Alameda Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer registered perhaps the biggest upset of the 2014 East Bay Elections by defeating incumbent Marie Gilmore by just a few hundred votes. After a tumultuous three-and-a-half years, in addition, to being on the losing end of an inordinate number of 4-1 council votes, the incumbent Spencer remain largely popular on the island. She faces two of her council colleagues this fall–both experienced Alameda officials–Councilmembers Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Frank Matarrese. This week the field of three made their opening pitch to Alameda voters at an endorsement forum hosted by the City of Alameda Democratic Club. Here’s the notes and highlights from Wednesday’s event:
TRISH HERRERA SPENCER
Reintroducing her life story: “We were the first Hispanic family on the block” growing up in the Southgate neighborhood of Los Angeles, said Spencer, and reiterated a story about a high school counselor who attempted to stop her from applying to U.C. schools, in addition, to overcoming the odds to become an attorney. Time ran out before she added the most poignant part–beating breast cancer. The story is exactly the same pitch Spencer told Alamedans four years ago.
ON ALAMEDA’S POLITICS: “I also see a community that is divided economically, racial and with different background, the haves and have nots. People are feeling financial pressure. They are being pushed out of their homes and have been here forever–they grew up here–and then you have people moving in.” Told story about helping a resident who was about to have her power shut off over non-payment.
MOST URGENT ISSUES: (1) City’s financial health. “We have to look within” and start a conversation on the city finances instead of placing a tax measure for Alameda voters every two years, she said. “Every time we add more costs to someones shopping cart, it makes it harder and harder for them to stay in our town.” (2)Sea-level rise in Alameda. In order to help find solutions, Spencer wants to reach out to non-profits to figure it out.” (3) Affordable housing.
MINIMUM WAGE: Since a council approval by Spencer to study raising Alameda’s minimum wage has yet to be discussed, Spencer would not address a question about her specific stance, although her answer focused on the perspective of local businesses. “Why do I think I’m best candidate for mayor? Because, honestly, I don’t make up my mind in advance.”
-Does not support Proposition 10, the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act that prohibits rent control for single-family housing. Spencer said fewer developers will be interested in building in Alameda. Spencer said she supports Measure K, the Alameda rent stabilization charter amendment backed by landlords’ groups. “We found a pretty good solution in town,” said Spencer.
-Supports a police citizens oversight commission in Alameda.
-Wants a law for the United States Postal Service that prohibits the delivery of political mailers if they do not include a “paid for” description. In 2016, several negative mailers against then-Alameda Councilmember Tony Daysog comparing him to Donald Trump were sent. To this day, who paid for the mailers is unknown and Daysog lost his seat.
-She made no mention of her record as mayor during the more than 90 minute forum.
MARILYN EZZY ASHCRAFT
“I am running to be the mayor of Alameda who works tenaciously to solve our most pressing issues by addressing and understanding our current reality, not trying to return to the past, and by helping shape a progressive future. Addressing our housing issues is a moral imperative… There is no one cause for homelessness and no one solution. We must find multiple creative solutions.”
–Ashcraft, though, read her opening statement while standing and reading from a script.
–MOST URGENT ISSUES: (1) “Stabilize housing costs and prevent displacement of residents.” Add more workforce and affordable housing, and she can accomplish this due to her experience working with state and federal agencies, who will ostensibly subsidize most affordable housing projects. (2) Transportation and the (3) environment. Added later that she would support virtually any policy that involves getting people out of single-occupancy vehicles.
MINIMUM WAGE: Supports it in concept, but declined to remark about existing situations. Like Spencer, Ashcraft offered local business perspective, which opposes increase. Wants to attract more companies that offer well-paying jobs.
ON LENGTHY COUNCIL MEETINGS: “Read your materials ahead of time. Be familiar with the packet so the questions you are asking are not, ‘Tell me what this is really about,’ and really cogent.” In this context it was not clear whether Ashcraft was referring to herself or a colleague.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Views issue as a regional and statewide problem and would seek multiple agencies to help Alameda solve its housing problem. But Ashcraft also advocated for “imposing fees on employers who are in the region, not just Alameda, who are tapping into our housing market. Because their well-paid employees can afford to live here and that’s driving the rent up and making supply more scarce for others.” Also would eye a housing trust for Alameda.
-Supports Just Cause, Proposition 10 Costa-Hawkins Act repeal, opposes Alameda Measure K rent charter amendment. “The beauty of that ordinance is it allows the council to go in and make changes, as needed, with changing times,” said Ashcraft. Ashcraft’s comments received the loudest applause of the entire forum.
–“Treat people the way you want to be treated,” she twice said.
“I could have run for my council seat again, but I decided to run for mayor because I think in, especially these times, where there’s pressure, we have turmoil, and we have some big issues, and I would like to apply the talents that I’ve cultivated serving as a councilmember for eight years prior to this, and then these last four years.”
ON ALAMEDA’S POLITICS: “Alameda of today is very much more open and a participatory community when it comes to politics. And it is a contact sport, not the kind you watch.” Recalled poignant meeting following 2016 election with landlords and renters groups. “Things were so raw that we really couldn’t talk to each other. What I would like is for us to take a step back and take a step forward and find out one piece of common ground where we can come to an agreement and get something done and take the next step.”
MOST URGENT ALAMEDA ISSUES: Gap between haves and have not. “Those who can afford to live here and those who can’t is the biggest issue.” Housing problem stems from internal and state and federal issues, he said. “I would drill down to what we can do and then how we can move the ball forward with our representatives and other agencies.” Matarrese would budget city dollars to pay for legal aid to help renters.
MINIMUM WAGE: Need for increase shows that a wage gap indeed exists in Alameda. Also declined to make a decision before hearing a future proposal at the city council.
ON LENGTHY COUNCIL MEETINGS: “To the critics who have said that council meetings take too long. Well, it takes the time it takes.”
AFFORDABLE HOUSING: “I’ve come to the conclusion that to depend on developers to build housing for us is not really going to solve the problem. I think that we need more state money. We need more county money… We don’t have housing that houses the middle class and we certainly don’t have houses for those with limited incomes. That is a regional problem so we cannot solve it alone.”
-Matarrese, like Ashcraft, supports Proposition 10, the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act, because it returns local control to Alameda.
-Opposes Alameda Police Department’s use of Automated License Plate Readers.