Job: Retired businessman
Education: Attended College of San Mateo
Prior elected offices: None
In Hayward: 14 years
Family: Wife, five kids
Favorite Hayward spot: Akaihana Japanese Restaurant
This is the last of six profiles of the candidates in the Hayward City Council race. Two seats are up for election on the June 8 ballot.
HAYWARD — It’s been hard to glean what City Council candidate Steve Oiwa is all about.
He hasn’t spoken at the forums, doesn’t have a website and didn’t submit a candidate statement. It’s as if he doesn’t want to do any of the usual politicking at all.
That’s because he doesn’t.
“I don’t want to tell anyone any lies,” he said. “I don’t want to answer and say what I think people want to hear, tell them what I think they want me to do when I don’t know if I can do it.”
He said he attended one candidate forum as an observer and thought his opponents were doing just that.
“I was listening, but they were just making sounds,” he said. ” ‘Oh, you better vote for me. I’ll do this, or I’ll do that.’ I say, ‘Yeah, sure. Boo!’ ”
Oiwa said those claims are moot without the knowledge and wherewithal that comes with an elected position. Before a person is seated, he really has no idea how the city works, what’s going on and what can be done to effect change, he said.
“No, I don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “That’s why I’m running. To know, you have to be in it. I want to be in it but not be a bad politician.”
He said he would represent the “average citizen.”
“People tell me, ‘Steve, you are no politician,’ ” he said. “They say, ‘That’s not for you.’ That’s right. I see things like normal people. With a different angle, like you see it. You know what I mean?”
Oiwa often repeats that last question, emphasizing “you.”
He is proud to be an Everyman, lacking a title or a political history and the connections that come with such things.
“That’s why I don’t have any endorsements,” he said. “No donations. There’s always a little string attached, even the small stuff, don’t you think so? No matter where you go, they’ve scratched your back, and sooner or later you will have to scratch theirs.”
Oiwa said he would like to see more people involved in the decision-making process, possibly delegating duties performed by the City Council to subcommittees, or otherwise giving them more teeth.
“Are weeds too high, or is there a fence that needs to be torn down? Maybe (the Keep Hayward Clean and Green Task Force) could give out tickets,” he said. “Give them more power — spread it out more. Open it up more. A lot of people, they want power. I am not talking about power for myself. I am talking about giving power to more people.”
Oiwa called Hayward “a challenging place” that has gone downhill in the years since he’s moved here.
He said while his path may be as yet uncharted, his desired destination is known: a cleaner, safer Hayward where people want to live, work and visit.
Oiwa said he finds inspiration in the 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” in which a naive man played by James Stewart refuses to be corrupted by the Washington, D.C., political machine.
While Stewart’s character was thrust into his lawmaker role, Oiwa said he is seeking out a council spot because not getting involved would amount to unacceptable apathy.
“It’s better to try than not try and complain about it,” he said. “If something is not working, you got to try to do something. You can’t do nothing.”
Eric Kurhi covers Hayward. Contact him at 510-293-2473. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi. All six candidate profiles — and a forum in which to discuss them — will be available as they appear at www.ibabuzz.com/hayword.