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Four battle for two seats in county supervisors race

February 17, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

Several pressing issues are now and will be facing the Imperial County Board of Supervisors.

The board failed to act quickly to oppose power plants being built across the border in Mexicali. Air pollution from the two plants could be harmful to the health of residents on both sides of the border, county officials say.

Last September, Supervisor Joe Maruca tried to rally the board to oppose the plants and future power plants but the rest of the supervisors sat in silence.

The board finally opposed the pipeline and transmission lines earlier this month after supervisors came under criticism from the public and local city politicians.


But lack of unity on this board is rare. The supervisors have worked together on economic development projects such as the idea of an international cargo airport.

The county scored a victory when landowners at the Gateway of the Americas development, which could bring thousands of jobs to the county, approved taxes to pay for sewer and water plants and maintaining utilities. Obstacles such as lawsuits and a landowner's bankruptcy almost stopped the project before it got started.

The board has worked with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on closures at the Imperial Sand Dunes and provided additional support through the county Sheriff's Office when violence erupted over the recent Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Future challenges for the board will be the impending water transfer between the Imperial Irrigation District and the San Diego County Water Authority, air quality and continuing high unemployment.

Two of five county supervisorial seats are on the ballot for the March 5 election and Calexico Mayor Victor Carrillo and Brawley City Councilman Esteban "Steve" Vasquez are hoping voters want a change.

Vasquez is challenging District 5 Supervisor Wally Leimgruber. Carrillo is opposing Supervisor Tony Tirado for the District 1 seat.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or


Calexico Mayor Victor Carrillo thinks he is a better choice for the District 1 seat because he can bring accountability, a positive voice and active participation to the county.

"Calexico wants more than the status quo," Carrillo said.

During his tenure as a Calexico city councilman, Carrillo said, he is most proud of the city's first-time home-buyer program that gave 451 families more than $7 million in financial assistance.

He's also proud of the city bringing in the Calexico 10 Theatres and making 26 miles of street improvements.

If elected to the Board of Supervisors, Carrillo said he would work for Calexico. He feels nothing much has been done for the city by county leaders and it's time for a change.

He thinks the Board of Supervisors should have taken action sooner on the power plants being built in Mexicali.

"This is something the Board of Supervisors, as county leaders, should have taken under their wing," Carrillo said.

Supervisor Joe Maruca was the only one who tried to get a resolution going to try to address the pollution situation, he said.

"It was clear the board didn't have the leadership," Carrillo said.

He thinks the board's recent opposition to the pipeline and transmission lines that will connect to the plant is in reaction to public criticism.

The supervisors have recently "jumped on the bandwagon" because it is an election year, Carrillo said. The incumbents are getting criticism so now they have become outspoken critics of the power plants and lines.

To help the county develop economically, he thinks the county's chief executive officer needs to work with all the local city managers to create an economic development strategic plan.

Carrillo thinks the Gateway of the Americas development would have benefited if the landowners hired a professional who could market the project. Marketing would bring in business people interested in commercial, hotel and retail development, he said.

Carrillo is a social science teacher at Calexico High School. He said if elected as a supervisor he would give up his teaching job if he had to, but he would rather keep it because he likes interacting with students.


County Supervisor Tony Tirado is running for re-election because he sees there is more work to do to improve the quality of life in the Imperial Valley.

The county has the highest unemployment and lowest per capita income in the state, Tirado said.

"It's a quality-of-life issue that we need to improve," he said. "We gotta get out of this box and diversify."

He says his 23 years of political experience, including tenures on the Calexico school board and Calexico City Council, make him more qualified than his opponent.

"I was born and raised here in the Valley. I never thought I'd run for politics, but there were problems with the schools my kids went to so I ran for school board," Tirado said. "Then people started asking me if I'd run for City Council."

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