Mike Villalta, 62, business owner, retired administrator, mayor of Los Banos
Q: Why do you want to be elected to city office, and what makes you a better choice than your opponent?
A: I was elected Mayor of Los Banos in 2010. I campaigned for change, and restoring integrity and common sense in City Hall. I have been working toward those goals ever since, and we're making progress. I want to be re-elected mayor to continue fighting for Los Banos. If I have been providing what I promised, and have earned the citizens' trust, then the voters will make me their choice.
Q: The city's unemployment rate hovers around 17 percent. What can you do to bring livable-wage jobs to Los Banos?
A:We need to sell the advantages of doing business here, and the resources we offer. We have an unemployed workforce, space, affordable homes, great accessibility, and an excellent cost of living.
We're in the most productive agricultural region in the world. Our ag products are a tremendous resource for the right processors and users. With the cooperation of the Chamber of Commerce and the entire business community, we can attract those businesses and the jobs they bring with them.
Q: The rate of property crime has risen 18 percent in the first six months of this year. Given the crime rates and knowing there's no room in the budget to hire more police officers, what do you propose to do about it?
A: The previous mayor and his council voted to cut police and fire by over 20 percent. Crime went up over 35 percent. This council has been working hard to dig our way out of that mess.
The rate of violent crime is down over 60 percent, and we just swore in two new police officers. We're doing the right things to restore support to public safety budgets and reduce crime rates. But the PD and Fire Dept. are still doing more with less, and doing a fantastic job of it.
In order to reduce property crimes, we need the community to be actively involved. I'm promoting volunteerism and partnership with the police department.
I'm a strong supporter of the VITAL program, and Neighborhood Watch. They are outstanding ways for volunteers to help the PD and send the message that we don't tolerate crime in our neighborhoods. We watch out for one another, and we care about our neighbors.
Q: The Merced County Association of Governments is a part of local homeless efforts, the proposed Los Banos Bypass and several other projects. How do you view city council's relationship with MCAG, and would you change it in any way?
A: MCAG is a state-mandated organization, made up of representatives of all six incorporated cities and the Board of Supervisors of Merced County. I am the representative of the City of Los Banos. I am one of eleven voting members of the MCAG Board of Directors.
MCAG's purpose is to provide administration and regional priorities for a growing list of government services. It is financed by population-based voluntary contributions from its members. Los Banos contributes about $14,000 per year, plus additional voluntary contributions for administration of special projects, like Continuum of Care, when funds are available, and based on our priorities.
Without state mandates, our relationship with MCAG cannot change. We will retain one of eleven votes on that board. However, we have the ability to increase or decrease our voluntary contributions to MCAG's administration budget based on our available revenue, and our expectation of a return on that investment of our money.