HAYWARD -- In July, the city will have a new mayor for the first time in eight years, and three of the candidates seeking to fill the spot are familiar faces on the dais.

Council members Barbara Halliday, Mark Salinas and Francisco Zermeño are running for the seat Michael Sweeney is vacating. A fourth candidate, Rakesh Kumar Christian, is a political newcomer.

All of the candidates agree the city needs to attract more business and make its permit process more customer-friendly.

The three council members also said if the city is to stay afloat financially it's crucial that Hayward address its deficit and that workers pay more of the cost of their benefits. Hayward sought a 17 percent reduction in employees' total compensation, including wages and benefits. Some union units agreed, but the city reached an impasse with SEIU Local 1021, which represents clerical and maintenance workers. Over the workers' vigorous protests, the council unanimously imposed the pay cut in February.

"We didn't want to impose, but we've got to get the city's finances in order. We're trying to make sure we're able to provide services to the city and pay our workers," Halliday said.

Turning the city's negative image around is a priority with all three. But getting developers to come to Hayward will be more difficult after the council's recent rejection of a proposal to convert the long-empty Mervyn's headquarters building into a mix of retail and housing, the three council members said. All three voted for the development.

Halliday is running on her experience, and said that because she is retired, she would devote all of her time to the mayor's job. She has served on city commissions since 1990 and was first elected to the council in 2004.

Her top priorities: fiscal stability and good city management and customer service; creating jobs and continuing to revitalize downtown and commercial centers; working with neighborhoods, especially on disaster preparedness; protecting the environment; and expanding the city's after-school homework centers program, ensuring children have safe places to play and attracting kid-centered businesses.

"As mayor, I would be glad to personally solicit businesses we need. We have done a lot to clean up this city, and we have started to turn things around. Crime is down. There's a lot of good things about Hayward, and I can promote our city."

Salinas advocates turning Hayward into an education city.

"Hayward has a population of 150,000, and on any given day, 60,000 students if you include all the private and public schools, from kindergarten through college. That's an incredible number. We need to capitalize on that," he said. He also wants to create jobs to keep those graduates in town.

The first-term councilman wants to brand the city, focusing on what it has to offer, including its central bay location, its airport, its colleges, its climate. "We've never used our greatest assets to keep businesses here and attract new ones."

He also proposes strengthening the city's industrial center, and giving businesses tools such as a fiber optic network, scheduled to be installed by the end of the year.

Salinas pointed to the Let's do Lunch, Hayward, and Breakfast, Too, program he helped launch with the school district as an example of his leadership skills. The program has served more than 400,000 free meals to Hayward children in its three years.

"I pulled together a coalition of schools, nonprofit agencies, churches, firefighters and police to stem child hunger in our city," he said.

Zermeño said he regularly approaches retailers, encouraging them to open businesses in Hayward. He has worked hard to promote small businesses, he said. The second-term councilman is focusing his campaign on the economy, education and public safety. Hayward lacks vision, Zermeño said.

"San Leandro waived business license fees for one year. Why can't we do something like that? Let's experiment. Give businesses financial incentives and help them through the permits. It's doable. San Leandro's bank is not broken," he said.

"We're a city that waits for things to happen, but I want to make sure things happen. If elected, on June 4, I will hold a news conference and say Hayward is open for business," he said.

Christian, who is running for both governor and mayor, said his top priorities are the budget and city employees.

"We need to pay our workers benefits. I would arrange a meeting with the whole staff and ask them what is their concern so we can work together as a team. Explain to employees it is what it is; we cannot afford to pay more. We will keep your benefits, but you need to help us out because of rising costs," he said.

Christian is the only mayoral candidate who opposes Measure C, the city's half-cent sales tax ballot measure that would raise money to replace the city's main library and provide other services and upgrade fire stations.

"We don't need a library at this moment if we don't have the money," Christian said. "Don't burden the people. We need to fix our budget first. We should only be paying for the necessary things. Homework centers aren't necessary; everything is on Google."

Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.

Barbara Halliday
Age: 64
Occupation: Retired insurance claims supervisor
Political experience: Hayward City Council, 2004-present
Family: Married
Website: www.hallidayforhayward.com
Quote: "We need public officials willing to make the tough calls, especially in an election year. You have to look clearly at what's best for the whole city."
Mark Salinas
Age: 43
Occupation: Adjunct instructor, Chabot and Las Positas colleges; lecturer, Cal State East Bay
Political experience: Hayward City Council, 2010-present
Family: Married
Website: www.salinasforhayward.com
Quote: "I want to make downtown a food and entertainment destination. There's all these empty buildings here."
Francisco Zermeno
Age: 61
Occupation: Chabot College Spanish instructor
Political experience: Hayward City Council, 2008-present
Family: Married, three children, three grandchildren
Website: http://franciscoforhayward.com
Quote: "We don't do enough for veterans, our youth, our seniors and the homeless."
Rakesh Kumar Christian
Age: 53
Occupation: Self-employed businessman
Political experience: None
Family: Married
Website: www.americanpublicparty.com
Quote: "City is supposed to bring new talent, give businesses some help and tax breaks."

Candidates' Statements
More information about the mayoral candidates' views can be found at:
The League of Women Voters' website, www.smartvoter.org/2014/06/03/ca/alm/race/002
For candidates' comments on the "Ideas for Hayward" report, see the Hayward Area Planning Association's website, http://brucebarrett.com/hapa