Tom Benigno knows that jobs will be one of the most important things for San Joaquin County residents moving forward.
That’s why he’s making it one of the focal points in his campaign for the District 5 seat on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors – crafting a multi-faceted platform that touches on budget issues, jobs and water.
And he fully believes he has the credentials to represent the interests of South County residents.
A farmer for more than five decades at points throughout the Central Valley, Benigno believes he can understand the needs of the agricultural community without sacrificing the quality of lives of residents within the city boundaries of the district.
The more pressing issue facing the county as a whole, he says, is how to curtail the budget of the county that claims nearly 700,000 residents.
“I think that we need somebody in there that can adjust the budget in a failing economy,” Benigno said. “I have the experience – the business experience – to do that, and a strong ability to understand the problems in our economy.”
While his bid for the seat in 2008 against incumbent Leroy Ornellas – who is now vying for a position in the California State Senate – was unsuccessful, Benigno is using the experience from that run to both craft his message and his campaign.
His ideas on how best to proceed with the business of the people couldn’t be clearer.
The initial idea of adding a wing to San Joaquin County General Hospital for aging Veterans and those returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan was somewhat nullified when the Veterans Administration purchased land in French Camp to construct a new hospital to serve those who served in the region.
He believes that the controversial peripheral canal – which would divert water from the Sacramento River around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and into pumping stations and aqueducts destined for points south – would help bring upwards of $10 billion and 10,000 jobs to the Central Valley. The move, Benigno said, would also drain the salt intrusion in the Delta, even if it meant digging another canal to feed the water into an express channel to Southern California or the Chowchilla Valley.
While certain cities are starting to rebound thanks to commercial growth, Benigno said that others like Tracy are dying on the vine as the byproduct of being a bedroom community hit hard by the foreclosure crisis and a fickle market.
Taking subtle steps towards rebounding – which he says begins with working to bring in the jobs to support future economic growth – is important to nurture the turnaround that people so badly want to see.
“A lot of cities are having a tough time bringing jobs in. Manteca is doing well because they’ve had some good economic development with the commercial properties they’ve brought in, but places like Tracy and Mountain House aren’t doing so well,” Benigno said. “My counterpart might be trying to give you the moon, but things like this take time and it happens slowly, and we just have to commit to it.”
Benigno is running against Bob Elliott and Rhodesia Ransom for the District 5 seat – which encompasses part of Manteca and all of Tracy and Mountain House.