A new policy instituted by Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley last fall to rotate the chair of his appointed Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Council was intended to appease community concerns that one controversial member was consolidating power.
But the gesture was seen as empty by some in Castro Valley because it was not retroactively applied, meaning the current chair, Marc Crawford, a developer with ties to the local California Apartment Association’s leadership and a large contributor to Miley’s political campaigns, could be eligible to hold the chairperson’s seat for a third consecutive year.
Without any discussion, the advisory council re-elected both Crawford as chair, and member Ted Riche as vice-chair. Earlier in the meeting, Riche was slammed for writing an editorial in the Castro Valley Forum opposing the flying of LGBT Pride flag at Castro Valley High School.
“We won’t go by what Kusiak wants, okay?”-Castro Valley MAC Chair Marc Crawford referencing Michael Kusiak, a local community activist and critic of Crawford’s leadership.
Michael Kusiak, a community activist and co-founder of Castro Valley Matters, a group advocating for greater citizen input in the unincorporated area’s future, said Monday night, that the intent of the new policy was not to perpetuate the same leadership at the MAC.
The new rule aims to rotate the chair position among MAC members and prohibits any person holding the title for consecutive years. After Crawford relinquishes the chair position next year, he will have served in the capacity for three years. Crawford has also served intermittently as chair in prior years.
A number of MAC members said they simply did not want to the job of chair and its other duties, even though the position only serves as a parliamentary function for public meetings. But over the years, under Crawford, the chair of the MAC has become a quasi-strong mayor position, sans any fiduciary powers.
“It is important that this council see regular change in leadership,” Kusiak said. “It is important that you look to yourselves to see if you want to be on this council, if you’re willing to step up to leadership. If you’re not willing to do that, I would question why you are on this council.”
“We need change in this town. If we are not going to be able to elect this council, we need to have a more diverse council that represents the citizens of Castro Valley. It is just a shame to me that we are about to make a decision here that further institutes a leadership that systematically keeps parts of this community from stepping up, having an opinion, and has tried to chase away a different view of what Castro Valley can be, an inclusive Castro Valley.”
Twice last year, Crawford postponed scheduled re-election items on the MAC agenda because one member was absent. MAC member Shannon Killebrew was absent from Monday’s meeting. Under the same rationale, Kusiak challenged Crawford to postpone the vote, but it moved forward, nonetheless, with MAC member Dolly Adams abstaining.
After the meeting, Crawford said the MAC is not swayed by the desire of one person. “We won’t go by what Kusiak wants, okay?” he said. “That’s the only reason that those rules even got changed because he’s been bitching over and over, year after year. And he’s not getting what he wants, and this is his way to get what he wants.”
The problem said, Crawford, is that rules changes are not retroactive. “When the government changes your tax rate, do they go back two years on your taxes?”
“The MAC chooses its chair, not Mr. Kusiak, not you,” Crawford said. “If I shouldn’t be chair, these folk won’t vote me as chair.”
The re-election of Riche as vice-chair comes after the MAC member wrote a letter to the editor last week that mimicked language used last month by Dublin residents and some Dublin councilmembers against flying the rainbow Pride flag next to the U.S. and state flag. Riche objected to the Pride flag being raised at Castro Valley High School.
In the letter, Riche called the LGBT community a special interest group and the flag raising effort was agenda-driven.
“A special interests group is one that lobbies for special advantages,” Castro Valley Unified School District trustee Dot Theodore told Riche. “People who are LGBTQ are not special interests groups, they are people worthy of human rights and dignity and that is all they are asking for, no special advantages.”
While reiterating the reasons why he wrote the letter to the Castro Valley Forum last week, Riche again used the phrase “special interests group.” “My intention was to honor the flag and not rip on any special interest group,” he said. “I was not out to offend anybody. I thought long and hard before I sent it.”