ALCO AUDITOR PREVIEW: Who will win the race to keep an eye on the county’s books?

Alameda County Auditor-Controller candidate Irella Blackwood at a forum in Alameda, with opponent, Melissa Wilk, in the background.

–MEET THE CANDIDATES– Of all the races on the East Bay June ballot, this is both the most distinct contrast of candidates and the most unpredictable to call. It’s the classic battle of the status quo insider versus the reform-minded outsider. MELISSA WILK is the current Alameda County deputy auditor-controller-recorder. When Alameda County Auditor Steve Manning opted to retire instead of running for re-election, Wilk had a nearly complete campaign ready to go. Throughout the campaign she has touted the county’s AAA credit rating as proof that both the county and the office keeping an eye on its books and paying the bills is doing a great job. IRELLA BLACKWOOD is the chief auditor for the City and County of San Francisco. Her history includes some high-profile audits of the city’s water department and other city agencies. Blackwood believes the Alameda County Auditor’s Office lacks transparency and has done a woeful job of conducting performance audits, which highlight, among other things, whether Alameda County taxpayers are getting enough bang for their buck.

–WHAT’S THE BEEF– Alameda County government is ruthless. It’s downright outrageously ruthless when attempting to maintain the status quo. The race four years ago leading to current Auditor-Controller-Recorder Steve Manning winning the job featured skulduggery on the part of Alameda County insiders who sidelined the opponent, an outsider named Kati Knox, for having a home address in Contra Costa County and the local media was sufficiently alerted. This cycle, county insiders circulated Blackwood’s bounced check intended for her filing fee. Then snapshots of her property taxes were everywhere. Then there was battle over ballot designation that, according to Blackwood’s perspective, found little attention from the Registrar’s Office. Wilk’s designation of “chief auditor/controller” might have some voters assuming she’s the incumbent.

Wilk Melissa
Alameda County Deputy Auditor-Controller Melissa Wilk.

–OUTLOOK– This is the race where nobody seems to have a strong sense about its outcome. Many believe it’s a toss-up. Both are first-time candidates swimming in a pool of sharks and not much money is being spent, although, driving around the county, you will see Wilk yard signs, but few for Blackwood. But like the O’Malley-Price race, Blackwood represents something the county fears–transparency. That is, if she can withstand the immense pressure that the county machine will apply on her, if elected. If you believe Alameda County government is corrupt, Blackwood shows great potential for shining a light on it. But there isn’t much information to glean whether it will happen or not. So here’s goes!

–PREDICTION– 1) Wilk. 2) Blackwood.

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