By We’Ced Youth Media
Photo via Christopher Ramirez
Editor’s Note: This is the third profile in We’Ced’s #MeetyourMercedCandidates series, which hopes to introduce young people and new voters in Merced to people running for office in their community. All four District 3 candidates, Daniel R. Kazakos, Jill McLeod, Christopher Ramirez and Monica K. Villa, were contacted. We requested candidates complete a questionnaire and submit their responses. Profiles posted are from candidates who responded to our request.
Name: Christopher ‘Chris’ Ramirez
Education: Completed undergraduate and graduate work at the University of California, Santa Cruz
Residence: Merced, CA
Running for: Merced City Council, District 3
Why are you running for political office?
Often city leaders don’t reflect the diverse voices of our community. Like the single mother I met recently while taking an Uber; she works three jobs and can’t afford to have her kids participate in recreation programs offered by the city. Or the many residents I’ve met who work multiple jobs and simply can’t show up to City Hall to voice their concerns. I’m running to make sure these voices and many others are represented in City Hall. We can’t be selective in whose voices we choose to represent in City Hall. I promise I will be a strong advocate for our residents, business owners, and visitors.
What changes are you trying to enact/bring about in Merced?
I like to bring forth a stronger investment in our youth. One idea I have is to work with Downtown businesses to create a summer youth internship program with the city. Often our youth have nothing to do in the summer; and I want to make sure we are investing in them and keeping them off the street especially from those members of our community who are looking to recruit them into gangs. I also want to work with Merced College and UC Merced to possibly bring a Food Co-op that offers natural, organic and local foods and employs local college students. Local leaders often neglect the fact that many college students have little to no income to spend on food, dining and entertainment. And while UC Merced is often in headline news, Merced College is often left unnoticed, especially its students. What an incredible opportunity this would offer to our community in the form of investment and partnerships. And let’s remember since we lost Save Mart back in 2012 on Main Street nothing has replaced it. We need innovative ideas no matter how difficult and challenging they may be to create and sustain them.
How important is the youth vote for you? What are you doing to gain the youth vote?
The youth vote is crucial to me. About a third of our community is youth and they are an important part of the fabric of this city; a voice that often goes unheard in the chambers of City Hall. While I am out knocking on doors, I make it a point to spend time talking with them and asking them what’s important and what they would like to see happen here in Merced. Often they say Merced lacks opportunities for them especially during the summer and offers minimal recreational and employment opportunities. We have nothing to gain by continuing to neglect this important voice and not investing in their future.
Do you have kids, and if so, what schools do they attend?
I have one daughter. And I am now a proud grandfather. I feel incredibly blessed by the fact that my daughter has done well for herself. She’s a graduate of Cal State LA and now works at Loma Linda Medical Center in San Bernardino, California. I couldn’t have asked for more.
What makes you different from the other candidates?
I have a strong record of advocating for our youth and young adults. I am a proud CASA volunteer who proudly serves and supports our foster youth. I am one of the architects of an amazing program here in Merced: Merced County Project 10%. A program that started more than 5 years ago that addresses the local high school dropout rate. Every year UC Merced—and most recently Merced College—students visit every 8th grade classroom throughout Merced County with one mission in mind: to instill in them the importance of graduation. Our society has nothing to benefit from when our youth don’t complete their high school diplomas. And more importantly, one key factor in youth who end up incarcerated—especially men of color—is that they don’t possess a high school diploma. My investment in youth is one important factor that separates me from other candidates.
How connected are you to the community of Merced?
Ever since I arrived in Merced, I had one goal: to serve this great community. Because I mostly walk, ride my bike, and commute on the bus (and most recently Uber around town), I must say I feel incredibly connected to our community. While I was representing South Merced as a Resident Representative for Building Healthy Communities (BHC), I started from the ground up a Community Grant Process with BHC that provided up to $1,000 grants for local residents in South Merced, Le Grand and Beachwood Franklin areas. There was nothing more exciting to me than to witness recipients receiving grants for vital projects they felt would benefit their neighborhoods. On account of this experience and many others in Merced and at the UC, I feel a part of the tapestry of our vibrant community.
What are you going to do about bringing more jobs to Merced?
I would start with putting together the foundational framework with both private and public sectors to create a job development program for our youth. Secondly, I would work with our City Economic Development Director on how we could generate new companies to come in and create new construction and jobs.
Do you like animals? What is your favorite one?
Of course I love animals. But it’s neither realistic nor reasonable to imagine how I might bring home my favorite: A Tiger! Tigers have always captivated me since I can remember. I’ve always seen them as courageous and wise animals. As humans we can learn a lot from them.
What are some of your hobbies?
I love road trips! Collecting images from the vast open landscape of our beautiful country is something I cherish. But more than anything else are the experiences I never record with my own camera. I also enjoy collecting books; real tangible books, not the ones you can order with your kindle. I have books everywhere in my home. They inspire me along with my new curiosity: collecting art. Now this one is a bit out of my budget reach so it usually takes me a few years before I can purchase another one. And one of my other hobbies is collecting movies. I’m a true film buff at heart.