After more than 30 years of city and school planning, retiree Michael Belluomini said he now has the time to tackle public office.
“I have the time and I have the expertise,” the 63-year-old said. “I’ve been doing public service basically all my life.”
Belluomini said he served six years as a planner for the Merced County Planning Department, four years as the community development director for the city of Tracy and 23 as director of facilities planning for the Merced Union High School District.
He’s also served on technical advisory committees for Merced’s Redevelopment Agency and the Merced County Association of Governments.
“I’ve been involved in the city and county pretty thoroughly, as well as schools,” he said.
Developing a business environment that would allow the city to court developers is the way to go, Belluomini said. Merced should take its raw land and make it ready for development by adding sewer capacity, completing environmental studies, preparing surrounding roads and even connecting to the railroad, he said.
“(Developers) can come in and know that here’s a city whose attitude is one of a positive attitude towards business, a city that has the site ready to go for development,” Belluomini said.
Not many cities have put that level of work in, he said, so it would make Merced more appealing. Belluomini said the city of Tracy was able to woo Yellow Freight Co. in that way, back when he was working in the town’s planning department.
Belluomini admits it can be expensive to carry out his plans. The city would need to issue bonds and borrow money, he said, and lay out the most cost-effective plan.
“If you want that kind of change to happen, you have to act to make it happen,” he said. “It’s not going to come by itself.”
As a Merced Union High planner, Belluomini said, he was involved in the process of building Buhach Colony, Golden Valley and El Capitan high schools.
Born and raised in Bakersfield to Italian emigrant parents, Belluomini earned a master’s degree from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He also served in the Peace Corps and United Nations Volunteers as a city planner in Botswana in southern Africa.
Along with planning for growth, Belluomini said Merced should place a greater focus on keeping young people busy with after-school activities. He said many youngsters are looking to belong, or looking for mentors, and the city can help fill the void before gangs do.
Recreation programs have dwindled after several years of tight budgets. Keeping children out of trouble strikes at the root of Merced’s crime and gang issues, he said.
“The city ought to make it a priority to bring back some of those youth sports and recreation programs,” he said, adding adults and seniors would also benefit from such programs.
Belluomini said he sees growth in Merced’s future, and particularly growth toward UC Merced. He said he has experience working in a growing city. Tracy was “booming” when he served as city planner in the late 1980s, he said.
“I learned a lot. It was great experience,” he said.
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