Three hopefuls are running for two seats on the City Council. They are incumbent Dean Barbieri, business entrepreneur Ryan Gilbert and senior deputy Oakland city attorney Margaret Fujioka. Barbieri is campaigning to retain his seat and Mayor Nancy McEnroe is termed out.
The school board election is uncontested with three candidates for three open seats. They are state economist Martha Jones, land use attorney Rick Raushenbush and incumbent June Monach. Retired Beach Elementary School Principal Nancy McHugh and two others withdrew from the race. Because McHugh withdrew after the filing deadline, her name will appear on the ballot.
Fujioka began by expressing her interest in municipal law and dealing with the "diverse and challenging issues cities face in uncertain economic times."
"Our daughters should see that women can lead," said Fujioka, the married mother of a son and daughter.
She cited her strengths as a consensus builder and a good listener, open to all points of view. Fujioka has served as a leader on the Capital Improvement Projects Committee to improve public facilities and has lived in Piedmont 18 years.
"Leaders should listen more than talk," she said, and "tell (constituents) what they need to hear, not what they want to
Barbieri spoke of accomplishments while serving the past four years on the council. He has lived in the city 27 years, and is the married father of three children. He served on the Recreation Commission and has coached more than 30 different youth sports teams.
He said Piedmont's beauty, financial standing, fully staffed police and fire and environmental responsibility were all reasons to keep an incumbent in office. He added that no municipal parcel tax was levied this fiscal year due to prudent financial management of the city's budget.
Newcomer Ryan Gilbert, a two-year Piedmont resident with no previous civic involvement, mounted an assertive challenge.
"We have to manage the city like a business. We are financially savvy and strong today, but there is no guarantee for tomorrow,." Gilbert said.
He advocated careful spending and scrutiny of future projects that might drain city coffers such as a revamped civic center. He proposed even more effort to "go green" calling himself the "Light Bulb Guy" who has been passing out energy-saving bulbs while out campaigning.
Questions were posed from the audience of about 100 people about what to do about a city budget crunch due to economic slowdown. Fujioka advocated cutting the capital improvement budget in half to avoid any reduction in services.
Barbieri said responsible fiscal policy keeps the city in the black this year and probably next year. Candidates also fielded questions about crime in the city, the city/school district relationship and public engagement.
Gilbert suggested some daytime council meetings to attract more people and office hours for council members at City Hall. Barbieri said live broadcasts on KCOM-TV keep the population informed on city doings. Fujioka suggested a city/schools partnership committee to strengthen relationships there.
During a break between forums, the League moderator reviewed the city's two ballot measures, C and D.
For Measure D, voters will be asked in March whether or not to approve a municipal service tax for no more than $1.5 million per year beginning July 1, 2009. The measure requires a two-thirds majority to pass. It would be in effect through June 30, 2013.
Measure C is a measure on the March ballot to move the city's regular election date to February of even numbered years to coincide with the state's primary election. If the measure passes by a simple majority, the next City Council and school board elections would be held in February 2010.
The measure would have no effect on the upcoming March election for two open City Council seats and three open school board seats.
School board candidates then introduced themselves and presented their positions. State economist Martha Jones, a married mother of three, has been actively involved with the schools and served on the curriculum council. She thinks communications between the school district and the public "could use a major overhaul.
"The board and the district must be more responsive," she said.
Incumbent June Monach stood on her record to "promote and protect for the common good, and make decisions in the best interests of all students."
Monach, who holds an MBA from Stanford and has served on the Piedmont Education Foundation and other school boards, wants to foster an enthusiasm for learning, support ongoing professional development for teachers and practice fiscal discipline.
Raushenbush has served on the Measure E citizen's oversight committee and is "more than an observing parent." He wants to use facts, not emotions, to make decisions. He thinks of himself as the "fix-it person, not the debate-it person."
Jones sees big issues coming before the board in teacher salary negotiations, academic issues, and seismic repairs.
Reach Linda Davis at email@example.com or at 510-748-1686.
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