City Council candidate Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft
City Council candidate Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft
Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft
16 years of community involvement, including 6 years as a Planning Board Member, with 2 years as President, serving on the Economic Development Commission and Alameda Hospital Board of Directors, chairing the campaign to save Alameda Hospital, co-chairing the campaign to build the New Main Library and renovate our branch libraries, and volunteering in our schools.
If elected, what would be your top three priorities?
1. To preserve the quality of life that makes Alameda such a livable city, i.e. — good schools, great neighborhoods, low crime, wonderful parks, a network of bike paths, recreational opportunities and vibrant downtown districts.
2. To achieve a viable city budget that sustains the features described above.
3. The sustainable development of Alameda Point.
What is your vision for the future of Alameda Point, and what are three steps you would take to implement that vision?
My vision for the future of Alameda Point aligns with the City of Alameda General Plan, the 1996 NAS Alameda Community Reuse Plan, and community input from subsequent Alameda Point workshops. That is, that Alameda Point would contain a mix of employment, open space, recreational, residential and retail uses, and would be transit-oriented, walkable and environmentally sustainable. The three steps I would advocate, to implement that vision are:
1. Completion of negotiations with the Navy regarding transfer of Alameda Point to the City, including any outstanding issues such as the level and extent of clean-up still to be completed by the Navy.
2. Amendment of the existing zoning for Alameda Point which is still zoned M-2/G (General Industry/Government Overlay) from its years as a Navy base. The Planning Board will soon consider recommending that the City Council approve amending Alameda Point zoning to include six sub-districts and a variety of land uses. This rezoning will ensure that redevelopment of Alameda Point is consistent with community goals set forth in the Reuse Plan and subsequent workshops, and also informs prospective Alameda Point businesses and development partners of what type of development will be allowed in particular areas.
3. The City should begin actively marketing and promoting new business and employment opportunities at Alameda Point, to add to the growing collection of businesses currently located there and increase revenues generated at Alameda Point.
State law limits the steps local elected officials can take to address employee pension and benefit costs. Given these restrictions, how would you address the city’s unfunded pension and health care liabilities?
Labor negotiations with public unions are governed by State law. In Alameda, the City Manager is the City’s principal representative in matters involving Employer-Employee relations, including wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment, but takes direction from the City Council on these matters. The issue of unfunded pension and health care liabilities did not arise overnight and will not be resolved immediately either. Public safety contracts come up for renegotiation next summer, but City Manager John Russo is already holding preliminary discussions with both Police and Fire which is a positive step. As a Council Member, I would want the City and its unions to examine the ways other cities have dealt with these situations, to recognize that all parties benefit from fiscal stability, and to arrive at constructive solutions. We must also increase General Fund revenues by encouraging more business development. And, as the economy recovers, property values will, as well, leading to an increase in property tax revenues, a major source of General Fund revenue.
Do you think there are unmet housing needs in Alameda? If so, what are they and how would you address them?
I do. The City Council recently approved the updated Housing Element of our General Plan. Among the factors considered by the Planning Board when recommending that the City Council approve the Housing Element was Alameda’s share of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) determined by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). Alameda was determined to need a greater variety of housing types, especially affordable housing, including multi-family units, townhouses and senior residential housing.
Alameda has worked to address its unmet housing needs in recent years. For example, Shinsei Gardens at Bayport consists of 39 affordable homes for formerly homeless veterans and their families and 12 residential units for special needs families with physical disabilities. The former Islander Motel on Central Avenue near Park Street is about to reopen as the totally refurbished Park Alameda Apartments - 62 units of affordable, work-force housing. The updated Housing Element includes a “multi-family overlay zoning district” which designates ten sites around the city where multi-family units can be built, creating more needed housing.
Are there any city services that you believe are underfunded? If so, how would you raise revenue or what would you cut to pay for them?
All of our city departments have made significant reductions to their budgets in recent years. One department that is underfunded is Public Works which receives most of its funding from sources other than the General Fund, including Vehicle License Funds, the Gas Tax Fund, and Measure B, the transportation sales tax. When Public Works is underfunded, the City must defer maintenance on infrastructure such as streets and sidewalks which can end up costing more in the long run to repair or replace. Now that the City has adopted a Housing Element, Alameda may also be eligible for MTC grants.
City Manager John Russo has said he would like to implement more public-private partnerships in order to continue providing services at a reduced cost to the city. Do you agree? And if so, which services currently provided by the city do you think could be sourced through private contracts?
The Alameda Animal Shelter is an excellent example of a successful public-private partnership between the City and the non-profit Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter (FAAS). The City is saving $600,000 a year by having FAAS hire and pay shelter staff and take care of the animals. (Full disclosure: I am a financial supporter of FAAS.)
In other situations, the City might partner with volunteers to help perform services like tree trimming and tree maintenance in our public parks. Other cities have groups like Friends of the Urban Forest. Alameda certainly has many residents who are passionate and knowledgeable about our trees and could likely be trained to perform functions that must sometimes be deferred because of budget cuts.
How could city government improve the way it does its job?
By using as many ways as possible to communicate with our residents and businesses about what the city is doing, and why, and with adequate notice.