Belluomini announces mayoral bid
Michael Belluomini, who served as one of the most diligent Merced City Council members in recent history, told the Times this week he has decided to run for mayor.
Residents will cast votes for new city leaders in the Presidential General Election set for Nov. 3.
So far, Belluomini joins homeless advocate Monica Villa as the only two candidates who have announced they will campaign for the Merced’s top post. The filing deadline, however, is a long way off, and the campaign is not expected to heat up until summer.
“As mayor, I could lead the council to follow a more consistent path, promote some ideas, and get them to actually move forward,” Belluomini said.
Belluomini was elected to the Council in 2013, and quickly became known for being well-prepared for complicated city staff presentations, and offering up a variety of ideas and proposals to make improvements for the city.
Some of his ideas stuck like well-cooked pasta, others seemingly fell into the abyss of City Hall planning.
Among the initiatives and issues he championed were:
- Facilitating ADUs or accessory dwelling units in residential areas;
- Adding welcome signs to city entryways, and improving suggested designs;
- Targeting and prioritizing a new industrial development site;
- Hiring a new Parks and Recreation director, a move that was long delayed;
- Pushing planners to make progress on a new police headquarters and other city facilities;
- Making a public safety facilities bond measure a priority;
- Pointing out “poorly designed” proposed apartment projects;
- Improving police / community relations with sincere first steps.
Belluomini was not afraid to get vocal when he thought efforts were being stymied by inaction at City Hall. He defended this assertiveness by saying the public needs to understand why their elected leaders were unable to advance improvements for the city.
“If staff has a clear direction, I think they should move forward in a timely fashion,” he said. “I worked for the county’s Planning Department. I worked for the high school district. When the Board of Supervisors, or the Planning Commission, or the School Board gave direction and wanted something done, I mean we had it back to them within a month. We were trying to make progress.”
Belluomini stepped down after an extended 5-year term in 2018. That was after the city moved to district elections, and the newly formed district where he lived — District 5 — was already filled by Councilman Matthew Serratto.
Belluomini could run for that council seat in 2020, but he said: “I would feel like I would have the same experience as I did before — having a lot of votes that were 6-1 or 5-2, with my ideas being seeds that weren’t taking root.”
The mayoral candidate said he would love to be elected in a citywide mandate, with a larger portion of the population supporting his ideas.
“I left a lot of projects in progress when I left the Council, and I have since argued in support of several of them,” he pointed out.
Just this week, Belluomini appeared before the City Council to successfully argue for progress on an effort he first championed to create Railroad Quiet Zones along the tracks that pass through many central Merced neighborhoods. It’s an idea that’s very popular among downtown residents. His former colleagues agreed to keep the process going despite the potential expense involved in adding new safety features and redesigning intersections.
Meanwhile, since leaving the Council, Belluomini has continued to be very active in the community. He serves on the Catholic Charities Resource Board, making improvements, fundraising, searching for a new site to locate the headquarters. He serves on the board of the nonprofit Sierra Saving Grace, that works to house people who are living homeless on local streets. He’s the president of the local chapter of the Italian Catholic Federation that develops scholarships for students and those looking to enter the seminary. And he is first vice president of the Breakfast Lions Club and in line to become the president next year. They’ve been extremely active in the community with the big Cioppino Fest coming up this Saturday, and fundraising for worthy community projects like the new Children’s Discovery Museum and the new Merced High School Football Stadium.
Among his resume highlights, Belluomini has also 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 said he was involved in the process of building Buhach Colony, Golden Valley and El Capitan high schools.
Belluomini was born and raised in Bakersfield to Italian emigrant parents. He earned a bachelor’s degree from UCLA. He 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.