Alvarado says serving the Board “is where I feel I should be.”
February 7, 1996
By Yolanda Reynolds
Photos by Mary J. Andrade
Santa Clara County Supervisor Blanca Alvarado opened her election campaign headquarters at 2839 Story Road last Saturday morning. Alvarado was appointed to the Board of Supervisors on January 17,1995 to the seat vacated by Zoe Lofgren who was elected to Congress in November of 1994. Alvarado must run for re-election this year. The election date is March 26.
Alvarado represents District 2, the only supervisorial seat that lies completely within the City of San Jose. This District includes parts of central San Jose, Willow Glen and much of East San Jose.
Blanca is well known in San Jose since she served on the City Council as the District representative for 14 years.
As one drives to her campaign headquarters some of the fruits of her City Council work are evident. Beginning at the King and Story Road intersection the median strip on Story Road sports tall palm trees on a once barren median strip. The whole area looks fresh and neat, where once it seemed neglected.
Nearby, on Poco Way, an area of decrepit and poorly maintained apartments. A major overhaul of several blocks is in progress. Some of the Poco Way apartments that could be salvaged are being repaired and those that required rebuilding have been torn down. New apartments are scheduled to go up.
In hopes of preventing a recurrence of decline and neglect, the City has also made special arrangements for their management. The City declared this area drug free zone – thus reducing the once obvious drug dealing that occurred in and near the apartments, even during the daylight hours.
Once constructed and habitable, the apartments will be available to those requiring Section 8 housing assistance. The apartments are in a highly desirable area since the location has access to public transportation (buses), shopping, freeways and an elementary public school adjoining the apartment complex property.
It was this sort of project that Alvarado pointed to as an example of the type of commitments and effort that she has concerned herself with while in public office. She pointed out that her concerns continue to be health, education, youth and elderly services and job training. Alvarado explained, “I instinctively believe that, this (serving on the Board as a supervisor), is where I should be.” She explained,
“It is the County that deals with human needs – funding for the elderly, the mentally ill, those who need health care, programs for youth and job training.”
Alvarado explained to those who gathered to celebrate her formal campaign inauguration that the proposed Federal cutbacks and State budget cuts for the coming years could have a devastating effect on the ability of the County to continue to offer assistance to those less fortunate and that her experience is needed at this crucial time.
According to Alvarado, over the last 6 years, the County has had to cut $280 million from is budget and this year must cut another $40 million. There are some who think that there is still fat in the budget, but the effects of the cutback are affecting all departments and the public they serve. One large merger has been the combination of Mental Health Services with Health Services.
Some critics of the planned expansion of the County hospital point to its increased budget, but they fail to acknowledge that the Mental Health department is now included in that budget. Also overlooked is the fact that, in California, 50 percent of the population has no health insurance. Serving this needy population is the primary purpose of Valley Medical Hospital, the County’s hospital.
Valley Medical has a highly regarded medical staff and are recognized experts in serving specialized patients, such as burn victims. In order to continue to serve needy patients, the hospital also serves patients who have insurance and can pay for their health care.
East Side High School Superintendent Joe Coto pointed out that Blanca Alvarado has a long record of activism for community interests. He mentioned a number of projects for which her support was crucial in establishing such as the establishment of a housing department for the City of San Jose. Through her leadership on the City Council the Department was created to find ways to provide more affordable housing in San Jose.
Alvarado, he pointed out, was instrumental in bringing Redevelopment Agency dollars to neighborhood business areas. On the East Side, such attention to these areas is evident along Story Rd. and Alum Rock Ave. and King Rd., where there have been improvements to facades, general cleaning up and new paint for the street side building as well as help in promoting the businesses to the nearby residents.
Though also controversial, parts of the Mexican Heritage Gardens planned at the corner of Alum Rock and King Rd. will soon be constructed.
Alvarado says, “Some people – the opposition – says that I am a career politician and they will attempt to discredit me and will likely run a negative campaign.” Alvarado said, because of that expectation, she is prepared to wage a tough and rigorous campaign. On her second campaign for the San Jose City Council, the then Mayor. Tom McEnery, attempted to unseat Alvarado.
Reportedly the ex-mayor is still opposing her. He became very controversial for a number of reasons but one, in particular was the use of property tax revenues to the huge and costly Redevelopment Agency projects in downtown San Jose.
It was not certain why McEnery opposed her a number of year ago. As to his current opposition, some say that McEnery is very angry that Alvarado supported Zoe Lofgren in her successful bid to present Congressional District 16, which includes most of the East side. McEnery and some other political pundits expected he would be elected to Congress instead of Lofgren.
McEnery and two of his former aides, and now City Council members in San Jose, David Pandori and Pat Dando, have endorsed Scott Mathieson to represent District 2 on the Board of Supervisors. Dando’s council assistant, Erik Schoenauer, is reported to have taken a leave from his job to manage Mathieson’s campaign.
Because of the recent Board decision to ban gun shows at the County Fairgrounds the powerful NRA (National Rifle Association) has vowed to vigorously fight Alvarado and has endorse her opponent.
Alvarado shares with Lofgren a long time interest in family, health and education issues. Alvarado has been an important ally in the success of MACSA (Mexican American Community Services Agency), one of the largest community agencies dedicated to serving the needs of Mexican American youth and elderly.
Alvarado explains that her past achievements came about because her career has been built around “consensus.” As one of the longest serving Hispanics in local public office, Alvarado has been successful in bringing resources and attention to a community that too often has been overlooked.
For the County, Alvarado serves as the Chair of the County Audit Committee, Chair of the Land Use and Environment Committee, Vice Chair, with Supervisor Jime Beall, of the Health and Hospital Committee, Vice Chair of the Budget Committee and Vice Chair, with Supervisor Dianne McKenna, of the Children and Youth Joint Conference Committee.
Alvarado has the sole endorsement of COPE, the political arm of valley labor unions. Other endorsements include every member of the County Board of Supervisors, San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer, San Jose City Council members, Frank Fiscalini, John DeQuisto, Trixie Johnson, Margie Fernandes, Charlotte Powers, Manny Diaz, George Shirakawa Jr., and Alice Woody as well as County Sheriff Chuck Gillingham among others.
Alvarado also has another important endorsement, that of Nancy Ianni, the former City Council representative of City Council District 6. That district includes Willow Glen, the Rose Garden and Shasta-Hanchett Park neighborhoods, all of part of which are located within Supervisorial District 2.
Superintendent Coto and Councilman Manny Diaz urged residents of the District to become involved. They asked for volunteers for lawn signs, and people to help with all the other tasks required for a successful campaign.
For more information on this important election, telephone the Alvarado headquarters at 932-4040. © La Oferta Newspaper.