July 25, 2012
Just a week after the filing period opened, five people have taken the first steps toward running for the two-year office.
With Mayor Dennis Donohue retiring, the open field leaves candidates to differentiate amongst themselves, though most platforms at this early stage of the campaign are similar: Trim spending wisely and improve government efficiency.
Retired Salinas detective Joe Gunter, who lost a race for a city council seat to Steve McShane, says he'd prioritize economic development. "I'm running so we can become a stronger, more viable community," he says.
Gunter says the city's failed plan to woo Green Vehicles was a worthwhile risk. "That was a very expensive learning lesson, but everyone involved would tell you we’d do that one over," he says. "I’m more of a solar kind of a guy," he adds.
Realtor Rick Phinney is making his first-ever run for public office on a platform that as a political outsider, he can bring fresh ideas to the city council. "I would as mayor try to position the city to be run more like a corporaiton than a municipality," he says.
While he doesn't offer specifics as to how he'd approach gang violence but says, "Part of finding solutions is finding ways to do some things differently."
As far as economic development, he says, "We’ve got to figure out new avenues, new ways to attract new businesses to the city." Phinney's worked with downtown developer Gerry Kehoe.
Dentist Hla Myaing has taken out papers to enter the mayoral race, but isn't sure yet whether he'll run. Originally from Burma, Myaing says he's seen government operate in an incredibly lean manner and would like to see Salinas tighten its spending.
"In this country there’s a lot of waste," he says. He says the sputtering economy is a primary motivation for running. He's also inspired by the simple fact that he can engage in politics, as opposed to his home country.
Former Salinas Union High School District Margaret Serna Bonetti has run for Salinas mayor before, and has long made a habit of appearing routinely at public meetings, which she sees as a key qualification for the office. "I’ve been out in the community advocating for positive change in Salinas," she says.
She says she'd invite more public involvement and transparency, extending the public speaking period at city council meetings from two minutes to three, and criticizes Donohue for cutting people off.
Serna Bonetti says she'd also like to see Salinas become a regional leader on issues like water, urban runoff and other matters like the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital affiliation discussion.
As far as gang violence, Serna Bonetti says she'd engage local business and encourage apprenticeship programs and mentor youth. Rancho Cielo can’t do it all alone," she says. "It’s a successful program, but it’s only one small part."
Hartnell College Trustee Bill Freeman has also pulled papers to enter the race for mayor, but was not immediately reachable for comment.
Three city council seats, with four-year terms, are also open. Those seats are currently occupied by Gloria De La Rosa, Sergio Sanchez and Jyl Lutes.