Having grown up in Fresno, Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula well understands the health and water challenges facing the central San Joaquin Valley. He achieved some notable successes in his first term in the Legislature on those issues, and The Bee recommends that Arambula be supported for a new term for the 31st District.
A Democrat, Arambula is the first Latino physician to be elected to the Assembly; he won election by capturing first in three separate contests in 2016. He also likes to point out he is the first Joaquin ever elected to the Legislature. He comes from political roots: His father Juan Arambula formerly served in the Assembly.
Running a low-key campaign against Arambula is Republican Lupe Espinoza of Coalinga. Her campaign website says she is a pre-college adviser for the University of California. Her challenge is the district’s party registration: Democrats have the edge, 45 percent to 25 percent. The 31st District covers the southern half of Fresno as well as all the rural farming communities in Fresno County.
In the primary that registration gap nearly held true: Arambula received 59.5 percent of the votes to Espinoza’s 40.5.
One of Arambula’s achievements is getting $9.6 million for Fresno County officials to use in designing a child-care plan specific to local needs. With the funding of the pilot project, child care will be available for 1,300 children.
He also secured $18 million in state funding to improve a bridge on Highway 269 in Huron that routinely gets flooded by rainwater rushing down Arroyo Pasajero Creek. Finding a solution to the flooding will mean Huron residents do not have to take a 28-mile detour around the flooded roadway. The state funds will match $10 million in local funds to pay for a new bridge.
Arambula introduced legislation to amend the state Water Code to allow local water agencies to capture storm runoff and recharge it into underground basins. The measure, Assembly Bill 2649, passed the lower house but did not clear the state Senate. He plans to re-introduce it next year if re-elected.
He also testified in support of the proposed Temperance Flat Dam on the San Joaquin River, upstream from Millerton Lake. State officials ultimately did not allocate sufficient funding for that project, and local water agencies are now considering their next steps.
Arambula sits on the High Speed Rail Authority board, and despite cost overruns and missed deadlines, remains steadfast in his belief that the project is good for California, and says it would mean new business opportunities in Fresno. He notes that ongoing construction in the Madera-Fresno area has already generated 2,000 jobs in construction trades.
He admitted the high-speed-rail project faces higher costs and a longer schedule for completion than was first envisioned. To speed up right-of-way acquisitions, Arambula guided a Senate bill through the Assembly that reduces the approvals needed for such land purchases.
Arambula backed the hike in the gas tax and vehicle registration fees that legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown pushed through last year. He recognizes the higher fuel cost could hurt lower-income residents of his district, but cites the chance to get $200 million in road-repair funding for District 31 as the reason for his vote.
Espinoza supports Proposition 6, which would repeal the gas tax. Her platform, as described on her campaign website, shows she supports Temperance Flat Dam; tax incentives for businesses that create new jobs; drastic increase in oversight of the high-speed rail project; repeal of the gas tax but new funding for road improvements (without explaining how that would be done); and repeal of measures like Proposition 47 that let certain criminals out of prison early.
One piece of unfinished business on Arambula’s inaugural term is getting final approval of his bill that would bring the San Joaquin River Parkway under state parks management. Gov. Brown vetoed Arambula’s bill, which had cleared both the Assembly and Senate with unanimous support. Arambula pledges to bring it back and work harder to convince the next governor.
He deserves the chance to see that through, as public access to more of the river would enhance the quality of life in Fresno. And toward the goals of continuing to improve the Valley’s health and water, we recommend Arambula for state Assembly’s 31st District.
How The Bee came to this recommendation
The Bee’s Editorial Board consists of Publisher Ken Riddick, Editor Joe Kieta, Editorial Page Editor Tad Weber, Vida en el Valle Editor Juan Esparza Loera, and Vida Staff Writer Maria Ortiz-Briones. They conducted an in-depth, in-person interview with Joaquin Arambula; Lupe Espinoza was unavailable despite multiple attempts to arrange a meeting. Additional research about the candidates was also done using publicly accessible online sources and The Bee’s archives.
The recommendation is just that: a helpful opinion meant to guide readers as they reach their own decision on which candidate to choose. This recommendation is the consensus opinion the Editorial Board; the news staff does not play any role in its creation.