Dublin Mayor David Haubert opened the first public debate last month with Fremont Councilmember Vinnie Bacon in the race for the open District 1 seat on the powerful Alameda County Board of Supervisors by striking a friendly tone. Haubert is well-known in the district’s Tri-Valley half, but less so in Fremont. “I love Fremont,” Haubert intoned. “I’m hoping to make new friends in Fremont.” However, Bacon probably won’t be one of them.
Minutes later, Bacon made the first cut of the fall election season by criticizing a mailer sent by Haubert earlier in this year suggesting the district’s homeless problem is due mainly from mental health issues and drug addiction. “It sounds like you’re not compassionate,” Bacon said. From that moment the discourse between Haubert and Bacon has been a frenetic give-and-take between the candidates that has made this race already the roughest on the entire East Bay fall ballot.
Haubert has asserted Bacon’s ideological purity when comes to a ban on accepting contributions from developers and corporate political action committees is subterfuge meant to distract from Bacon’s bid to buy the election with personal and family wealth. Bacon said Haubert is a former Republican who only changed his registration to No Party Preference in order to increase his chances for higher office in the deep blue Alameda County.
Bacon also faulted Haubert’s speaking engagement at an event held by the Oath Keepers, a far-right, anti-government group. Haubert said recently that he was not aware of the group’s ideology.
Haubert has often attempted to undermine his opponent’s credibility when it comes to campaign finance by repeatedly mentioning Bacon’s 2016 campaign finance penalty. The indiscretion cost Bacon a $2,381 fine, and led to Haubert’s sharpest rejoinder to date: “We need a lawmaker, not a lawbreaker.” Bacon, for his part, has charged Haubert with being beholden to developers, a potentially potent criticism in a supervisorial district dominated by suburbs and concerns over traffic.
Haubert has raised $235,000 this year, aiding significantly by developer money. He denies being the recipients of campaign funds holds any sway on he votes of housing and zoning issues on the Dublin City Council. Meanwhile, Bacon, despite limited access to big-money funding sources, received $104,000 in contributions this year, through the most recent June 30 reporting period.
But amid the high-level political sniping is a number of important policy discussions that could impact the fast-growing Tri-Valley, in addition to Fremont’s continuous battle over urban growth, traffic, and crowded schools.
Since Bacon’s election to the Fremont City Council in 2012, his embrace for being a “clean-money candidate” has held true. His rigid adherence to turning away the mother’s milk of political campaigns has made him popular in Fremont, at least, among those who routinely oppose new housing developments.
During the March primary campaign, in which Bacon was the top vote-getter, he did little to veer from his traditional political playbook. He has railed against the influence of special interests and developer money while blatantly asserting they are buying votes with large political contributions. In Haubert, Bacon would seem to have the perfect foil. Not only has Haubert’s campaign been significantly larded with developer money, but Dublin, the state’s fastest-growing city, has seen a housing boom under Haubert’s helm. Most of the growth has been market-rate housing, but a portion has also included transit-oriented developments near BART.
“I’m sorry that my opponent can’t seem to trust himself to not sellout. I know I never have,” Haubert said. “He has to self-fund because he just doesn’t trust himself. He’s creating clean-money as a distraction, he added. “I’m trying to win this election. My opponent is trying to buy it.” A bit flummoxed, Bacon denied Haubert’s assertion, and added, voters agree about the need to rid politics of special interest money. “This is not a distraction. This is a huge issue,” Bacon said.
“The distraction,” Haubert said, “is from him not following the rules. We deserve a lawmaker, not a lawbreaker.” Haubert later urged Bacon to run for the state Legislature if he wants to change campaign finance laws.
Over two terms on the Fremont City Council, Bacon has consistently opposed a large number of housing developments. Last week, during the candidate forum, Bacon acknowledged much of his opposition to the projects is due to their unpopularity among Fremont’s most vocal anti-growth residents. But while Bacon is generally viewed as a progressive, his stances on new housing has often rankled Alameda County Democrats who believe the depth of the housing and homelessness crisis in the region requires housing of all types must be built quickly in order to replenish a significantly low level of supply that is partly fueling affordability.
“It is very disingenuous to say someone has approved affordable housing when they have opposed just about every market-rate project, which is what funds affordable housing and then to take credit for providing affordable housing,” Haubert said of Bacon’s record in Fremont.
More market-rate housing begets the need for more affordable housing, Bacon argued. In addition, in-lieu fees routinely fail to provide adequate funding for affordable housing projects. Bacon shot back at his opponent’s own record on housing, charging Dublin, under Haubert, is trying to build its way out of the crisis with market-rate units and hopes the new units will trickle down to other types of housing. Quoting from Dublin’s Regional Need Housing Allocation (RHNA), a target number provided by the state for cities and counties to build all types of housing, Bacon slammed the Tri-Valley city building in excess of 500 percent of its allocation for market-rate housing. Bacon joked the amount of affordable housing built in Dublin is a sliver on the same chart too small to discern by the naked eye.
“My opponent here can’t get his story straight when it comes to affordable housing,” Haubert countered last week. “He says he supports affordable housing. He says he wants new developments to be 50 percent affordable. That’s a good sound bite. But in eight years in office, with over 250 meetings, he has not once brought an idea to council to require developers to build 50 percent affordable. It’s a great soundbite. And it seems like a spectacular, unsuccessful record of not getting anything done with regards to affordable housing,” he said.
Haubert added the recent market-rate housing boom in Dublin is mainly due to a roaring local economy and swaths of open space already zoned for new housing.
Later, Haubert asserted Bacon has failed to deliver in Fremont on many of the stances he is advocating for in this race and has a miserable record for working with his own council colleagues. Haubert suggested the successful campaign for the Fremont City Council by Bacon’s wife, Jenny Kassan, two years ago was intended to provide a second vote so Bacon’s proposals could move forward. Bacon said Haubert’s comment was sexist for suggesting Kassan could not run for political office on her own accord.
On the subject of participatory budgeting, in which city leaders and officials work more intently to include the public in annual budget discussion, Haubert said Bacon has never pushed the issue in Fremont and criticized for him for stating previously that he and the Fremont City Council merely “rubber stamp” the city’s budget.
“You need to do your job,” Haubert told Bacon. “His wife sits on the city council with him. They together could help put this on the agenda and I don’t buy that other councilmembers in Fremont would not go for a more participatory budgeting process,” Haubert added.
Bacon lamented Fremont’s public apathy toward the budget and appeared to blame his current council colleagues for their intransigence on the issue. “I have complained and complained about, but there’s not much you can do when you’re the only one that wants real change like that,” Bacon said.