South Kern Sol, Question and Answer, Chris Romo
Editors Note: When Jose Gurrola was elected to the Arvin City Council in 2012 he was just 19, the youngest person ever elected to public office in the city’s history. Now 23, Gurrola is vying to be the city’s next mayor, hoping to replace incumbent Jose Flores, 44. South Kern Sol spoke to Gurrola about his time on the council and his plans for the city should he become mayor. This is part of a series of interviews with Arvin’s mayoral candidates. Click here to read Jose Flores’ interview.
What are the primary issues you hope to address as mayor and how will you respond to them?
Jose Gurrola: Any city government’s number one priority has to be public safety. We need to make sure we give our officers the tools, the resources and the pay they need to be able to do their job effectively and keep the city safe. Another thing we can do is improve training to make sure they can handle situations involving things like domestic violence, or cases where mental health is an issue. Implicit bias training can help ensure officers know how to interact with different cultures in the city of Arvin and make sure we treat all people with respect.
Economic development is also hugely important and let me tell you why. The more jobs we bring to Arvin the more we will strengthen our tax base, which will allow for us to invest more in our parks, our roads and other community resources.
On education, we have to make sure that we make B.C. in Arvin a reality. We need to build this satellite center of Bakersfield College in the City of Arvin. There is a bond on the ballot this year, measure J, that I fully support and that gives $25 million for a center in South Kern. The city has already offered to donate land for free to the Kern Community College District.
Arvin has the worst air quality in the nation. How are you going to make our city more walkable/bikeable?
I have been supportive of smart growth programs to make sure that as the city grows, we don’t contribute more to air pollution.
For air quality, we need to look at new legislation at the state and federal level that will help reduce air pollution in the city of Arvin and throughout the Valley. There are several bills in Sacramento that I supported and I have talked with our Assemblymember, Rudy Salas to let him know my position on the issue. As Mayor, you have the power to represent the city and you have to use this to champion these issues.
What are you going to do to make sure our parks are maintained?
We need to expand our capital projects and bring maintenance to the parks. What the city has done, is expand the number of positions we have to help maintain the parks. As the budget grows there will be more positions we have to offer but there is a gap of what the people of Arvin deserve and what we can afford to offer. There needs to be a discussion on how we can develop a revenue stream to maintain the parks and have recreational activities to give kids a positive way out from drugs, alcohol and gangs, and make the city safer. That is something I look forward to doing when I am mayor.
How are you going to prioritize youth in the city of Arvin?
I believe that we need to give young people the opportunity to get involved with local government. I want the youth to have a role in the budget to decide where we spend money for youth priorities. That is something I want to see happen, but the amount and where the funding will come from, those details are still up in the air.
What is one thing about you that might surprise voters?
There are a lot of things people know about me. They know that I would be the youngest Mayor elected, for example, but most people don’t know that I never saw myself getting involved in politics, especially as young as 19 or 23-year-old. People may say I am going to be a career politician, but I am very unpolished. I speak my mind because I care and sometimes I may offend public officials because when I see a wrong I want to right it.
If I am given the honor of being elected mayor, one thing that they won’t be surprised by is how hard I will work and how hard I will fight to make sure we improve the community. I believe that a brighter future for Arvin is out there. A future worth fighting for with good paying jobs, clean air and water, educational attainment, where our roads are fixed, where we have well maintained parks and community gardens, and where we have access to healthy food and health care. In that Arvin we have a government that is transparent, responsive and efficient. I’m running for mayor because I want to make that future a reality and I think I am the best candidate to do that.
Jess Ortiz, 88, has not responded to a request for an interview.