Watsonville City Council Election Guide
Tune in next week for our final election guide!!!! It will include the City of Santa Cruz City Council, 4th District Supervisor, Measures K and L and more!
Watsonville is the only city in the county that elects its city council via districts. There are 7 districts, 1 for each council seat, meaning that each candidate can only run for 1 seat, in 1 district. And given that Watsonville has less than 30,000 registered voters, every vote is crucial. This year there are 4 open seats, however incumbents Lowell Hurst and Nancy Bilicich are running unopposed in their districts, leaving only 2 races.
The most important issue in Watsonville, bar none, is public safety. With the recent shooting that claimed the life of 4 year old Jaelyn Zavala, and local man Ramon Rendon, the former unintentionally hit by stray gunfire, the issue is of fundamental concern to the community. It’s not a new issue either, as Watsonville has historically dealt with significant problems associated with gang violence. And though the city recently passed Measure G in June, a quarter cent sales tax increase to fund police and fire service, the recent deaths have caused an outpouring of community frustration.
Other issues of concern in Watsonville are related to local economic development, especially in regards to attracting new businesses, and redeveloping the downtown area. Recently the City Council approved the move in of a new McDonalds on Main Street, which sparked some controversy with some residents who didn’t want another fast food chain moving in. Other upcoming decisions are likely to be made regarding the now approved removal of 2 lanes on Highway 152 where it runs through downtown in an attempt to promote more commerce and make downtown more pedestrian friendly.
The Candidates, by District:
Incumbent Montesino is a bus operator for Santa Cruz Metro who was elected to the council in 2010 and served as Mayor in 2012. He voted in favor of placing the now passed Measure G on the June ballot, and wants to address safety through more youth programs, like the Youth City Council. He is supportive of the Main Street improvements downtown, and voted in favor the new McDonalds. He has been endorsed by Assemblymember Luis Alejo and Supervisor Zach Friend, as well as a number of labor organizations.
Jimmy Dutra is a local farmer, business owner, and a member of the family that owns and operates Dutra Farms near the County Fairgrounds. He decided to run for council after failing to get into the runoff for the 4th District Supervisor seat in early June. He is a staunch proponent of economic development and believes his business experience will help in that endeavor. He too states that he wants to see more safe spaces for local youth. He has been endorsed by the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau and the Watsonville Regional Airport.
Daniel Dodge is an incumbent with a long history of public service in the Watsonville Area, having served as Mayor and as Chair of the Planning Commission. He was also one of the chief proponents of Measure T, a failed measure to annex county farmland on the south side of the city for economic development purposes. He wants to hold a county wide Water Summit with all of the local agencies to promote more regional collaboration, supports more youth programs, specifically: Guitars Not Guns and Get Out, Get Fit camp, and wants to develop the Manabe/Ow property near Highway 1. He has been endorsed by both Assemblymember Luis Alejo and State Senator Bill Monning.
Rebecca Garcia is a former educator and Cabrillo College Trustee. She has also served as chair of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and as chair of Watsonville’s Housing Task Force in the 1990s. She was strongly opposed to Measure T, but was supportive of the annexation of the Manabe/Ow property. She wants to address the issue of public safety by working with the police and local neighborhoods to create more neighborhood watch programs. It is interesting to note that her opposition to incumbent Daniel Dodge and her insistence that he does not work well with others is one of the main reasons she chose to run against him.