ELECTION 2014: Your ballot in brief
ELECTION 2014: Your ballot in brief
Over the past several months, The Alamedan has put together a comprehensive body of information about your local candidates and ballot measures. But with Election Day looming in just a few days, we know your time is running short. So we’ve decided to offer the quick-and-dirty take on candidates for mayor, City Council and school board, and on Measure I, the local school bond. To get the scoop in short form, read on; for more detailed information including profiles and candidate videos, questionnaires, campaign finance stories and more, you can check out our Election 2014 page.
Part One: City candidates
Two candidates are running for mayor, and three for a pair of open City Council seats. Whoever wins will be responsible for the fate of developments along the Northern Waterfront and on Harbor Bay, and will play a role in the future of Alameda Point. The winners will also be forced to confront rising pension and retiree health costs – and to consider new city worker contracts, since the current ones expire in 2017.
Marie Gilmore: Incumbent Marie Gilmore has served in city government for two decades, logging time on the city’s Recreation and Park Commission and Planning Board before joining the City Council, in 2003. During her time in office, she has earned a reputation as a collaborative pragmatist who carefully vets proposals before her and isn’t afraid to disagree with staff recommendations. During her four years as mayor, the city has secured hundreds of acres of Alameda Point and the council has signed off on a plan for developing it that, if implemented as-is, would result in two-thirds fewer homes being built than the city’s prior master developer, SunCal Companies, had proposed. The city has secured contracts with its public safety unions that push more of the costs of benefits onto workers, though some City Hall watchers have said they think more should be done to cut public safety costs. The city has also reduced costs by handing off assets and services like the animal shelter and Meyers House museum to nonprofits and has succeeded in bringing new businesses to town. With the help of parks lovers, the city has moved forward with plans to develop the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park, and the city has strengthened infrastructure for cyclists. Key votes: Gilmore voted for a new housing development blueprint for Alameda that allows apartments to be built in Alameda for the first time in four decades. The city dodged one threatened lawsuit by approving the plan but found itself mixed up in another with the East Bay Regional Park District by zoning a 3.9-acre property across the street from Crab Cove to permit the homebuilder in contract to buy it to construct homes. (The park district has long wanted the property to expand Crab Cove.) That said, Gilmore voted in favor of codifying a proposed ballot measure to rezone the Neptune Pointe property for park use. She also voted against a proposal to allow Harbor Bay Isle Associates to develop homes on the Mif Albright golf course that was developed by city staff before she became mayor. Key endorsements: The Bay Area News Group and the East Bay Express; the Alameda Firefighters Association; the City of Alameda Democratic Club; school board trustees Niel Tam, Mike McMahon, Barbara Kahn and Margie Sherratt; Assembly members Rob Bonta and Nancy Skinner; Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan; Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison; Livermore Mayor John Marchand; San Leandro Mayor Steven Cassidy.
Gilmore questionnaire responses
Trish Spencer: Trish Spencer has served on the school board for six years, gaining a reputation as a polarizing figure who is loved by Alamedans who feel they’ve lost control over the political process and critics of former Superintendent Kirsten Vital and demonized by schools watchers as an obstructionist due to her frequent “no” votes, which often extend to routine items. During her time on the school board, Spencer has frequently clashed with schools administrators and her dais-mates, all of whom have endorsed her opponent, Gilmore. Spencer has intimated that she would slow housing development if elected – she has said she’d prioritize parks and business development at Alameda Point – but she has offered few specifics detailing the ways she’d address rising retiree benefit costs and other big issues facing city leaders. Key votes: Spencer has gained folk hero status for saying no to Vital, in particular by voting against a proposal to move the school district’s offices to pricey rented space. Her vote against a complex property and cash swap deal between the city, school district and Alameda Housing Authority arguably put her on City Hall watchers’ radar (Gilmore voted in favor of the swap deal). Spencer voted against putting the Measure E parcel tax, which was structured like an earlier tax the district may have to pay refunds on, on the ballot, and in favor of Measure A, the parcel tax that’s now in place. Spencer voted against putting the Measure I bond on the ballot and against anti-bullying lessons intended to support gays and ultimately, other groups. She has consistently voted in favor of charter schools but opposed a long-term lease for two seeking a more permanent home last year. She has also voted no against a slew of routine items, including the district’s budgets, contracts and reports detailing teacher moves and resignations. Key endorsements: The Green Party of Alameda County, Friends of Crown Beach, former Alameda City Councilwoman Karin Lucas, former school board member Janet Gibson, Pleasanton Unified School District board member Valerie Litterini Arkin.
