Fremont City Council Candidate Forum Recap

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.

Matt Artz


  1. Matt, Unlike the movies, wishing will not make it so. I wish council could force developers to pay for or build schools. I wish we could tell applicants to just go away until the school issues are resolved. I also wish we could roll back the clock to 1964, when there were 75,000 people in Fremont and none of the area east of Mission had any homes on it. It was a wonderful place, except for after the harvest of the califlower when the plants began to rot and smell.

    But, none of my wishes can come true. As I explained before, state law only permits a city to reject a development only when the school district declares an impact. A school district can only declare an impact if there are no classrooms available in the district. The school district has never ever declared an impact.

    The problem is that the classrooms are located in a different part of town than where new development occurs. The district can only require a fee from developers and, once that fee is paid, the city cannot deny an application based on school issues. Remember, I said cannot, not may not.

    Since the Patterson project began, FUSD has sold off at least four schools, two of which were replaced with housing, a third sold to the city as a park, with the school operating as a charter school, and the fourth became a mega church.

    As for me, please don’t try to ascribe motivation to anything I do. I value the public school system highly, whether I have kids in school or not. The value of my most valuable investment, my home, is directly related to the quality of the schools. The total value of my life is the sum of a whole lot of things, but the most important element is the public education I received in the K-12 system, in the California Community College system, and in the State University system, coupled with a year of school in the navy.

    I developed a theory of what makes a quality city. I described it as being like a table with four legs. The stronger each of those legs is, the stronger the city is, and, if any one leg isn’t there or is weak, the whole thing topples. The four legs consists of family, home, school, and church. Look at any city in the country and the good cities have strong families, homes, schools, and churches. The failing cities will fail in two or three of these elements.

    As for my business, LOL, I am a retired guy who does some consulting, mostly with a management firm dealing with cities and council/staff relationships. In this environment, cities are just trying to keep providing services and have little money available for the kind of things I can do, so it has been a long time since I have been paid for anything.

    Remember, all of our governmental agencies are bound by state and federal laws, court decisions, legal precendents, and, of course, common sense. Wishing generally doesn’t trump any of them.

    But, the school district does have a options which may or may not have been already implemented. They could establish a seniority system for kids. Vacant seats go to the kids who have lived in the attendance area the longest, thereby new development generated students would not displace current kids. This should be fairly easy to do.

    Another option, which the district tried when Weibel school was overcrowded (the Forest Park of its day) was to declare the new development to be in a different attendance area. They tried this in the Vineyard Hills development on the old Weibel Winery site. I don’t think the board was able to stand the pressure and changed the boundaries, but it is an option.

  2. Whatever happened to the seniority system for admittance? This was brought up a few years ago but vanished. I thought this was the most equitable solution.

    Weibel amazes me. It is shocking to learn that a housing development can be banned from attendance as if it were a private school, owned wholly by the residents of the Mission Hills. This is exactly the reason why I rail so heavily against the political career of Kathy McDonald, as I believe every move she has made in the political arena had been targeted toward protecting what she thinks is her’s to own and profit from.

    We’re talking about a public school for Christ’s sake, paid for by you and me. Every child who lives within a a reasonably set boundary should be able to attend. This is paramount what I consider fair, and unfortunately every move Kathy McDonald has made has been in the interest of her selfish desire to preserve her exclusivity and wealth.

    After 4 months on the market, Kathy McDonald removed her home from the MLS where it was listed for $1.2 M. Regardless of having bought it at the peak of the bubble for 200K less, she was trying to make a hefty profit. I think it’s reasonable to ask what her actual motivation was with regards to the A’s ballpark. It certainly appears that she never intended to live at her residence. And after all, as I predicted, her motivation for opposing the A’s ballpark was driven purely by personal profit.

    This is who you align yourself with Vinnie Bacon while you dwell in an apartment.

  3. Could it be that Calguy, Box, Vinnie & Kathy are all the same person?

  4. Marty, self preservation is the first rule of every successful person involved in politics. I wonder if we need to single out Kathy for that “quality”. We see it happen in DC and it permeates all the way down right into our politics in City Council and school Boards.

    Our Guv rode into town promising to “terminate” several ills and usher in prosperity in this state. I presume he was not successful in casting away his desire for self-preservation. And the way he is going out is flying over Alaska to validate if he can see Russia from there.

    So let “politics be politics.” 18 years later, the people are on the hunt of a “Ross Perot”. That hunger has not died down. And many feel that they have found one in the “Tea Party”. I hope not but I remain hopeful that the people will clean up their act, cast aside their self preservation and serve the people who voted them into office in the first place.

  5. Chinmoy,

    You still haven’t answered Wonton’s question whether you are on Anu Natrajan’s campaign Team or not. Please answer the question.

  6. The Fremont City Council candidates debate is being rebroadcast on cable channel 27
    several times over the next couple of weeks…

    Comcast Channel 27 throughout September and October.
    Monday: 9:00-10:15 am, 6:00-7:15 pm, 8:00-9:15 pm
    Tuesday: 9:00-10:15 am
    Wednesday: 6:00-7:15 pm, 8:00-9:15 pm
    Thursday: 9:00-10:15 am
    Friday: 6:00-7:15 pm, 8:00-9:15 pm

  7. Hey Roy, which candidates are you supporting for City Council. I thought you supported the incumbents. Are you supporting Kathy now? Or are from the Tea Party? Your posts are confusing.

  8. Roy is supporting Anu Natarajan, one of the incumbents.
    He just changed his stance about incumbents so that only Anu gets elected. Everyone belonging to the tribe is OK.

