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Answers grow heated at IVC forum

February 27, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

If Imperial Valley College students wanted a heated debate, that's what they got Tuesday night, thanks particularly to the candidates for county sheriff.

IVC students were sponsoring a forum for countywide political offices. With the March 5 election around the corner, students and the public had a last-chance opportunity to listen to candidates for county sheriff, county Board of Supervisors and the Imperial Irrigation District.

"It helps students get out to vote," Associated Student Government president Michael Lopez said.

Student government vice president Karina Zamarripa, parliamentarian Christine Sunday, senator of student affairs Miriam Trejo and senator of athletics Alicia Trejo posed questions to the candidates.

Sheriff candidates Chief Deputy Ernie Mendoza and incumbent Sheriff Harold Carter squared off in the hottest debate, with Carter and Mendoza blaming each other for the county's first in-custody murder.

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Carter said Mendoza is responsible because he is in charge of the jail.

Mendoza said Carter is responsible because the murder happened while he was sheriff. Mendoza said he only volunteered to take over the jail after the murder when he thought he could help fix some of the problems.

County Supervisor District 1 candidates incumbent Tony Tirado and Calexico Mayor Victor Carrillo and District 5 candidates Brawley City Councilman Esteban "Steve" Vasquez and incumbent Wally Leimgruber took the next set of questions.

All supervisorial candidates agreed quality-of-life issues and economic development are the county's biggest challenges.

A question on disaster preparation prompted a dispute about the Thanksgiving holiday weekend at the Imperial Sand Dunes, where about 40 officers patrolled 190,000 visitors. A man was shot to death, a ranger was run over and officers issued a record number of citations during a weekend of unprecendeted violence at the dunes.

Challengers Vasquez and Carrillo said the county and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management should not have been taken by surprise by the violence that weekend.

Tirado said the BLM is the agency that manages the dunes and the county sheriff only assists as needed.

Leimgruber said no one expected the huge crowd that came to the dunes Thanksgiving. He agreed with Tirado that the county has been asked to assist the BLM in law enforcement at the dunes. The county is now working with the BLM in a management plan for the dunes, he said.

The final debate was the IID board of directors candidates: Division 1 candidates John Hernandez and incumbent Andy Horne, Division 3 candidates Director Lloyd Allen and challenger Ruben A. Garcia Jr. and Division 5 challenger Gilbert Grijalva. Division 5 incumbent Rudy Maldonado was absent.

Students asked what could be done with power supply contracts to keep power rates as low as possible and when supply contracts would expire.

The question set off a dispute when challengers Garcia and Hernandez said information on contracts expiring is not available to the public.

Garcia said someone would have to be on the inside to know when a power supply contract would expire. Hernandez said a lot of information "is not out there for the public to know the truth."

Horne took offense to the insinuation that documents are being kept secret. As a public agency, the district is forbidden to be closed to the public, he said.

"We have to operate at a competitive disadvantage because all of our contracts and resources are open," Horne said.

After the forum, students said they learned a lot, especially about the politics of water in Imperial County.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or lauramitchell9@yahoo.com

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