Spencer questionnaire responses
In depth: Mayoral candidate profile piece
STEWART CHEN: Stewart Chen joined the City Council in 2012, after serving for more than a decade on bodies that included the Alameda Health Care District Board, Alameda’s Social Service Human Relations Board and the Alameda County Human Rights Commission. Over his two years on the council he has consistently voted with the council majority on key issues. When it was revealed earlier this year that Chen was convicted of insurance fraud two decades ago, he claimed innocence and apologized to anyone who may have been offended by his decision to keep quiet about the conviction. In response to The Alamedan’s candidate questionnaire, Chen said he favors the city’s existing Alameda Point development plan and that if he remains on the dais, he’ll address rising pension and benefit costs by asking city workers to pay more toward their benefits. He also spoke in favor of the chain stores coming to Alameda, saying they provide critical tax dollars. Key votes: Chen brokered a compromise between his dais-mates over the number of homes to be permitted on a key Alameda Point development site that allowed a call for developers for that site to move forward. He also drafted a resolution restating the city’s desire for a wildlife preserve on land transferred to the Department of Veterans Affairs to address concerns the department may not maintain the property for least terns and other migratory birds. Perhaps most notably, Chen engineered a deal put a planned city task force on rents on indefinite hold and established a community task force in its place, something that was okayed on a split vote. Key endorsements: Alameda Firefighters Association; Alameda Police Officers Association; Alameda County Democratic Party; State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett; Assemblyman Rob Bonta; City Councilwoman Lena Tam; school board trustees Margie Sherratt and Niel Tam; Oakland Mayor Jean Quan; Piedmont Mayor John Chiang; Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves; and San Leandro Vice Mayor Benny Lee.
Chen questionnaire responses
Frank Matarrese: Frank Matarrese served stints on Alameda’s Economic Development Commission and Planning Board before joining the City Council, where he established himself as pro-development and pro-public safety (the Alameda Firefighters Association backed his 2006 council run). But he recanted his favorable stance toward a proposal to build more than 4,800 homes at Alameda Point and has since determined that new development there should focus on jobs and parks, one of several shifts that appear to have put him in the crosshairs of the city’s reigning powers. He has come out in favor of less development in the Del Monte warehouse and also, of a Crab Cove expansion onto property the federal government is in contract to sell to a housing developer, and he opposes a stalled proposal to build homes where the Harbor Bay Club sits. As a councilman, Matarrese got the ball rolling on efforts to study the city’s structural fiscal issues by pressing for the establishment of a committee to study them. In answering questions posed by The Alamedan’s candidate questionnaire, Matarrese said he would set aside one-time funds (like the property transfer tax bump the city got for the sale of Alameda South Shore Center a few years back) to pay down unfunded retiree health and other liabilities and would engage businesses in the city’s existing shopping districts to ensure their continued health. Matarrese said he would also maintain Measure A and the development restrictions it imposes except in the areas where exceptions have already been carved out. Key endorsements: The Sierra Club, Friends of Crown Beach, the Green Party, The Bay Area News Group and the East Bay Express, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley and City of Alameda treasurer Kevin Kennedy.
Matarrese questionnaire responses
Jim Oddie: Jim Oddie has been engaged in Alameda politics for a number of years in low-profile and behind-the-scenes roles, as head of the City of Alameda Democratic Club and a member of the hospital’s finance and management committee, the school district’s Measure A parcel tax oversight committee and the city’s America’s Cup committee. While he lacks a documented track record of civic engagement, he seems to have earned the adulation of powerful civic leaders and behind-the-scenes players who claim he’s getting things done behind the scenes. Despite his lack of legislative experience, Oddie has also expressed a clear understanding of the issues the city is facing. Oddie has expressed support for the city’s approved development plan for Alameda Point, which permits up to 1,425 homes and 5.5 million square feet of commercial space, but he has expressed concerns about the impact of development along the Northern Waterfront and skepticism that Harbor Bay Isle Associates has the right to build new homes the developer has proposed. He said he thinks the city should have its own branded transportation system to help lighten traffic. Oddie could be considered the most pro-union candidate running for city office – which is saying something – and while he has expressed an awareness that growing pension and retiree health costs need to be addressed he hasn’t offered specific solutions, saying things need to be worked out at the bargaining table. He has expressed support for chain stores, saying they can help shore up the city’s tax base. Oddie has also said any additional Measure A exemptions beyond those okayed by the City Council in 2012 should go before voters. And he said he signed a petition to rezone land the park district wants to expand Crab Cove for that purpose. Key endorsements: Oddie is endorsed by State Senators Loni Hancock and Ellen Corbett; his boss, Bonta, along with Assembly members Nancy Skinner and Fiona Ma; Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan; City Councilman Stewart Chen; school board trustees Mike McMahon, Barbara Kahn, Niel Tam and Margie Sherratt; Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti; the Alameda Firefighters Association; the Alameda Police Officers Association; and the City of Alameda Democratic Club.
Oddie questionnaire responses
In depth: Council candidate profile
Stay tuned for Part Two: School board candidates and the Measure I school bond, on Monday.