There are two candidates in the race: incumbent Robert Rivas and challenger Stephanie L. Castro.
Two candidates are running for the District 29 council seat in the Nov. 8 election are Assemblyman Robert Rivas and candidate Stephanie L. Castro. Rivas has represented the 30th California Assembly since 2018 and is the incumbent candidate for District 29 after the December 2021 Assembly redistricting.
BenitoLink sent Rivas and Castro the same sets of questions. BenitoLink contacted several Rivas offices, sending emails and leaving phone messages. Rivas didn’t answer.
Stephanie Castro, 50, was born in Santa Clara and raised in South San Jose. He has lived in Hollister since 1998. Castro is a teacher; she received her BA in Liberal Studies from California State University, Chico, her Diploma in Multi-Subject Teaching from CalStateTEACH, and her Diploma in Single-Subject Secondary Arts from the University of Phoenix.
BenitoLink: List your top three political or legislative priorities. If elected, how do you plan to enact these priorities?
Castro: My top three legislative priorities will focus on the California economy, water storage in California, and infrastructure at home in California.
- As for the economy, I recognize the problem of inflation, which is more of a national problem. However, there are small things we can do to alleviate some of the problems in California. We still have supply chain issues at the ports, which has caused inventory shortages, which then lead to higher product prices. I will look at what we can do to facilitate the movement of product through our ports. High fuel prices are obviously a nationwide problem, but especially so here in California. We in California pay the second highest gas tax in the nation. There are other states that have reduced or reduced the gas tax to help their people during this heavy inflationary time in history. I believe we should do the same to help our people in California.
- In California, we haven’t even addressed the problem of water scarcity for many years. We need to start today by talking about this problem. We must put water storage on the agenda and find ways to increase the amount of water available to Californians. We need to find available land and remove some of the environmental regulations that prevent us from even talking about this serious problem. The farmers who feed us have suddenly seen a significant reduction in the amount of water they need. In some cases, they were not allowed to use any water in the valley, partly because of the Delta Smelt. I believe that Californians are more important than a species that is not even native to our area. California should also consider desalination. Israel successfully obtains almost all of its water through desalination.
- Our infrastructure needs to be seen as a priority. California used to have the best roads in the country in years past. Now, for the most part, this is no longer the case. Bridges need to be checked for safety and repaired if necessary. Some of the infrastructure is local, but where California is responsible, we have to take that seriously. I look at what’s going on in Sacramento and find the waste we need to cut to find the money for these projects. The intersection of hwy 25 and 101 needs to be addressed. Those who are drivers in the area know this requires attention to make the safety of our residents a high priority.
BenitoLink: There is a shortage of certified mental health professionals in California. How do you plan to meet the mental health care needs of people in your district?
Castro: Mental health is so important. Many homeless people have these problems and if we solved this problem, you would partially solve the problem of homelessness. I would like to see any remaining funds for COVID go to mental health care to make sure we have some additional funding for mental health. Many people in health care have been fired because they didn’t get the vaccine. This has to stop. Many good and great people were laid off and others who wanted to go into the field didn’t want to because of vaccination mandates. I will try to open this door.
BenitoLink: The nation is experiencing a teacher shortage, and California is among the hardest hit states. We’ve heard from teachers that added responsibilities, overcrowded classrooms and wages are factors in them retiring or choosing another career. What would you do to attract qualified teachers to public schools?
Castro: I believe there are highly qualified teachers who are ready and willing to teach. I know because I am a teacher. For some of them, the system has failed and they are not renewing their contracts for whatever reason. One reason to cut teachers is to cut spending. Which brings me to this topic; the number of administrators in the system who generally earn much more in wages than a teacher. The last statistic I saw was 2.5 teachers for every administrator. I would look at any overlapping administrator duties and remove that administrator. The amount of money this saves is huge. I also have an article from edsource.org titled “A Guide to Making California’s Teacher Shortage Even Worse.” He talks about the many hoops a prospective teacher must jump through first: an “introductory” training course, zoom classes, pre-accreditation, stacks of courses, and the list goes on. If you want to attract teachers to this profession, you have to look at all these amazing things. We can talk about teacher unions and what we can do about it. Unions exist for the benefit of unions (lots of money), teachers (little money), and at the bottom of the list students (not necessarily a priority). Another reason for leaving the profession could be a vaccine or masking. These need to be abolished in order to attract teachers as well.
BenitoLink: Local jobs have long been seen as the solution to our congested roads. What types of businesses do you think are a good fit for San Benito County and how would you help attract the right companies to start or relocate here.
Castro: I am a capitalist and therefore very pro-business. I would like to see more high tech jobs come to our area that will bring with them higher paying wages. The heart of this country is also the start-up small business. I am excited about the entrepreneurial spirit in this country. Most workers in this country work for small businesses. Having a choice in San Benito County about what kind of business someone wants to work for would be fantastic. With new business comes more tax revenue that would be used for infrastructure. Of course there is a business of managing growth, but that is a local matter. Encouraging companies to set up business here would, in my opinion, require at least some incentives, such as long or short term tax benefits and relaxation of any unnecessary regulations that may exist.
BenitoLink: Housing is a major issue nationwide. What do you think should be the role of the state in alleviating the housing shortage?
Castro: The government puts a lot of restrictions on home builders that I don’t think are necessary. I assume this is because a few years ago it was much easier to build a house. I remember a while back in California they added a nine thousand dollar impact fee to the price of a house. It appears that many of these types of fees and taxes end up falling on the homeowner. Just look at your property tax bill, lien fees and bonds, etc. These types of things need to be looked at.
In conclusion: How do I enact these things? I will introduce common sense bills that address these issues and reach solutions across the aisle so that we can enact these projects or solve the problems.
Robert Rivas 42, grew up in Paicines, California, where his grandfather farmed at Almaden Vineyards. Assemblyman Robert Rivas has been serving in the 30th California Assembly since 2018. In 2020, he was named Chairman of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and elected Vice Chairman of the Latino Legislative Caucus. Rivas served two terms on the San Benito County Board of Supervisors before becoming a member of the Assembly.
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