By Reggie Ellis
visalia – Bob Link is the only incumbent seeking re-election for the Visalia City Council in November, and at after 16 successful years on the Council he thinks he has the track record to make it an even 20.
“I will continue to strive to make Visalia the place it has been for the last 15-20 years,” Link said. “We have a clean community, with great schools and good medical programs in our community. Visalia is a place people want to move to.”
The former owner of Link’s Menswear is a staunch proponent of business and more specifically business in the downtown area where he ran his business for 40 years. Mislabeled as a more traditional city councilman, it was Link who first supported the innovative idea of converting the east side of downtown into a special district for microbreweries and boutique wineries earlier this year.
“You won’t find many communities that are as strong, vibrant and with as few vacancies as our downtown.”
Link is involved in many other facets of the community. He is a member of Gateway Church and Visalia Rotary Club.
Link said he is most proud of the Council’s role in getting Measure T and Measure passed during his five terms on the Council. Measure T is the city’s quarter-cent sales tax increase for public safety approved by voters in 2004. By generating more revenue for public safety, Measure T allowed the city to avoid layoffs during the Great Recession. Measure R is the half-cent sales tax for transportation projects approved by all Tulare County voters in 2006. The tax has started and completed countless road projects that would have gone unfunded.
“I am consistent and conservative when it comes to making sure funds are used properly,” he said.
Link is now supporting Measure N, a half-cent sales tax on the Nov. 8 ballot. The ballot measure would generate $118 million over the next 10 years by increasing the tax on retail sales to 8.75%, the highest in Tulare County. Thirty-six percent of the money is earmarked for police, a third for roads, 15 percent for fire, 10 percent for maintenance, 5 percent for parks and recreation and 1 percent for a reserve fund. The measure only requires a simple majority, 50 percent plus one vote, which would allow the City Council the ability to change the percentages on how the money would be spent in the future.
“I strongly support Measure N. I feel very comfortable with [the simple majority vote] and it gives us discretion on how we can use it,” he said. “We will have some flexibility because what is a need today may change 30 years from now.”
Link has also supported the city’s efforts to clean up Lincoln Oval Park from violence, vagrancy and vandalism; however, the problem of panhandlers and homeless persist. The latter is a complex issue because it is not illegal to be homeless, therefore limiting the City’s option on handling the issue.
Link said he believes that designated housing for the homeless is part of the answer. Earlier this year, the City dedicated its first housing project to include one unit as transitional home for the homeless. Another infill project is scheduled to include similar units and last month the Council voted to use state funding to put more of an emphasis on providing housing units for the homeless. In a recent public opinion poll, Visalians rated the homeless as their top issue of concern.
“Once you get them off the street we need to have a place ready for them to go,” he said. “We have to continue to try and deliver a solution.”
Link is being challenged by two candidates in retired firefighter Adam J. Arakelian and retired program manager Susanne Marcus Gundy. Brian Poochigian had originally filed for candidacy but withdrew his papers once Link decided to run for re-election. The former Tulare County Supervisorial candidate said he was happy with the job Link was doing and did not want to run against him.
Look for stories on the other two Area 2 candidates in upcoming issues of the Sun-Gazette.