(September 27, 2020)
BISHOP CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES
Jose Garcia arrived in Bishop in late 1989 on one leg of a trip from Mexico City to California to visit relatives. Thirty years later, Bishop has become his home and now Garcia has tossed his hat into the proverbial ring for a seat on the Bishop City Council.
He met his wife and started a family. Putting his language skills to use, he taught Spanish and helped Spanish-speakers learn English. “In the early 90s, I asked myself ‘do I go back to my life in dentistry in Mexico or do I stay here for my children’s lives’.”
He stayed and became a part of the community. Pete Watercott, a long-time board member for the Northern Inyo Hospital District, introduced him around. Garcia has worked as an interpreter at NIH for the past 13 years and serves as chairman of the board for the California Healthcare Interpreting Association. The job, basically, entails bridging the communication gap between medical professionals and Spanish-speaking patients and their families.
“I wanted to improve the lives of the people here,” Garcia explained. He found a lot of avenues to do that.
He worked with Judge Dean Stout as well as staff at the Sheriff and Probation departments, developed the Latino Village at the Millpond Music Festival, and became involved with the Inyo Council of the Arts and the Bishop Chamber of Commerce where he currently serves on the Board of Directors. Garcia was appointed to the Bishop Planning Commission seven years ago.
“I’ve been preparing to fill a roll on the City Council for the last seven years,” Garcia said. He compares his preparation to someone prepping for a marathon. “You have to be prepared mentally and physically. I’ve talked to people, business owners. I’ve prepared, educated myself. I know I’m ready.”
His seat on the Planning Commission has given him an insight into the needs of the community, as well as the limitations. Obviously, Bishop is landlocked, surrounded by lands owned and managed by public agencies.
If elected, Garcia wants to maintain what makes Bishop a place everybody wants to live. “We’re a safe city,” he said. “We take care of each other; we work together and help each other.”
He’s not big on raising taxes. “I understand why the City went with the Transactions and Use Tax,” he said. “They had to balance the budget. I don’t think you should raise taxes; you should cut costs. This is the new normal. We have to figure out how to back to the real normal.”
Garcia sees housing, specifically, affordable housing, as a major issue going forward. The concepts of mixed-use zoning and going up in the downtown area to provide more housing opportunities is complicated. “There’s a height limit in the town for fire safety,” he explained. “But the city is working on that issue.” For now, the solution is simply to continue doing what the city has been doing—working with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on land releases, going after grants, working with non-profits, LADWP and developers.
While Garcia doesn’t necessarily support marijuana dispensaries within the city limits, he’s concerned the issue could end up as a future ballot measure. If a measure passes, “the city will lose control,” Garcia said. “The city needs to be prepared if that happens.”