Seven of the 10 candidates participated in the debate: Bill Harrison, Fazlur Khan, Kathy McDonald, Vinnie Bacon, Anu Natarajan, Linda Susoev and John T. Herndon.
Kristin Briggs, Vladimir Rodriguez and Carl “The Ghost” Flynn were absent. I’m going to try to track Flynn down tonight at Outback Steakhouse, where I’m told he works. If that fails, he’s dead to me.
First question: What’s the biggest issue facing Fremont?
Harrison: The economy. He says that when people have quality jobs things are better.
Natarajan: Says city needs to talk to residents about services they want and how much they’re prepared to pay for them.
Fazlur Khan: Proposes federal green technology bank that will create 30,000 jobs in Fremont.
Fazlur won this debate before it started. He brought a gigantic nameplate so everyone on TV would know it was him speaking, even if they couldn’t always understand what he was saying.
But the nameplate was so big that it crept into the space of Kathy McDonald who was sitting to his left. So when the camera was on Kathy, you could still read the nameplate, making it appear that Kathy’s name was actually “Khan.”
Linda Susoev battled Khan claim for claim, at one point saying that her grandfather sold 3 billion records.
Bacon and Natarajan both touted their urban planning master degrees as if it meant they could cure cancer and rescue cats from trees.
As the forum wound down they competed to see who could make the most obscure city planning references. Natarajan set the bar high saying the city has made sure “that everyone gets the same info at the counter.” Huh? That would be the front counter in the city’s planning department to all you earthlings out there.
But Bacon can wonk out with any planner out there. A few minutes later talking about public art he referenced a book by “Jacobs.” Hmmn … I don’t think he meant Brandon Jacobs or Glenn Jacobs. And I certainly don’t think he meant Jon Jacobs.
Oh, he must have meant Jane Jacobs. Of course, Jacobs The New Urbanist.
Bacon and Kathy McDonald were definitely a team with Kathy taking the high road and Vinnie unloading on the incumbents. When the topic went to NUMMI, Kathy said development will happen organically while Vinnie attacked the council for spending $150,000 on the A’s “fantasy,” and not trying to promote manufacturing on the site.
Meanwhile the incumbents took different approaches in defending their records. Bill Harrison argued that the council has been doing a good job and should stay intact.
Natarajan wasn’t as quick to throw her lot with the rest of the council and instead cast herself as an independent voice on the council at least when it came to development.
Back on the ranch, Fazlur said that the NUMMI site “is the best site available in the world.” He also said that Silicon Valley will die soon, and that green technology will be all that’s left.
And Linda Susoev said Fremont needs to build a baseball stadium. “If Alameda County looses the A’s or the Bay Area looses the Giants we won’t have any ballplayers.”
Meanwhile, John T. Herndon, who was wearing a purple shirt to match his campaign signs, repeatedly argued that the city needed to make itself more business friendly and market itself as a business friendly city. He also thought the city should be a little more open about allowing new nightclubs or, say, a sports bar, which he would like to open.
Herndon didn’t seem to have much hope for the residents of the Besaro Mobile Home Park, whose well-connected owners want to kick out all the tenants if they can’t get a major rent increase. Herndon said the city should let them know about available affordable housing. Fazlur, on the other hand, said three times that he would stand up and fight for them. He also called the owners greedy and asked if they had lost their morality.
The Bacon/McDonald tag-team entered the ring when the question involved Patterson Ranch. McDonald, who has has softened her public persona since her “heads will roll,” comment several months back said 520 homes in a liquefaction zone with no school was asking for trouble.
Vinnie said pretty much the same thing, but threw in a shot about how the Patterson family gives lots of money to council candidates, but that unlike Natarajan and Harrison, he won’t accept any development money.
Natarajan was clearly annoyed. She noted that the development is much smaller than it had been and that she hasn’t voted on it yet. She said she wants the development to be an eco-village, which sounds like she plans to oppose it, because 520 single-family homes far from transit ain’t no eco-village.
Herndon also opposed the Patterson development without money for a new school. That position might be music to the ears of the Patterson’s lawyers.
Kathy McDonald came up with a great point about Fremont that should resonate with every East Coast transplant. How the heck does Fremont have 210,000 people and no legit public pool? I know those awful looking apartment complexes have pools, and a lot of people have pools in their backyard, but it’s totally odd to me that a city as big as Fremont has no public pool.
Kathy said city should have built one when it built the water park.
When the subject switched to helping small businesses, both Natarajan and Harrison say that the city has made great strides in the past few years. Harrison notes that Fremont got an award from the Chamber for being business friendly and that Solyndra likes Fremont just fine.
Bacon and McDonald say city still needs an attitude adjustment when it comes to making it easy for people to set up businesses around town.
The candidates closed in style
Fazlur said city schools should teach Arabic because the Arab countries are booming and we need more Arabic speaking FBI agents.
Kathy said “I don’t think our city can grow by ‘getting on the map.’”
Harrison noted that he’s lived his entire life in Fremont and says the council has done a fine job.
Vinnie says “We need politicians with integrity” who won’t play that game and can’t be bought.
Anu says she’s an independent voice who asks tough questions and says one more time that she in fact is an urban planner.
Susoev said again that she is the most powerful person in law and poltics.
Hernon wants more civic engagement and proposed a day in which the city flies the flag of every nation. You could almost here Steve Cho, who was at the forum and got hate mail for proposing a similar idea as part of the city’s Independence Day parade, mutter, “Not on July 4. Not on July 4.”
After the debate, Natarajan and Harrison told me that Vinnie had been more aggressive the night before at the Tri-City Democratic Forum Debate. Vinnie told me that the Tri-City Dems had Natarajan and Harrison campaign signs posted at its debate. Fazlur told me that he’s been talking to Obama about something or other.
And Steve Cho told John Herndon that if Herndon needs foreign flags, Steve’s got plenty at home.