Joe Sousa, 56, retired public works director, Los Banos councilman
Q: Why do you want to be elected to city office, and what makes you a better choice than your opponent?
A: I believe that I am qualified to be your mayor because I have the experience, courage, and willingness to make the difficult decisions, a record that shows my resolve to keep our city solvent, and I'm able to continue providing the core services we all depend on. My commitment to our city has been tested and demonstrated and my record shows it. My opponent voted against the much needed budget cutbacks that preserved our reserves and prevented financial ruin. He took the politically easy way out in our city's greatest time of need, and demonstrated his lack of leadership skills.
Q: The city's unemployment rate hovers around 17 percent. What can you do to bring livable-wage jobs to Los Banos?
A: Bringing jobs to Los Banos is one of the most important undertakings for our city leaders. We must seriously look at what we can offer employers, and what will encourage them to locate here. It takes much more than low fees; we already have the lowest development fees in the Central Valley. We must take an honest look at our infrastructure, our work force, and the amenities which are necessary to attract employers. In addition, we have to be selective of the type of industries and employers we bring in so as to ensure we attract living-wage jobs that can sustain our families and the businesses which depend on that income to survive and be successful.
Q: The rate of property crime has risen 18 percent in the first six months of this year. Knowing there's no room in the budget to hire more police officers, what do you propose to do about it?
A: Not only has the rate of property crime increased significantly, we have also had a large increase in most other types of crime. It is unfortunate that the local economy is struggling, making it difficult for the city to apply the needed resources to public safety. As mayor I will seek to apply increased future revenues to public safety until such time when we can restore staffing levels to pre-recession levels. We have to operate at a high level of efficiency to maximize every available dollar applied to public safety. As a community we need to support the existing measures A and P to maintain our ability to sustain current staffing levels, and finally we need to unite as a community in supporting public safety in the difficult challenging service they provide to us all.
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: It is unfortunate that MCAG has been so demonized. I am convinced that the result has been a negative impact on our ability to obtain cooperation and funding for much needed local projects. It took several decades and hard work by numerous city staff and council members including every mayor until Mayor Villalta, to reach the level of cooperation that resulted in greatly increased grant funding for projects such as pedestrian/bicycle trails, bike lanes, traffic signals, pedestrian bridge, and many other local projects. MCAG also serves as the organization that runs various joint powers groups that our city is part of, groups like solid waste services, and public transportation services, all vital to our city.
The demonizing of MCAG is the result of the Mayor Villalta's ignorance of MCAG'S functions and purpose as a regional governmental agency. His attacks on MCAG have alienated various municipalities and governmental agencies, making it difficult to cooperate and partner on the projects that are vital to our city.