New council members take their seats
Alameda’s City Council got a trio of new members Tuesday, the first time the majority of the council has been replaced in over a decade.
“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. This is your newly constituted Alameda City Council,” Mayor Marie Gilmore said after Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, Tony Daysog and Stewart Chen were sworn into their new seats before a cheering crowd of family, friends and political insiders at City Hall.
Ashcraft, the top vote-getter in the council race, was unanimously elected by her dais-mates to the vice mayor’s post. She and Daysog each earned four-year terms while Chen, who is filling the rest of newly minted Assemblyman Rob Bonta's term, faces the prospect of a fresh electoral contest in 2014.
“I am honored and humbled to be here, to be serving the city of Alameda for the next four years,” said Ashcraft, who thanked her supporters, friends and family for helping her win a council seat after a string of prior commitments that included stints on the city’s Planning Board and Health Care District Board and helming the successful campaign to win a bond to build the new main library.
Chen restated his priorities in his new office – redevelopment of Alameda Point, preserving the Island’s quality of life and helping to maintain good schools and the city’s financially struggling health care district – and vowed to personally return every phone call and e-mail he gets.
“I have complete faith in my colleagues and staff that we will do our best to serve our city and its residents. We will always put its best interests first,” said Chen, who offered a salutation in Fukinese, a Chinese dialect, at the close of his remarks.
Daysog thanked Alameda’s voters and his supporters for putting him back on the City Council after a six-year hiatus and offered personal stories about former council members and others, including newly installed school board trustee Barbara Kahn, who he said engaged him to hand out flyers on a local political issue when he was 12.
“That’s the nature of Alameda,” Daysog said. “We all have our connections, we all have our stories. And that’s what makes Alameda such a special place.”
The council sent outgoing members Doug deHaan and Beverly Johnson off with their thanks and gift bags with plaques and wine. Johnson left the council after 14 years of service, eight of them as mayor, and deHaan after eight.
Johnson cracked jokes about the often late-night battles she fought over the new library, development of the Alameda Theatre and other issues she faced during her time on the council, when she said she sought to turn the Island’s blighted commercial areas around. While Johnson was on the council, the city saw construction of the new library, movie theater and the Bridgeside Shopping Center and revitalization of Park and Webster streets.
“I’d just like to say it’s been an honor serving Alameda. I feel I was involved in a perfect time other than this, because we were able to accomplish so much,” said Johnson, a fourth generation Alamedan who started her political career as a Planning Board member in 1995. “It’s been a pleasure to make my community a better place to live.”
DeHaan offered a retrospective of his time in public service in Alameda and his eight years on the council, saying that the city experienced progress over his time on the dais despite a “turbulent” economy.
The Alameda native pointed to the Harbor Bay Business Park, the Bridgeside center, improvements on Park and Webster streets and demolition of defunct warehouses on Clement Street as successes, along with efforts to transition the management of the Chuck Corica Golf Complex into private hands. But he acknowledged that the council’s new members would face some challenges.
“We left you with the budget. We left you with Alameda Point. And those will keep you busy for a long time,” deHaan said.
Friends and family members offered their thanks to Johnson and deHaan for their service on the council, with one resident thanking deHaan for being willing to take stands on issues that none of his dais-mates supported.
“There were times Doug was the only member of the council to advocate for a position,” Mary Anderson said. “Everybody was against him. And Doug had the courage to stay with his position.”
Golf Commission president and council candidate Jane Sullwold thanked the pair and congratulated her former council race opponents on their victories.
“I don’t think we could have done anything like we did in saving the golf complex without the help and support of Doug deHaan,” said Sullwold, who credited a 1998 campaign visit from Johnson with introducing her to local politics.
In addition to the council changing of the guard, Kevin Kennedy was sworn in for his fourth term as city treasurer while Kevin Kearney, who has been the city’s auditor since 1991, was sworn in for a new term in that role.
City Manager John Russo introduced the city’s incoming assistant city manager, Elizabeth Warmerdam, who will start her new job on January 22. Warmerdam, who currently serves as deputy city manager in Hercules, is an Alameda resident who started her career in local government as a management analyst for the Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority.