Three men are vying to replace Fresno County’s most senior supervisor, Henry R. Perea, who is leaving in December after 12 years serving District 3.
Two have Fresno City Council experience. Sal Quintero currently serves much of the same area on the council. Dan Ronquillo served two terms on the council from 1994-2002.
The other candidate is Antonio “Tony” Gastelum, the lone Republican in the nonpartisan race.
District 3’s population is nearly two-thirds Hispanic and largely Democratic. The district covers most of the central and southeast areas of the city of Fresno and also includes the unincorporated areas of Calwa and Mayfair.
This district will be won with grass-roots politics.
Thomas Holyoke, Fresno State political science professor
Both Quintero and Ronquillo have raised more than $100,000. Ronquillo has loaned himself $65,000. Gastelum has loaned himself $83,000. He has accepted no donations.
Both Quintero and Ronquillo have labor support from the county’s largest union. Ronquillo has the endorsement of Perea and Fresno City Council members Esmeralda Soria and former county supervisor Susan Anderson. Quintero is supported by Sheriff Margaret Mims, Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer and Fresno Council Members Paul Caprioglio and Oliver Baines.
Gastelum’s endorsements include the Fresno County Republican Central Committee and the California Republican Assembly.
Fresno State political science professor Thomas Holyoke, who lives in District 3, suggests that there aren’t a great number of telltale signs of a campaign except in his mail. He said public safety and jobs are basic issues in the district, and the campaign seems to be more about shoe leather and handshakes.
“This isn’t a campaign about separating themselves on the issues; it’s going to be about who has the better organization,” Holyoke said. “This district will be won with grass-roots politics.”
Quintero was raised in District 3 and he has remained there. He worked in his uncle’s store growing up in Calwa, and he says that is where he learned how to listen.
“You learn a lot about people and what their priorities are, concerns about crime, having safe neighborhoods, a good education for their kids; that’s what I learned at that store,” he said.
Quintero said he wants to improve county working conditions and better fund its pension plan – but he wants employees to be part of the solution.
The county should “stabilize our current pension fund, keep the promise to those who are currently in the fund and establish growth goals in the fund for future employees,” he said. “Making sure we have input from the employees will provide innovative ideas that we could consider.”
Quintero wants to see more technology improvements to update county processes before looking for new space and offices that could accumulate debt.
Technology is changing so rapidly that it is truly a moving target. I would want to consider a whole host of options. … Are there less expensive lease options for technology, allowing us to upgrade at no additional costs? Are there long-term efficiencies that will offset increases to the departments?
He said supervisors in tandem with employees and administrators should evaluate the county’s needs and then set priorities.
But the county also should remove or sell buildings that have asbestos inside, such as the old coroner’s site and old juvenile hall, Quintero said.
“The longer we wait, the more it’s going to cost,” he said.
Ronquillo draws distinctions between himself and Quintero, who often are viewed as politically similar.
Ronquillo said he has a career in law enforcement in parole and probation, as well as a mind for business issues. He points to a successful restructuring of the Fresno city redevelopment agency 20 years ago that he spearheaded, which was opposed by Quintero.
He said he intends to work with county employees the same way Perea has in his tenure.
County employees, he said, should get the most competitive wages and benefits that the county can afford.
Ronquillo said there is a cost in losing experienced employees in replacement searches and retraining that adds to the burden of existing employees.
As you go further south (in Fresno), there’s stress, and people are upset with the number of burglaries. They’ve heard their neighbor got ripped off, and they wonder when they will be.
The county also is in a technology and building space crisis that has caused office crowding and long lines to address customers’ requests.
It’s a problem, Ronquillo said, that has been growing for decades.
To pay for improvements, Ronquillo said, he would support development fees, which will allow “a development to cover itself so the rest of the county doesn’t have to cover the cost.”
Gastelum points out that he has taken no donations or endorsements from developers or unions that represent county employees. “I am the only candidate who will be an independent voice to ensure the county’s fiscal solvency and sustainable financial footing into the future.”
He said Quintero and Ronquillo would have difficulties making hard decisions about contracting county services because of their ties to employee organizations.
“Both other candidates in this race are largely supported by public sector employee unions and have long records as the unions’ de facto voting representatives on the Fresno City Council,” Gastelum said.
Unlike the other candidates, he thinks county employees are compensated competitively.
Compared to private-sector workers, county employees are highly paid, receive exceptional health and retirement benefits and extraordinary job protections.
Gastelum also opposes high-speed rail, saying it never will be as fast or as low-cost as promised. “Telecommuting opportunities would be of far greater benefit to San Joaquin Valley air quality, road costs, entrepreneurialism and venture investment than anything promised by the high-speed rail or any maintenance facility.”
He said that instead of building offices to fit the county’s needs, the county should first consider leasing.
“I do not believe that new developments should bear a disproportionate share of the costs of county facilities and services, but I do believe they should pay the actual share of costs and services their residents will receive,” Gastelum said.
Andreas Borgeas is running unopposed for his second term in District 2. Borgeas was elected in 2012. Districts 1 and 4 are not up for election this cycle.