also featured a debate over Measure G, a $42.5 million bond that would fund the improvement and renovation of San Benito High School.

The so-called “Baler Bond” debate occurred between SBHS Trustee Bill Tiffany, and Mark Hinkle, president of the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association.
Farm Bureau Treasurer Greg Swett opened the forum with a PowerPoint presentation detailing the Bureau’s mission statement, “to preserve and promote successful agriculture in San Benito County through education, leadership and service,” as well as the SBCFB’s influence, accolades, and involvement in the county. After Swett’s introduction to a substantial crowd, mediators Mary Lou Coffelt and Aaron Tilly called Tiffany and Hinkle to the stand.

The Baler Bond debate kicked off the Forum with Hinkle opening his anti-bond proposal with the statement, “How many of you think you pay too much in taxes?”

Hinkle encouraged the Forum’s audience to, “read the details [of the Baler Bond] because there is a lot to question.” He said the bond is good intention with a bad execution, calling it a mismanaged loan that will take more than 25 years to pay off at a high interest rate. Hinkle explained that it is unreasonable to pay this type of interest for a bond consisting of mismanaged priorities. He detailed the various ways the bond’s organization is off, and stated that the bond “needs to be prioritized and budgeted based upon the correct priorities.”

Next, Tiffany urged the audience to realize how repairs and maintenance of the current high school facilities are desperately needed, as most of the facilities remain unchanged since Tiffany’s parents attended SBHS more than 50 years ago. He stressed that many safety requirements are not being met due the outdated architecture and lax building codes of past eras. Tiffany explained that the campus is becoming a dangerous environment for students and distracting them from their main objective – to learn.

“The vocational building no longer meets safety standards,” Tiffany said. “After assessment of the building, it fiscally makes sense to build a brand new, state-of-the-art facility for $5 million, versus maintain the dilapidated building for $2 million.”
Tiffany also touched upon the need for new technology at SBHS, stating that nowadays, technology is a key component to the education needed to enhance students’ educational growth.

Tiffany concluded his endorsement of the Baler Bond by telling the crowd, “It is beyond time for facilities to be upgraded, replaced, and improved.”

Supervisors’ Debate

Muenzer, Gomez, and Recht were then each called before the crowd to deliver a two-minute opener; respond to five questions developed by the Farm Bureau in two minutes or fewer; and wrap up with a one-minute closing argument.

Muenzer’s key points throughout the debate detailed that as the current District 4 Supervisor, he is “finally hitting his stride,” and ready to take on another term to improve the community. He said that being born and raised in Hollister, as well as owning a local business within it, allows him to be aware of the needs of District 4. Muenzer said he wants to help open a volunteer fire station in South County and that he voted to put an ordinance to ban fracking in San Benito County on the ballot to let voters have their say. He has said he is concerned that such an ordinance could eliminate all oil exploration in the county and that it could open the county to litigation.

Gomez, a Hollister City Councilman, told the crowd that as a lifelong resident of Hollister and a small business owner here as well, he understands the community’s needs. Gomez, who recently announced that he was selling his Papa Murphy’s franchise in Hollister, highlighted his work ethic and said that he was never handed anything, but feels he can make the community, “double better,” in reference to an endowment he has doubled for Hollister. He said he supports private property rights, and stated that he is, “the most pro-business candidate.” Regarding fracking, Gomez said that he cannot support a full ban on the drilling technique until he “sees that it actually contaminates the water.” Gomez told the audience that he is being backed by the mayor of Hollister, members of the fire and police departments, and Sen. Anthony Cannella.

Recht closed out the debate by detailing his background in finance, which he said is a crucial skill that sets him apart from his competitors. Recht said that his “30-plus years of experience in finance” give him the know-how to turn San Benito County’s high unemployment around, as well as take Hollister from its “bedroom community” tendencies to a place people want to stay, work, live, and tour. Recht told the audience, “now is a time to have change and get the right decisions in place.” He said he wants to make a balanced decision on fracking, and steer clear of anything rash until all of the facts are in place. He also articulated his experience with agriculture, and that, “as someone who has dealt with large industries, someone who has led other businessmen and worked with agriculture, as well as achieved an MBA in economics, I believe I have the leadership and vision to turn San Benito County around.”

The statewide primary election will be held on Tuesday, June 3.

By: Alexandra Triolo