EL CERRITO -- The city may have its third uncontested City Council election in a row this year with two candidates signed up to run for two seats as the filing deadline neared on Aug. 12.

Mayor Janet Abelson, running for her fifth term, and newcomer Gabe Quinto, chairman of the city's Human Relations Commission, will be on the Nov. 4 ballot for the two open positions.

Councilwoman Rebecca Benassini did not file election papers by the Aug. 8 deadline for incumbents.

Other candidates had until 4 p.m. Aug. 13 to file election documents.

Three candidates ran for three City Council seats in 2012 and two candidates ran for two seats in 2010, according to City Clerk Cheryl Morse.

Five candidates ran for three seats in the last contested council election in 2008, Morse said.

Abelson said improving public safety in El Cerrito, including attracting and retaining police officers, will be her top priority in a new term. The city is currently holding three officer positions open because of budget constraints.

"We must get the resources to respond to calls within six minutes, especially for fire emergency calls," Abelson said. "Keep that as a standard goal."

Abelson also wants to make strides in improving community services, especially upgrading aging facilities, including the library, senior center, community center and public safety building.

"We need a plan for getting from where we are today to actually having those new facilities," she said.


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Economic development is also on Abelson's agenda, including filling empty storefronts and finding tenants for vacant larger stores to increase shopping options and bolster sales tax revenue.

Abelson said she is glad that Quinto is running, saying that governments benefit from "a fresh point of view and experience."

"I've seen cities where every single incumbent is running so there's no change at all," she said.

Quinto said he grew up in El Cerrito and is an El Cerrito High School graduate.

"This will be an opportunity to serve and work with people I grew up with," he said.

Quinto said improving public safety, including adding more police officers and firefighters, is at the top of his list of goals.

Environmental preservation and maintaining and adding open space are also priorities.

"I am on the board of the Sierra Club Bay Chapter," Quinto said. "Open space has always been important to me."

He called current efforts to purchase the so-called Madera Property in the El Cerrito hills "exciting, a huge thing in our city."

Besides serving on the Human Relations Commission, Quinto has been a member of the Committee on Aging and says that he thinks developing more affordable senior housing should be a top priority.

El Cerrito council members receive $5,292 in salary annually.