Tulare residents will have a difficult time choosing between the qualified and experienced candidates running to represent District 1. Tulare City Councilmember Shea Gowin will be defending her District 1 seat against Jose Sigala, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representative.
As an active member of the Tulare Chamber of Commerce, Gowin heard its call to residents in 2012 that no one was running for Tulare City Council seat in District 1. She talked it over with her family and friends and they all agreed she would be an asset to the city. She ran unopposed.
District 1 makes up the West side of Tulare and is approximately 75% Hispanic.
Gowin first got interested in city government in 2009, when she was appointed to Leadership Tulare. She found the council meetings were fascinating and realized she enjoyed being involved with the running of the city. She was then asked to participate in a group that was responsible for reviewing the pros and cons of a major racing track venue that never came to fruition. While attending city council meetings during that contentious time she saw behavior unbefitting of a representative of Tulare.
Though reluctant to get involved in politics because she ran a family business and had time restraints raising school-aged children, she felt that she would be a better representative of Tulare than what she had witnessed.
Tulare’s biggest challenge over her last four years on the council was the city’s antiquated water infrastructure. The current system made it difficult to connect Matheny Tract because the pipes are too old and too small to handle the extra pressure. To update the water system the city council recently voted 4-1 to increase the water rates. Vice-Mayor Carlton Jones was the lone dissenting vote.
Gowin says that Tulare’s water system is currently maxed out and does not allow for the building of new developments. This has left the city council unable to approve new building permits she said.
Gowin considers one of the city’s biggest accomplishments during her was the hiring of Don Dorman. She said he updated Tulare’s procedures so the city could function more smoothly in the future.
“Now Tulare functions like a real city instead of a small town,” she said.
Gowin said, “I know Tulare, understand Tulare, and want it to be a place where people want to raise their kids.” She is a fourth generation Tularean who raised the family’s fifth generation here and has a sixth generation on the way.
Gowin is looking forward to bringing in new industry into Tulare once the infrastructure is in place.
Jose Sigala Says District 1 Doesn’t Get Its Fair Share of Resources
Jose Sigala has only lived in Tulare full-time for a few years but has considered the town his second home since his mother and siblings moved here in the 1990s. Sigala would come home during the summers from University California at Berkeley and received one of his first community organizing experiences in Tulare. He said the town had just invested about a million dollars into a new senior center but there was no center for the youth. Still in college, Sigala organized the high school students and was successful in getting a youth center built.
After graduating from Berkeley, Sigala worked for 16 years for the California state legislature in the senate. He then worked for six years for the as a legislative director for Los Angeles City Council, forming public policy, and was part of the team that put together Los Angeles’ $9 billion budget. Sigala feels that his relationships formed during his time in Sacramento can help him with his goals for Tulare.
One of those goals is revitalizing the down town.
Revitalizing Tulare’s down town will take thinking outside of the box, said Sigala. Because of its affordability, Tulare could develop some nice office spaces with high-speed internet to do pre-production of movies. He offered to drive down to Hollywood himself to cultivate the contacts needed to start such a business. He also thought that Tulare would be a perfect place to develop a research corridor and recruit companies like Google and Yahoo.
Sigala said Tulare’s number one industry will always be agriculture, but that the city needs to diversify to keep the area from experiencing brain drain.
“That’s the type of vision I do not see coming out of the current city council,” said Sigala. “I offer the district a choice.”
Sigala is also running because he feels like his district isn’t getting its fair share of the resources. “There have been shootings on the West side and no one has brought the community together to address it. There are things we can do such as after school programs, recreation programs and summer jobs and programs for the youth.”
“I feel like the district needs strong leadership and to be more responsive to the community.”
He said that West Tulare still has dirt alleys and no sidewalks or street lights, even around some schools. “I don’t see any dirt alley’s in the mayor’s neighborhood. We need engaged and active leadership to run that district.”
Another area where the West side needs attention is commercial development he said. “When you go across the railroad tracks it’s like stepping into the movie Back to the Future, or as if you have stepped into 1976.” There are a lot of mom-and-pop places to eat, but if you want to eat at a national chain, get groceries, or go shopping you have to leave the West side of town he said. The commercial zoning exists but no one is pushing for development.
“There are a lot of blighted areas and abandoned homes,” he said. Sigala said what the West side is missing is a “balance of equality.”
“I plan on rolling up my sleeves and getting to work. It’s about accomplishing things.” He said that other council member may feel similarly, “but I haven’t seen it.”
Sigala says he can fall back on his experiences in Los Angeles because, “we have urban problems in a rural setting.” Tulare still has homelessness, poverty and unemployment, just on a smaller scale that needs to be addressed. “It’s all relative,” he said.
Absentee voting begins October 10.