Why do you deserve another term as county supervisor?
“I think I’ve worked really hard for the constituents in District 3 and for the county, as a whole,” Bracker said. “For my re-election campaign, I went back and just put together a short list of 15 accomplishments that have made life better for the voters in District 3 and the community, and there is more work to do.”
What are some projects that have benefitted the county during the past four years that likely wouldn’t have happened without your leadership?
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bracker said he reached out to the produce industry and community food bank to organize free weekly produce distributions.
“The SR 189… is something that I started working on even about five years before I was a county supervisor,” he said of the now-underway road construction project in Nogales. And he noted that he also played a big part in having cold rooms installed at the Mariposa Port of Entry for produce inspections. “Both of those projects are job creators for our community, so those are both an economic development.”
Lastly, he said, he and the county replaced playground equipment at county parks during his tenure.
Some of your critics say you’ve given yourself credit for projects that were in the works before you took office, like the IOI settlement and the SR 189 overhaul. What’s your response to that?
While the recent $38.8 settlement between the state and feds to repair the International Outfall Interceptor sewer line was “a long time in the making,” Bracker said he and the board provided their support wherever they could.
“Clearly the project started before my term, but I was also very involved in SR 189 even when I was a business person,” he said, noting that he was continuously involved as chairman of the Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority and, most recently, as a county supervisor. “There’s no validity to either of those comments.”
The South32 mine development project in the Patagonia Mountains promises to bring jobs and economic activity, but also has major ramifications for the area’s rural way of life. What will be your posture toward South32?
“As a county supervisor, there’s not a lot of things that we can control when it comes to mining. Those are mostly governed by state and federal law,” he said. “Our challenge is how to work with South32 to mitigate the impacts on our community. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been advocating for many, many years… for a western entrance into the mine to try to minimize the impact of having trucks on SR 82 and now SR 83.”
There is some resentment in Eastern Santa Cruz County toward the county government, with common complaints being that the county’s property tax rate is too high, that their properties are assessed at too great a value, and that they don’t receive services commensurate with what they pay in taxes. What’s your stance on those complaints?
“If everybody actually looked at their tax bill, roughly a third or less of that tax bill is the actual Santa Cruz County property tax,” he said, adding that residents in the eastern county and within the SCVUSD school district also pay higher school and fire taxes. “That’s why it feels for some people that the City of Nogales gets a lower tax rate.”
He added that the tax money covers services in the different county departments, as well as the state-mandated expenses that the board has no control over.
What are a couple of ideas that you have for the next four years that would benefit constituents in eastern Santa Cruz County?
“I think that we’ve done a very good job in Eastern Santa Cruz County,” Bracker said. He noted that the county chip-sealed several neighborhood roads; contributed a $25,000 donation to the Fair and Rodeo Association; put out a community survey for brainstorming new ways to make use of the former courthouse building; and set up way-finding signage for the wineries due to the poor phone service in the area making it difficult for tourists to find their way around.
“So, it’s just continuing to work with those organizations to make sure that we’re working on economic development,” he said.
One of your opponents said that they would try to have the formula used to assess property values changed. Is that a realistic goal?
“I don’t comment on what my opponents are promising,” he said.
What ideas do you have that will benefit your constituents in the Rio Rico-Tumacacori-Tubac-Amado corridor?
“We need to work on pocket parks and neighborhood parks, but we need to find a formula to fund the maintenance of that. We need to improve the Rio Rico Drive and Ruby Road interchange… We need to do a bridge over the railroad in Potrero Creek at Ruby Road,” Bracker said.
He added that the county has already begun floodplain mapping to minimize impact in affected areas, and officials also need to work on broadband infrastructure throughout the county.
As for Nogales, which is part of Supervisor Districts 1 and 2, Bracker said the board is advocating for renovations and improvements to the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry.
In campaign posts, you’ve said that every resident’s health has been your top priority during the COVID-19 crisis. Still, the county’s first testing blitz was held four months after the state of emergency was declared, and by that time, the county had the highest positive and per-capita infection rates in the state. Do you think you moved quickly enough to address the crisis, or is there something you would’ve done differently?
“We did our testing blitz as soon as the state funded it…(The state) also severely limited the number of tests that were in our county, which is why our positivity rate was so high,” he said, noting that only symptomatic individuals were getting tested.
Once the first testing blitz was held, he said, the results indicated a much lower positivity rate in the county. “We also, by securing that grant, are able to continue to offer free testing.”
What will be the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Santa Cruz County, and what do you think will need to be done to mitigate those effects?
Bracker said the main long-term challenge was finding ways to help local businesses survive through the pandemic. “The county, right now, is doing interviews with business sectors. We expect our report back probably in the next two weeks to see what we can be doing to help small businesses,” he said.
As for the community’s health, he said: “We really need to take a science-based approach to this problem and just really make the best decisions that we can to try to get some normalcy back into our lives.”
What’s your assessment of the county’s efforts at transparency and community outreach?
“It’s always going to be a work in progress,” he said, noting that the board may believe it’s doing a good job at communicating with the public, but ultimately, the message doesn’t get through in the most effective way.
“We’ve been working the last two months trying to come up with a way to have our board meetings available online,” he said, adding that there are concerns over the possibility of people hacking into the county’s system.
The Nogales City Council has live streamed their meetings for a few years now, and recently, the Santa Cruz County Superior Court started live streaming certain hearings on YouTube in light of the pandemic. How does security for the county’s meetings differ from the others?
“We open up our meetings for call to the public. When you are doing a call to the public, you are broadcasting an access point for people on the outside to get into your meeting, so that’s where you have your security flaw. That’s what the difference is.”
Wouldn’t it be possible to live stream the meetings while still offering the Zoom telephonic service that the board is currently using for allowing the call to the public?
“We’re very close to being able to do both. I think our first meeting in October is going to be the first meeting that we do both.”
Is there anything else about you or your candidacy that you would like our readers to know?
“Every community has its shortfalls, ours included, one of them is that we’re predominantly a two-industry community,” he said, referring to produce and retail. “With the border closure and this pandemic, it has shown our weaknesses and what that can do to our workforce.”
He voiced a plan to create advertising campaigns for local natural attractions like bird-watching in the Santa Cruz River and Patagonia areas. “We have opportunities and we just need to keep working together to make the best of those, to achieve those goals.”