Hayward Council Candidates Agree on much and they really dislike The Loop

Six of the candidates seeking two seats
on the Hayward City Council.

HAYWARD | CITY COUNCIL |The seven candidates for two open seats on the Hayward City Council may be secretly rooting against Councilmember Mark Salinas being elected mayor on June 3. Instead of running for re-election to his council seat, Salinas is running for mayor against two other members of the council, both of whom are in the middle of their terms. If Salinas wins, two seats are available. However, if he loses, one of the five remaining candidates and others still have a chance, if not slightly. In the event either Councilmember Barbara Halliday or Francisco Zermeno wins the mayoral race, the City Council will need to appoint a successor to fill out the remaining two years of their term, according to Hayward City Clerk, Miriam Lens. In the meantime, much remains to be decided in the next two months.

Similar to recent elections in Hayward, public safety and the state of its downtrodden school district are again common themes. Councilmember Marvin Peixoto, who is up for re-election in Hayward’s at-large election (top two vote-getters win), is one of just two candidates in the field to have held elected office. Peixoto is running on a platform of “long-term financial sustainability” and public safety, he said. During the Great Recession, he added, Sacramento took advantage of small municipalities like Hayward. “We’re the bottom of the food chain,” Peixoto said at a candidate’s forum last Wednesday night.

Rocky Fernandez, a former member of the AC Transit Board of Directors and currently district director for Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, said Hayward needs to follow other Bay Area communities in encouraging the new businesses of tomorrow to land in the city. He urged for smart growth and said the key to bringing life to the downtown is through a walkable city. Sara Lamnin, a well-known Hayward activist, who ran for the City Council two years ago, agrees and identified downtrodden Mission Boulevard as a possible incubators for new businesses.

“Public safety is a huge issue in our city,” said Rodney Loche, a member of the Hayward Planning Commission. He added, the city needs greater emphasis on the youth of Hayward, including its poorly-performing schools. Similarly, first-time candidate Philip Gallegos said Hayward is not doing enough to attract and keep families in the city. Himself a father of young children and a Hayward native, Gallegos worries about the “flight of families” due to the perception its schools are below standard.

A sales tax referendum on the ballot this June hopes to alleviate some of the city’s quality of life issues, including support for police and fire and a new downtown main library. Support for Measure C was almost unanimous among the candidates for council. Although she did not register opposition to the measure, Lamnin, however, questioned how local businesses would be affected by Hayward having one of the highest sales taxes in the Bay Area. Three-time council candidate Ralph Farias, Jr. was absent from Wednesday program.

When it comes to Hayward’s budget problems, Julie McKillop, as a certified public accountant, says she can help. “I know how to do it and I’ve done that,” said McKillop, who also runs a restaurant near City Hall. She also was critical of the infamous Loop, a one-way, multi-lane road that wraps around the downtown area from Main Street to Foothill Boulevard. However, later McKillop said through additions and corrections to the Loop currently in the works, it could be “one of the best things that has happened to the downtown in a long time.”

The Loop has faced considerable criticism from Hayward residents and those in neighboring cities for being confusing and wildly onerous for visiting patrons to the downtown. When a question regarding the Loop was posed Wednesday night, it immediately caused chatter among the packed audience. The issue also conjured the strongest comments of the night from the candidates.

“The loop contradicts everything we’re trying to do downtown,” said Peixoto, long a critic of the transportation project. “It’s not about Hayward,” he said, “it’s about getting people from Oakland and The City down to their homes in Fremont and Union City five minutes faster.” Downtown needs destination traffic, not through traffic, he added. Peixoto described a portion of the Loop at A Street and Jackson Street as the beginning of the Indianapolis 500. “You cannot create a pedestrian-friendly environment with a five-lane highway going smack down the middle of your city.”

Chronic traffic around the areas has been significantly alleviated, said Lamnin, but not in other sections of the Loop where changes and better signage are needed. “I’ve come from the freeway to get to D Street and taken my life into my hand,” said Lamnin. “We also need signage that says, ‘If we want to go to [Interstate] 580, you need to be in this lane, now.’”

Fernandez and Loche also found fault with the layout of the Loop. As a downtown resident, Fernandez said it presents the city with challenges. “One-way streets are the antithesis of trying to get to walkable communities and smart growth,” he said. Nevertheless, the Loop is here like it or not, said Loche. “It needs to be changed. It’s here now and we owe it to ourselves and our city to try and make it work the best we can.” Gallegos said he was under the impression from early drawings of the Loop, it would foster gleaming sidewalks and outdoor dining. The reality, however, is different than his previous perception. “It doesn’t feel like a place I would want live outdoors,” he said. “It feels like I’m on the side of the freeway.”

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