Pinole Valley sets the stage for the Race To The City Council (Pinole Politics, Part 1)

Pinole City Council Candidate Forum held right here at Pinole Valley High School.

Annett Tamayo and William Amaya, Staff Writers

As mid-term elections roll in we mustn’t forget local government. Six candidates are racing against one another for one of the most important jobs in Pinole, the City Council. Members of the City Council dictate on the future of Pinole in terms of taxes and community services. With the responsibility of directly affecting 18,322 residents, it’s no surprise there is a divide within the community. Polarized and flustered, the city of Pinole is deciding on whether or not to elect experience or new innovative ideas to the city in the form of fresh and returning faces. In order to settle the matter, Pinole Valley High School hosted a candidate forum on October 17th.

KTVU investigative reporter, Brooks Jarosz brought the questions, both prepared and from those who came to see, asked directly to the candidates. Rafael Menis, Norma Rubin-Martinez, Maureen Toms, Tim Banuelos, Anthony Tave, and Vincent Salimi each brought in a case on why they are the best fit for the job, starting with their opening statements.

        First, was Rafael Menis, who wants to secure Pinole’s financial future. Then Norma Rubin-Martinez, a believer of heartful small towns which inspires her to continue on the city council after 25 years of serving the community. Maureen Toms has been on the council since 2015 due to a vacancy in addition to being highly involved in the community for years. Tim Banuelos has been on the council for nine years and wants to continue his role on the council to finish projects that he has started as a final send-off. Anthony Tave and Vincent Salimi have paired up in an effort to aid the economic and general needs of the community.

What should happen with the spaces of the big buck stores that have closed?”

The departure of some “big buck stores” such as Toys R Us have left a vacancy in one of Pinole’s most prosperous shopping centers. Many residents are concerned about the empty space that is leaving a vacancy in the economy since most of the city’s income is derived from these successful stores. The candidates had different opinions on the topic. One candidate, Maureen Toms, said “The face of retail is changing. I think we need an office space or housing.” Another candidate, Tim Banuelos, said that “We are attracting a lot of businesses and they are coming to check us out.”

Retail and big buck stores were not the only concern. In fact, one of our, own teachers, Ms.Dibble, addressed some of her own concerns:

“ What’s going on with the crime rate and what do you propose.”

The car break-ins, the home invasions and the lack of safety have made many residents sentimental about the fact that Pinole isn’t the old safe town anymore. With an effort to comfort the residents, the candidates such as Anthony Tave proposed some solutions. “We need neighborhood watches, we need to start talking with people, and we need to make sure we are calling the police,” he said. Rafael Menis, emphasized the need to have more precedence. “There are people watching, we need more community involvement to identify crack houses,” he said. Whereas, Vincent Salimi, decided to tackle the topic differently by addressing the lack of funds the city of Pinole has that allows us to enforce safety, saying “We do not have enough money to hire who we need to hire.”

Another community member, Patricia Blades, asked a concerning question as a public educator. “What is your opinion on charter schools?”

Norma Martinez Rubin, led the discussion vaguely, not taking a stance. “They are a necessity in some cases, but we have some of the most diverse high schools.” Rafael Menis continued by stating his own experience with charter schools and using that as a foundation for his opinion. “Charter schools are a net drain on our community.” As a charter school alum, he said that he and other students were not a part of any community,”  which was identified as a distinguishing factor between publics and charters.

The Candidate forum was hosted by Pinole Valley High School in an effort to join a divided community in one of the most influential cities in Pinole. The race for the city council has only begun.

This 3 part series written by Annett Tamayo and William Amaya, will cover the events leading up to the November 6th election. In the following part of the series, candidates will be isolated and interviewed in order to fully get their opinion on some of the most concerning issues of Pinole. In addition to, the actual coverage of November 6th and post-election sentiments.