Calls for elected representation are stirring once again in unincorporated Castro Valley

Alameda County Superivsor Nate Miley, right,
along with Castro Valley Matters President
Michael Kusiak, at an Eden Area Livability
Initiative meeting Thursday in San Lorenzo.

CASTRO VALLEY
A group of Castro Valley residents are once again advocating not for incorporation, at least not just yet, but some semblance of self-determination in the form of electing members to the town’s quasi-govervance board, the Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Board (CV MAC). The board is currently appointed solely by Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, but holds little real power other than offering non-binding recommendations.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors, however, were cool to the idea of an elected MAC in early 2016. A few, including Supervisor Scott Haggerty, famously balked at the county footing the bill for an election sometime during last year’s election cycle. Haggerty erupted, saying Castro Valley residents pushing for an elected MAC were the “most unappreciative people I’ve seen in my entire life.”

The proposal, though, is again being revived by the grassroots Castro Valley Matters group. As an unincorporated area, Castro Valley is often low on the county’s do-to list, Castro Valley Matters President Michael Kusiak said, during an Eden Area Livability Initiative meeting Thursday in San Lorenzo. “We’re kind of the leftovers. We don’t have cities to call home.”

Electing members to the MAC represents a structural change to the board, says Kusiak, and eliminates any disconnection Castro Valley residents may have from the decision-making process at the county-level. However, critics contend electing a MAC board does not preclude it from being merely an advisorial board for Supervisor Miley.

The latest proposal for an elected MAC, says Kusiak, could possibly expand its purview, for instance, adding zoning approval powers that are currently held by another Castro Valley appointed board.

Unrest among Alameda County’s roughly 150,000 residents living in the unincorporated areas has been simmering for years. Besides a growing push for greater representation in Castro Valley (Population: 61,388), Miley has slowly acquiesced to calls for the same mechanism of governance in Fairview (10,003), which received approval for its own MAC last summer. It’s first meeting is scheduled for next month. Furthermore, other unincorporated areas in Ashland (19,304), Cherryland (14,728), and San Lorenzo (23,452), want their own MAC, called by some a “Big MAC.”

The long-term aim in Castro Valley remains cityhood. But for that to happen, Kusiak believes state legislation paving the way for greater revenues needs to be formulated and approved by the governor. “It’s not helpful when the county says, “Why don’t you just incorporate?’ It’s not that easy,” says Kusiak. Misinformation is also a perennial problem, he added, with many Castro Valley residents erroneously believing incorporation equals higher taxes.

“Most of it–80-90 percent–I don’t take any issue at all,” said Miley. “This is something Alameda County could get behind.” Miley raised the possibility of employing the county’s legislative lobbyists to work on crafting and identifying a local legislator, either State Sen. Bob Wieckowski or Assemblymember Bill Quirk, to carry a bill in Sacramento. “This is a powerful legislation to get behind,” he said.

Miley also reiterated a stance he’s held for a number of years, saying he favors Castro Valley’s bid for incorporation, also adding support for annexation. “We would welcome incorporation, but we don’t get a vote,” he said of the Board of Supervisors, including annexation. “It’s the people who have to vote on it.”A Castro Valley campaign for incorporation in 2002 failed at the ballot box.

One member of the audience, a real estate agent from Castro Valley, though, was having none of what Miley was serving Thursday night, calling him a “criminal” for a number of appointments he has made to the Castro Valley MAC, in addition, to allegations of wrongdoing surrounding a downtown development. “Pretty strong words,” Miley responded. “I hope you can back that up because those are slanderous remarks at an elected official.”

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