The Campaign Column: Jeopardy!

The Campaign Column: Jeopardy!

Michele Ellson

It seems Alameda’s firefighter and teacher unions aren’t the only groups seeking to influence this fall’s races. The leaders of Harbor Bay Neighbors – the community group fighting developer Ron Cowan’s (now stalled) proposal to build 80 luxury homes where the Harbor Bay Club now sits and (still in motion) plan to build a new one a few miles away – say they intend to “support candidates for Mayor and City Council that support us.”

So what does that mean?

According to an e-mail forwarded to The Alamedan last week, the group wants candidates to oppose new homes and hotels on Harbor Bay (an alternate plan Cowan’s Harbor Bay Isle Associates floated for the club site showed a hotel and conference center) and also, to endorse a permanent barrier closing off Island Drive to prevent access to and from the Harbor Bay Business Park.

“On the former, the Master Plan has worked for 30+ years and we see no reason to change it,” the e-mail says. “On the latter, there is no reason, at all, to still be considering the possibility of extending Island Drive to the Business Park. Even allowing pedestrian access to the Business Park would increase vehicular traffic on that part of Island Drive to the detriment of the two largest (homeowners associations) in Bay Farm.”

The group’s leader, Tim Coffey, laid some of the groundwork for his pitch to candidates in a recent letter in The Alamedan and other local publications that said Bay Farmers are more likely to vote than residents of the Main Island.

“One candidate for City Council has already flaunted his disdain for Bay Farm at his election kick-off. The other candidates should not be so naïve,” Coffey wrote. (The offending candidate wasn’t named.)

So far, the group appears to have earned the support of two candidates: They announced on Twitter last week that they have the backing of mayoral contender Trish Spencer and council candidate Frank Matarrese. As of last week they were set to interview Mayor Marie Gilmore, who’s running to keep her seat, and council candidates Jim Oddie and Stewart Chen.

Stay tuned.


He lost on Jeopardy: As promised, we’ve been hard at work backgrounding candidates for some upcoming stories. And last week we unearthed (well, Googled) an interesting tidbit about one candidate’s long-ago star turn.

Back in 2001, City Council contender Jim Oddie was a contestant on the game show Jeopardy!

Sadly, Oddie – then billed as a management consultant but now working as district director for Assemblyman Rob Bonta – lost out to Brooklyn musician Rick Knutsen.


Finance follow-up: Councilman Stewart Chen took issue with our characterization of his campaign contributions as being from “literally all over the (California) map” in an earlier Column. On the contrary, he said, a number of contributors listed on the semiannual and late contribution forms we studied may have listed addresses out of town – but they either live or work right here on the Island.

Benhad Properties, for instance, has a corporate address in Tampa, Fla. – but Benhad’s Farhad Matin lives here. Richard P. Jones, who owns Alameda Point property manager PM Realty, lives in Tiburon – but does business here. And while Assemblyman Bonta works in Sacramento, his home is still here on the Island.

The origin of a candidate’s contributions is a hot button topic for members of the local political class, and candidates are sensitive about appearing like too much of their support is coming from off the Island. Chen offered us a list of contributors large and small who are local (though some of their contributions haven’t been documented as of yet).

We’ll have more donor news in October, when the first round of campaign forms come due. Stay tuned.


Submitted by Tom (not verified) on Thu, Sep 11, 2014

Chen can't cover his outside Alameda Cash supporters credibly by saying "they do business here"!

Of course they (non-residents/non-alameda voters) want to support Chen for he will grease the skids for more development.