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Our Opinion: Good turnout, bad turnout

August 14, 2001

We are pleasantly surprised at the good turnout of candidates for elections in some Imperial Valley places but more than a little disappointed with the slight turnout in a few others.

Heber got big turnouts for seats available on both its school board and its utility district, which in essence operates like a town council since Heber has no such body.

While the big issue in Heber is its residents considering becoming an incorporated city, other issues reportedly include starting a Heber high school, the need for sidewalks and the building of a municipal swimming pool. The turnout in candidates for elective office in Heber points to a city buzzing with democratic activity.

The same can't be said in Brawley, where only two people, the incumbents, signed up to run for City Council. This happened in a city of 25,000 people that has not exactly been free of controversy in recent years.


It is not as if the incumbents running, Steve Vasquez and John Benson, are uniformly loved by the voters. Both have their supporters, but both also are not afraid to step into the center of a controversy.

In fact, at times Benson and Vasquez don't get along in council meetings. Arguments between the two have gotten heated at council meetings over the years.

Things in Brawley are on the upswing, with a new city water plant spurring development including a beef plant that will be bringing 600 jobs to the city in coming months. While Benson and Vasquez should get at least some of the credit for that, one would think at least one person would be ready to challenge the two for a council seat. Alas, no.

We also aren't particularly enamored by the fact that two incumbents are running unopposed for two seats on the Imperial Valley College board. The IVC board is another one that has not been free of controversy in recent years — nor has the college, for that matter — and if people don't get involved, issues don't get addressed. That the other seat open on the board has two candidates running to fill a seat vacated by an incumbent and that both appear more than qualified, is encouraging.

The El Centro City Council has five people, including both incumbents, running for two seats. That is a representative turnout and it may point to the perception that longtime councilman David Dhillon, coming off a losing county supervisorial race that included a voting controversy, is vulnerable.

Other races with good turnouts of candidates include the Imperial and Holtville school district boards, which always seems to get more than their share of candidates, and the El Centro Elementary School District board, which oversees a district that had a nasty and protracted teachers' contract dispute in recent months. All three incumbents are running for re-election to the ECESD board, which means those races should be hot ones.

We prefer hot races to cold ones. A large field of candidates robustly discussing the issues is a big part of what makes this country, and democracy, great.

We just wish that democracy were a little bit more active in a couple important places in our valley.

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