Candidates for supervisor, county sheriff address issues

February 28, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Two candidates for county sheriff and two candidates for county Board of Supervisors addressed a forum at San Diego State University, Imperial Valley campus Wednesday night during a week on the campus honoring farm workers.

Sheriff Harold Carter said, "I am proud to have been your sheriff for the past three years and three months and I'm happy to be here to honor farm workers."

Carter said the first job he ever had was working packing sheds all summer in Yuma and Central California.

"At 14 I had a union card. In my early 20s I decided to become a police officer," he said.

When he wasn't in school Carter said he was working as an officer. He attended Imperial Valley College and then SDSU-IV campus, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees.


Carter said he spent more than 30 years with the El Centro Police Department before becoming "your sheriff." As sheriff, he said he has been a "change agent," bringing new programs, policies and equipment.

One of those new programs makes it a priority for the department to recruit and train Imperial County natives for the Sheriff's Office.

"When I got here there was a significant number of vacancies. Now we are promoting the hiring of young, qualified applicants," he said.

Carter listed the groups that have endorsed him and asked for Calexico's support as well.

Sheriff candidate Ernesto Mendoza spoke next.

A Sheriff's Office chief deputy, he said, "You have the right to be protected. You don't have enough police officers. People in Heber, they say, ‘Where are the officers?' They want a change."

Mendoza said, "Frequently my opponent is unaccessible. People will talk to his assistant and he is nowhere to be found."

He added, "I vow to be accessible. Thank you for your vote."

Mendoza did not use up his allotted time.

Audience member Ed Ruiz later asked Carter about a comprehensive report regarding the Sheriff's Office.

"I've heard from my friends at the sheriff's department that you have not released that report. Is it under lock and key?" he asked.

Ruiz said if it was complimentary, "The Imperial Valley Press would have run it."

Carter pointed out Ruiz is a member of Mendoza's campaign staff.

He then said, "I commissioned the report two years ago."

The report was conducted by Police Officers Standards and Training officials who conducted "candid interviews" with department employees, he said. The report taken by those officials was meant to be confidential, according to Carter.

He said the Imperial Valley Press ran "a copy of all the recommendations" taken from the report.

Ruiz asked him why the Press has not run a copy of the report. Carter said he runs the Sheriff's Office and not the Press.

"You're looking for something to campaign on and there is nothing there," Carter said.

Incumbent District 1 Supervisor Tony Tirado told the crowd, "Ladies and gentlemen, the question is, ‘Do the campesinos deserve housing?' The answer is ‘yes,' " he said.

He then talked about the money the county has recently received for housing programs.

"We got $500,000 for the first-time home-buying program that helps people in the community, $500,000 in Community Block Development Grant money for rehab in Heber and $300,000 for colonias," he said.

He talked about his qualifications.

"I've served for four years on the school district, 14 years on the City Council, four as your mayor. As a supervisor I feel improving the quality of life is very important. You do that by bringing in development," he said.

Tirado mentioned the jobs created by the Brawley beef plant, a cheese company near Seeley, the 1,600 jobs that could be created by a vast increase in local sugar cane production and the possibility of a cargo airport.

He said the recent decline in the county's unemployment rate is encouraging but it's still "something we have to address. If you graduate from this school you won't find a job here. That's what we are trying to avoid."

Calexico Mayor Victor Carrillo, Tirado's challenger, talked about his time on the City Council.

"During my six years on the council 3,000 homes have been built; 450 families have had the opportunity to take ownership of their own home by our first-time homebuyer program. Recently we've generated another $900,000 for housing programs. We've exceeded expectations. The Calexico City Council met those needs by requiring developers to adhere to our general plan," Carrillo said.

Regarding Tirado's comment about SDSU graduates finding work in the Valley, Carrillo said, "I didn't have to leave this area to find a job. This is a first-rate institution and we should never forget that."

Regarding Tirado's claim of being a "full-time supervisor," Carrillo said, "As a part-time councilman we've accomplished a lot."

In contrast, he said Tirado working "full-time" has not improved the roads surrounding Calexico.

Carrillo closed by saying, "Do you want a full-time and nothing of what you've seen in Calexico on a half-time basis?"

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