By FRANCISCO E. JIMENEZ
The City of San Benito Place 2 race for the City Commission pits incumbent Rene Villafranco against challenger Shirley Vega, a local business owner.
Both candidates discussed their views of the city and issues including new business for San Benito.
“My platform continues to be the same, I want to bring new business to San Benito, I want to continue working on the streets, working with upgrading our park systems… just enhancing the quality of life for everyone in San Benito,” Villafranco said on Thursday. “San Benito is business-friendly. Reports show you that construction is at an all-time high. It has doubled since last year. You see small businesses showing up and national chains showing up in town. It’s slow, but it’s continuing process.”
Vega was not as optimistic as Villafranco about the San Benito’s ability to attract and maintain new businesses in the last several years.
“My platform is to bring new business and to make it easier for new businesses to move to San Benito,” Vega said. “I do feel that this is an issue. I feel that we need new business. In order to attract it, we need to be flexible. We need to welcome new business and not make it so hard for them to come. People just leave because they say it’s very hard with inspections and permits. I really think that we need to be more business-friendly.”
“I decided to run because, as a business person, I’ve been through these inspections and these hoops that you have to jump through to open an additional business,” Vega added. “I find it very frustrating. I feel that these business people need my help. I believe that I can be their voice.”
Villafranco shared some of his accomplishments that he’s most proud of while serving on the city commission.
“(I’m proud) that we’ve been able to balance the budget every year,” Villafranco said. “We’ve been able to give raises to our employees, even at times when it’s hard. We’ve continued to work on streets on a daily basis and set money aside for that. Our cash balance reserve is at 106 days, when it’s required at 90 days. We’re working towards 180 days. Our financial department and our audits have been outstanding. Our creditors are rating San Benito at an A-plus, which is outstanding to me and something I’m proud to be a part of.”
While discussing what he believes to be the biggest problems, the topic again turned to business in the city.
“The biggest problem is always going to be money,” Villafranco said. “The more money you have, the more you can do. The best thing we can do is go after grants. We strive on asking our department directors to ask for grants. We need to promote San Benito as best we can for business. People don’t understand that the more we spend here, the more we get to give back to them, the community, and allow more businesses to come in. That’s not the case, though.”
Vega kept her focus not only on new businesses, but also helping already existing businesses in the area.
“As a business person, I have firsthand issues. I haven’t worked 20 years just behind a desk. I have hands-on experience, financial experience from the ground up, starting a business and running a business,” Vega said. “That’s why I want to focus on new businesses for San Benito. I think having incentives to attract new business would really help a lot. Also working with different groups to assist the business owners to improve their properties with low interest loans or waving a permit fee. I think we need to help the existing ones so they can grow, and I think they (City Commission) could do more by having incentive packages to attract new business.”
Early voting will begin on Monday, April 28 and end on Tuesday, May 6. Election Day is on Saturday, May 10.