  9. Having dealt with city council on a couple of issues and having seen the debate and the campaign, the only thing that has happened so far is that Fremont has been littered with Campaign posters all over the city. None of the people issues at the ground level are being represented by any of the candidates. Yes, it is true that some of the incumbents display some knowledge about the issues, but where is the action to fix them? And the new comers? Oh please save me lord. Times are hard doesn’t mean we can show that as an excuse and sit on our comfy rears. It is time to show some spine and take actions.

  10. One Fremont Resident, very well said. Looks like it is the Tea Party talking. Yes indeed, we are fed up with partisan politics. These are supposed to be non-partisan positions and I wonder what the political parties and their operatives doing by endorsing only a few candidates and telling the other cadidates from their own party to go to hell.

    I presume you do not belong to any political party to be speaking the way you did. Keep it up.

  11. “I think that contributes to this layer of distrust from voters,” she said. “If I represented a district, (instead of the entire city) I could hold regular town hall meetings and be able to connect more with the community.”


    – because there is some force or condition which prevents you from holding regular, albeit perhaps less frequent, town hall meetings and “connecting” more with the community under the current arrangement ?

  12. Its clear to see the most qualified candidate is Linda Susoev.As Ms Susoev has stated on multiple occasions she is “The most powerful person in law and politics.
    On top of that her grandfather help Elvis sell “over two billion records”and( as if this was not more than enough to push her over the top )she is a homemaker and private eye!
    And can also be found for conversation on most nights in the parking lot of Dinos Diner
    Come on people!lets get this rolling
    At least she is interesting

  13. Kim Kee,
    Linda has health problems which over the years has gotten worse. Linda is a very nice person, who has done no harm to anyone. If you are going to have fun with a candidate, how about Fazlur

  14. RE: Audit

    Thank Gus for the feedback (post # 13). However, I may not explained myself well on the topic of audit.

    There are various types:
    First, the one you alluded to above is the standard financial audit. For example, is $3M cash stated by the city real, so it is traced and matched to bank account, etc.. This type of audit generally provides no valuable in addressing today’s climate of whether the public funds are put in the best use.

    The next level of audit addresses something deeper, such as what is the root cause for city asking for Measure L Utility tax to plug the deficit; only to have the money mysteriously appeared after the measure failed. The audit would recommend how such a significant discrepancy can be prevented, so government don’t keep crying wolf for more taxpayer bailout.

    Another example would be weather expenditure on A’s project, foreign travel, or other significant projects have built-in accountability, so officials, rather than taxpayers, are on hook on future liabilities.

    The third level of audit function is where most government agencies and departments would generally oppose because it made them sweat. This is where the watch dog really have teeth and where hotline (for example, http://www.cityauditorlauradoud.com/fraud.html), made it easy to report misdeed. Fremont is now just a fortress when taxpayers are shut out and silently peek through over the fence, while insiders have the benefit of behind the scene meetings.

    Audit and investigation can help addressing fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. In other words, those who cried wolf, use scare tactic, misled the public, are subject to criminal prosecution.
    I don’t see why a prudent elected official can refuse this function, especially if audit can also make the city run more efficient, benchmark against peers for excellence, and increased transparency to the citizens.

  15. Hello! I’m new here… longtime Fremont resident (born at Washington, went to Irvington) and I’m just starting to get into local politics. Mostly just reading right now… but a post caught my interest and I was wondering if someone could elaborate for me.

    Marty said earlier that a newer subdivision in the weibel area was discluded from the school. So, where do those kids go? We live in warm springs and my kids will (hopefully) attend leitch. I know that some of the weibel area is districted at leitch… is that the same subdivision? Well, leitch is overcrowded as it is!

    Has anyone brought up the idea of open-attendance within the city? I know we have a LARGE city… but we do have plenty of classrooms and it seems the lower performing schools are mostly lacking the parental participation and interest that the higher-performing schools have. If we could make all the schools in fremont attractive (for possibly very different reasons) to parents, wouldn’t that draw more people too all the attendance areas, instead of focusing it on the outer edges as it is now?

    Lastly, former Mayor Morrison mentioned one school being sold off as a park and charter school… what school might this be? I’ve looked, and the only charter’s I’m aware of in our city are the FAME charter (located in a business district) and the COIL charter (located on the adult school campus). I’d be VERY interested in any other charters located in Fremont. Even though we live in what I consider to be one of the best attendance areas of Fremont, I am more interested in a school that fits our ideals. I suspect many parents feel the same and would increase involvement if they had more options available to them within the city.

  16. Marshall School is the one I referred to, I think on Omar south of Stevenson.

    And could you imagine the crowds lining up at Forest Park, Weibel, Ardenwood, Chadbourne, etc. if there was open enrollment in the district. People would be camping out starting months before the enrollment date.

  17. Gus, I am with the concept of neighborhood schools at the primary and JH level. But at the high school level, the kids are close to adulthood. At that age they want to be on their own as far as decision making is concerned. Having said that, I wonder if we should open up our high schools across boundaries. That would require our high schoolers to compete. It would also prepare them to compete world wide in this day and age of global economy.

  18. I figured that’s the school you were talking about! That’s a Stratford (private) School. They don’t have a charter that I know of. Thanks for the response! 🙂

    And yea, the parents would line up… but they’d eventually have to choose a different school and the fact that they get to choose would help to improve whatever school their child eventually attended.

    I do like the idea of opening up the high school boundaries. They were planning to do that a few years back, weren’t they? By making all the high schools Magnets so kids could choose their interest and pursue it. I thought it was a fabulous idea! You could even make them go through and an application and acceptance process based upon achievement. Fremont is ideal for that kind of program.

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