Email still elu­sive for some lo­cal can­di­dates

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Front Page - BY THADDEUS MILLER tmiller@mer­ced­

Merced County is in the dig­i­tal age, with lead­ers of­ten boast­ing the only re­search univer­sity built since the year 2000, and some can­di­dates are run­ning for lo­cal of­fices — de­spite not hav­ing an email ad­dress.

The Merced Sun-Star asked City Coun­cil can­di­dates to fill out a sur­vey of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion and cam­paign phi­los­o­phy and re­turn by email. The task was not a prob­lem for most can­di­dates, but a few couldn’t par­tic­i­pate be­cause they don’t have an email ad­dress.

Merced City Coun­cil Dis­trict 2 can­di­date Fer­nando Echevar­ria re­turned an­swers to the sur­vey writ­ten by hand on a yel­low le­gal pad. The 56-year-old cited his age as a rea­son he has an uneasy re­la­tion­ship with tech­nol­ogy.

“I was born in 1962,” he said. “It’s not like I was raised on video games and smart­phones.”

A for­mer com­mu­nity col­lege po­lice of­fi­cer and clas­si­fied em­ployee for el­e­men­tary schools, Echevar­ria said he uses an An­droid phone but it doesn’t re­ceive email. He said he re­cently ac­quired a lap­top that he is pre­par­ing to use for coun­cil busi­ness.

Dis­trict 2 write-in can­di­date Ron­nie De Anda, who is 77, man­aged to re­spond to the sur­vey by email. He said he’s new to it, but gets friends or fam­ily to help him out when nec­es­sary.

May­oral can­di­date Mon­ica Kay Villa, a 63-year-old home­less res­i­dent, uses email as well. It ap­pears on her busi­ness card.

The city of Merced tried to down­play how large of a role email plays in do­ing the job of an elected of­fi­cial, not­ing the staffers pro­vide each coun­cil mem­ber with a city email, ac­cord­ing to spokesper­son Mike Con­way.

Echevar­ria is not an out­lier in Merced County. At­wa­ter Dis­trict 2 City Coun­cil can­di­date Dan Her­nan­dez said email is more trou­ble than it’s


Dan Her­nan­dez, 74, At­wa­ter City Coun­cil can­di­date


“It’s noth­ing but trou­ble for me be­cause peo­ple will al­ways say ‘I emailed you and you never re­sponded,’ ” he said. “It’s eas­ier to talk to peo­ple.”

The 74-year-old con­ceded city staffers may ad­vise him to use email once elected, but he’d rather not. He pointed to a 2009 con­tro­versy in At­wa­ter when a coun­cil­man for­warded hun­dreds of emails, many of which con­tained sex­ist, racist or just plain off-color jokes. They also made jokes about killing mi­nori­ties and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Her­nan­dez said any­one who wants to reach him has ac­cess to his cell­phone. “It’s not that I’m not tech savvy,” he said. “For my own pur­poses I use (the in­ter­net). For the busi­ness of the city it’s dif­fer­ent.”

The other can­di­date for At­wa­ter’s Dis­trict 2, Danny Am­briz, said he uses email daily in his job at Merced City School Dis­trict. The 36-year-old said not us­ing emails could lead to feel­ings of a lack of trans­parency. Emails leave a pa­per trail even if deleted, and have been a hot topic in the elec­tion in At­wa­ter, he noted.

“It sounds like it would be a com­mu­ni­ca­tion is­sue,” he said.

THADDEUS MILLER tmiller@mer­ced­sun­

A cou­ple walks past a Merced County bal­lot drop box Fri­day in­side the Ad­min­is­tra­tion Ser­vices Depart­ment build­ing. The na­tion­wide midterm elec­tion is Tues­day.

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