While elections can be extremely contentious, this year's campaigning in Alameda seems to be hitting a new low. With all the high emotions and allegations flying, it is small wonder that voters may be undecided what to do.
The largest cloud hanging over the process is SunCal and the fate of Alameda Point. While SunCal is a topic we must address, it shouldn't distract voters from looking at all the candidates and the myriad issues facing the Island. Those elected as mayor and City Council members must be willing to take on SunCal and guide Alameda to a resolution on what to do with the long-neglected Alameda Point. But that's not the only issue facing Alameda in this tough economy -- especially with the increasing costs of retiree medical and pension benefits and deferred maintenance on streets and city properties -- negotiations with the firefighters and the revitalization of Park and Webster streets.
The drama of threatened lawsuits, ugly allegations and heated speculation about a conspiracy to hijack our local election may overwhelm the voters. The lawsuits will work their way through the legal system. But voters will elect a mayor and fill two, possibly three seats on the City Council, depending on whether an incumbent council member is elected mayor. Voters also will decide on two seats on the Alameda Unified School District board. Who is elected will be critical to determining how Alameda will handle the ongoing economic crisis facing both the city and schools. They will have to make some tough, very likely unpopular, decisions.
Voters need to step back from the rhetoric and look closely at the candidates. While several have limited experience, others have solid track records of public service. What kind of fiscal expertise does the candidate have? What real solutions is he or she offering rather than just railing about the failures of current officials or stirring up emotions over potential "threats" from outsiders? If possible, voters should try to listen to some of the forums for the candidates -- if not in person, then on video. Go to the League of Women Voters website at www.alameda.ca.lwvnet.org. Do the homework and decide for yourself how you want your city to run.
We feel the best choice for mayor would be Marie Gilmore. Gilmore's position on Alameda Point has been to move on from the SunCal fiasco and come up with a plan. She has said she would like the city to lead in developing a plan that includes recreational and commercial projects as well as housing that would not require amending Measure A.
She has offered a reasoned response to the situation and seems to work with most members of Alameda's contentious City Council. Her stand to help our schools is a positive effort that resonates with voters, parents and homeowners who worry about the impact of fiscal constraints on local schools.
As for the two council seats, perhaps it's time to get some fresh faces in the chambers and find a combination who can work together rather than feuding among themselves. We would recommend Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, whose experience includes serving as Planning Board president and on the Economic Development Commission and the hospital board. With her business-oriented focus, she could improve efforts with the business community. And, like Gilmore, she is willing to work with others to find common ground.
We would recommend Tracy Jensen for the second council seat. An Alameda native, with longtime roots in the community, Jensen has worked hard for the community through her years on the school board. She has an administrative background that will help with city government, and she has shown leadership in local issues.