Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | October 19, 2007

Gartman for Gilroy

I don’t live in Gilroy, but I’ve been a close observer of the city’s politics for more than seven years. Because I don’t live in Gilroy, I can’t vote for its next mayor, but if I could, I’d vote for Craig Gartman.

My reasoning boils down to this: Gartman has repeatedly demonstrated that his top priority as an elected official is his duty to Gilroyans.

Gartman, and his opponent, incumbent Mayor Al Pinheiro, are both dedicated, talented men. Both will tell you that they vote the same way the vast majority of the time – probably more than 95 percent of the time.

Listening to them during candidate interviews with the editorial board, I was often reminded of Cynthia Walker and myself. We both serve on the editorial board, we’re both columnists, and our differences frequently play out on the paper’s opinion page.

But like Pinheiro and Gartman, we agree the vast majority of the time. The places where we differ reveal much about our philosophies and priorities.

Similarly, it’s those times that Pinheiro and Gartman differ that are worth studying. That’s where voters can tell the two men apart and divine important information about their priorities.

Those differences came into sharp focus over the last year or so, and led, Gartman says, to his decision earlier this year to enter the mayoral race.

When the secret retirements of the top two police department officials came to light, Gartman sharply criticized the way the City Administrator Jay Baksa handled the situation.

Pinheiro defended it.

When Baksa brought forward a generous, conflict-of-interest-laden compensation policy for exempt, nonunion city employees that had no real-world checks and balances, Gartman asked tough questions and voted against implementing it.

Pinheiro voted for it.

When City Attorney Linda Callon advised transferring liability for cracked sidewalks from the city to homeowners, Gartman challenged it.

Pinheiro championed it.

When a citizen brought Gartman concerns about how city funds were spent on downtown water pipes, Gartman investigated them.

Pinheiro took offense to it.

When city officials refused to release a taxpayer-funded draft of an outside Gilroy Police Department audit until after the GPD had a chance to review and revise it, Gartman questioned it.

Pinheiro endorsed it.

It’s worth noting that due in no small part to the tough questions that Gartman asked, Pinheiro is now talking about tweaking the compensation policy, is considering a revision of the sidewalk liability transfer, and is publicly criticizing Baksa’s handling of the secret retirements.

Asking difficult questions might not win popularity contests, but it can make an important difference in public policy and can have a positive impact on taxpayers’ wallets.

Gartman gets a lot of flak for “political grandstanding” or for “popping off to the press” and, in general, not going along quietly with his fellow council members’ and city staff’s wishes.

I’ll grant that Gartman’s not the smoothest politician. But in every instance of which I’m aware, his difficult questions, detailed analyses and rough-edged honesty have always sprung from his desire to put the best interests of taxpayers first.

If you think that the most important quality in a mayor is the ability to schmooze, to glad-hand, to smooth feathers, then Pinheiro is your candidate.

If you think that the most important quality in a mayor is protecting the bureaucratic status quo at city hall, then Pinheiro is your candidate.

If you think that the most important quality in a mayor is the ability to build consensus, even around ill-advised policies, then Pinheiro is your candidate.

But if you think that the most important quality in a mayor is a willingness to hold city bureaucracy accountable, then you should vote for Gartman.

If you think that the most important quality in a mayor is the capacity to analyze dense, dry documents and find the loopholes that could be exploited to residents’ disadvantage, then you should vote for Gartman.

If you think that the most important quality in a mayor is the ability to ask tough questions even when it’s uncomfortable, then you should vote for Gartman.

The question of Pinheiro versus Gartman is one of those times that Walker and I agree. She’s voting for Craig Gartman.

I would if I could.

Note: This special column ran as a “minority report” opposing The Dispatch editorial board’s endorsement of Al Pinheiro for mayor.

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Responses

  1. Hello Lisa,

    I do know this comment is a little late. But I got to know Gartman during the ongoing debate with our MediLeaf Gilroy’s only Medical Marijuana Dispensary. So far, he has been the only City Council Person to stop by and visit his constituents that are joining the club for convenient access to their medicine. His explanation in open session last week in regards to the city council’s mishandling and lack of due process of our business application was devastating. Very Perry Mason-like. Your profile of him is spot on. I keep telling him he has many votes from our membership alone on what ever he decides to run for next. I’m not sure if your following this issue, but it you ever want to write about it feel free to let me know and I will provide you whatever access you require.

    Ombudsman or MediLeaf


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