Why did you decide to run for county supervisor?
“Santa Cruz County is home. And I am running because, even though I have been away, I have always kept tabs on my home. And in my opinion, Santa Cruz County deserves better,” Luna said. “The people deserve more, the people deserve better. And their home has not been very well led, nor very well taken care of.”
On his campaign website and in his Facebook ads, incumbent Supervisor Bruce Bracker touts a long list of accomplishments, and says he has worked tirelessly to improve roads and parks, support public safety, promote job creation and respond to the COVID-19 crisis in Santa Cruz County. Do you disagree with that assessment?
“I respectfully disagree. Talking with constituents and residents alike, many of them disagree. The accomplishments that he’s listed and the projects that he is working on, if people go into the comprehensive plan of Santa Cruz County – I mean, all of these projects and accomplishments that he has listed have been studied, thought of and worked on, we’re talking about since John Maynard was District 3 supervisor,” Luna said.
Speaking about the COVID-19 response, Luna said the county should have been more proactive.
“People saw, and especially at the local level, we all saw how the county was handling it, and the local officials – I think to the best of their capabilities. But in my opinion, could have been handled better, especially as far as the District 3 representation side goes.”
What qualities do you possess that you think would make you a good county supervisor?
Luna stressed his military experience and education.
“I wasn’t forced to go to Afghanistan and serve in a combat war zone. I volunteered for it, actually,” he said, adding that the experience involved leading 11 soldiers “and thankfully bringing all 11 soldiers back alive and well.”
As for his education, he pointed to the degrees listed in his sidebar, and noted that his minor at the University of South Florida was connected to the school’s public administration program.
District 3 is fairly expansive and includes several communities with unique needs. Starting with Eastern Santa Cruz County, what are a couple of ideas you have that would benefit constituents in that area?
“I feel for them, with the lack of representation that they had for many, many years,” Luna said, adding that one idea he has is to repurpose the former Eastern Santa Cruz County Justice Court in Sonoita, “and that includes a historic museum for the areas of Canelo, Elgin, Harshaw, Patagonia, Sonoita. But of course that would come up to a vote – I would ask the community to see how they like that idea.”
He noted the concern with roads in the Sonoita-Elgin-Canelo area, “so just maintaining those roads” would be a priority, he said, also mentioning a “huge hole” on Salero Canyon Road in the Patagonia area. And he suggested more events to draw tourists to the area, such as a food truck festival.
Now how about the Rio Rico-Tumacacori-Tubac-Amado corridor. What would you like to accomplish in those areas?
“Rio Rico, in my opinion, definitely could use some more retail and commercial development,” Luna said. “On the west side of the corridor, you’ve got some local businesses and a couple of gas stations. But on the east side, it’s mainly residential area.
“You put too many things on one side, it starts to get a bit imbalanced,” he said. “So retail and commercial business, try to rezone the residential up north on the east side of Rio Rico.”
For Tumacacori, “just kind of give them a pocket park, maybe continue the walking path and some shading over there,” he said. In Tubac: “Look at the Ron Morriss Park. Make that dog park bigger, provide some actual shading and some new structure to that park.”
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 by way of new roads, heavy truck traffic, new UniSource transmission lines and an electrical substation in the mountains. What would your posture be as supervisor toward South32 and its plans in Santa Cruz County?
“My stance would be that I’m for development, but the community belongs to the people and their voice matters,” Luna said. “I’m for development, as long as there is an eco-friendly way of doing so.”
“I know it’s a very political answer,” he continued, adding that he’d like to see an incentive for the company to hire more people from the local area.
There are a number of produce import businesses located in District 3, and Bruce Bracker has been an unflinching ally for them, advocating for large outlays of public funds to support their activities. Would you offer the same type of boosterism for the produce industry, or would you prioritize other areas of development?
Luna noted that produce “is a big industry within Santa Cruz County… But you can’t buy clothes at a produce warehouse, you can’t take your family out to a produce warehouse. So I would offer a bit close to the same (level of support), but not in the manner that our current District 3 supervisor has handled it, with closing a public courthouse for the community, and then donating and loaning, what was it, $250,000, for cold storage facilities. That’s just not the way I would go about it.”
What will the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic be on Santa Cruz County, and what do you think will need to be done to mitigate those effects?
“I think people will take care of washing their hands and giving that personal space better. I think we can also do our part at the local government level of going out and cleaning the trash up, sanitizing areas more,” he said.
As for the economic effects, he said grants are an option for helping local businesses recover, but aren’t the only answer. “My opinion is that by this time next year, the economy should bounce back locally,” he said.
Luna returned to the question later, saying that the local economy had been suffering long before the pandemic hit. “I just think COVID-19 added to it,” he said. “However, each year, we do have outsiders visiting families here or in Mexico. So luckily, being a border town, I think we will thrive sooner than predicted.”
If you were elected, you might be the youngest elected official in the county. What would you say to voters who might equate youthfulness with inexperience?
“My age doesn’t correlate with my experience because, how many people have gone to war? How many people have run from mortar shells or been shot at? I went on my own to go to the University of South Florida. So my age doesn’t really correlate with my experience because I’ve worked with local, federal and state law enforcement entities through the Army National Guard. So I would say, give me a chance and I’ll prove to you that my age doesn’t matter.”
How about your familiarity with the workings of local government. Have you attended many supervisors meetings to get an idea of what kinds of issues they deal with, and how the various processes work at the county government?
“Locally, I have not attended a supervisor board meeting – I’m being honest,” he said.
“I do read the Nogales International regularly. I do read the Patagonia Regional Times regularly,” he said, adding that: “I do know how the local government works because I have attended supervisor board meetings outside of our local government. And I know that might be a knock, but I do know the process and how everything works and the verbiage, the vocabulary, and that’s also what I studied – that was my minor at the university.”
What’s your assessment of the county’s efforts at transparency and community outreach? Is it your impression that they make it easy for citizens to interact with their government, and that they make a good effort to keep the constituents informed of what they’re doing? Or do you see room for improvement?
“I see vast room for improvement,” Luna said. “I think there is a huge lack of communication from local officials to the people … Not returning phone calls, not creating public forums, not actually going out in public and showing their faces to talk with the people about what their wants and needs are, what they think of any projects or ideas they have.”
Is there anything else about you or your candidacy that we haven’t touched on that you would like our readers to know?
“I want to ask the District 3 people if they are happy with the way things are in the county. Are you happy with the roads, parks, landscaping, public safety, no sidewalks, schools, the lack of communication and the lack of variety in retail and commercial businesses? Are you happy with the property tax rate? I ask them to think about the future, think about your grandkids, your great-grandkids and their lives. Do you want things to be better here? Or do you like the way things are?”
“The only promise I am making to the people is that I will actually be there every year, not just during an election year. Monday through Friday,” he said.
Noting that all action items are subject to a three-member board vote, he said: “That’s why I’m not making any guarantees or promises. It’s only that I will work tirelessly. I will work hard for the community and be that leader with backbone that they deserve.”