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Live Blog: Fremont City Council interviews and appointment

By Matt Artz
Thursday, December 16th, 2010 at 5:31 pm in Uncategorized.

8:45 p.m. Dominic Dutra appointed to City Council

8:35 p.m. Council is ranking the candidates

Here is how they ranked them:

Natarajan
Dutra 1
Bonaccorsi 2
Bacon 3
Zlatnik 4
Salwan 5
Chugh 6

Harrison
Salwan 1
Dutra 2
Chugh 3
Bonaccorsi 4
Bacon 5
Zlatnik 6

Chan
Dutra 1
Bonaccorsi 2
Salwan 3
Zlatnik 4
Chugh 5
Bacon 6

Wasserman
Dutra 1
Bacon 2
Salwan 3
Bonaccorsi 4
Chugh  5
Zlatnik 6

I asked Harrison about ranking Salwan #1. He said he liked Salwan’s business experience. He also said he hadn’t read what we wrote regarding Salwan threatening to sue former customers who criticized his business on Yelp, although I don’t know if that would have mattered.

You can make the argument that it’s a politically astute vote for Harrison. As a former Republican, he’ll have to try a little harder when he runs for mayor in 2012 to show the local Democrats that he’s a true Democrat. Salwan is well-connected with the party, so now Harrison can say that he was the only council member to pick one of the true-blue politically active Dems for council.

For blow-by-blow coverage of all the candidate interviews, click where it says to click.

7:55 p.m. Council nemesis Vinnie Bacon
This is like Mean Joe Greene interviewing to be head of Raider Nation.

Bacon likes Fremont’s diversity and parks.

Says he likes the general plan, overall. Happy that it starts with sustainability. “If I may brag a little, it’s kind of become common knowledge,” he said about the general plan’s mention of transit oriented development. Not sure why he’s bragging.

So odd to see Diaz and the council address Bacon, and not the other way around.

Bacon says he’s got management experience with tech start-ups. Says city needs to look at pension plans for police and fire. Says union members don’t want a system that’s going to go bust.

Says he’s not anti-development, but wants city to be consistent with its rules. “To be frank in … Centerville and Irvington,” city could have done more to develop there.

Chan asks how approach to decision making might be different than approach today. Says he’d have access to more info on the council.
Bacon said he is willing to change his opinion when new information comes to light. Says he understands why council voted the way it did on Patterson Ranch.

Harrison wants examples of compromises:
Says he his capable of compromising. But doesn’t give any examples.

Wasserman asks why he wants to be in politics.
Bacon say he’s got it in him. Likes the idea of interacting with people, understanding lots of viewpoints and being a public figure. Likes the human interaction.

Natarajan said Bacon only shows up when he’s involved with campaigns, but says he’s never been involved in city planning process for general plan.
Bacon: Says he did go to some of those meetings, but should have gone to more. Said it felt like a perfunctory exercise and that his opinions weren’t being heard. Takes lions share of blame for image of confrontation figure, but says he really does want to work with the city.

Says it’s good for Fremont that there was a strongly contested election. Says he’s well-qualified, and that showing in last election shows their viewpoints are not represented on the council. Bacon appears to have read A Team of Rivals. But time elapses before he can finish his Lincoln-Stanton analogy.

7:25 p.m. Now up Planning Commissioner Yogi Chugh

Yogi says Fremont offers great jobs and neighborhoods. “It’s a community that rallies around its neighborhoods.”

Says city’s greatness stems from diversity.

Likes the general plan. Regarding the budget, Chugh says it’s “a time of austerity.” It feels like he’s giving a speech more than giving an answer.

Chugh says he’s a good listener and a consensus builder.

Chugh supports city’s reductions of development impact fees.

Natarajan asks what is the role of city in providing for extreamly low housing units.
Chugh says city needs to strive for as much affordable housing as it can. Says affordable housing should be spread out throughout the city. He also supports allowing developers to pay a fee in lieu of building affordable housing. That increases chances that affordable housing will be bunched in one place.

Wasserman asks Chugh about any regrets on Planning Commission
Chugh says he would have voted differently on affordable housing in lieu fees.

Harrison asks how Chugh can help with budget.
Chugh says understands tough decisions will have to  be made … in totality, not on the backs of one area. I think that’s code to make labor feel comfortable.

Chan’s questions are longer than the answers Wieckowski used to give. She asks Chugh if he really has time for this gig.

Chugh will find the time. He works travel plans around Planning Commission meetings.

Chugh says this has been a humbling experience. Yogi has served twice on Library Commission. Hopes to be able to earn trust to serve on the city council. Says he “can hit the ground running” based on his many experiences. Believes deeply in the future of Fremont.

7 p.m. Planning Commissioner Dave Bonaccorsi is here, and he’s got a big smile on his face.

Bonaccorsi, who’s Dominic Dutra’s lawyer, says Fremont is great place live work and play. That’s the mayor’s line.

He loves the diversity and the “multi-cultural energy.” He goes to CBC meetings. He went to the party for Anu Natarajan.

He loves the General Plan. One more “Live, work and play.”  Wants to “brand” Fremont as hub for Green and emerging technologies. He likes the concept of linear parks.

Bonaccorsi says Fremont’s problems stem from several years of a bad economy.  Says guiding principal for land use decisions is whether projects will be net financial gain for city. Bonaccorsi says he can probe and ask the right questions to get to the bottom of that.

NUMMI is such a great opportunity, Bonaccorsi says. Wants to energize citizens to say what is the best vision for NUMMI site so they are part of the process.

Chan messes up her question, says it’s not important that each council member is “well balanced.” I think I saw Steve Cho chuckling at that one. Marshak enjoyed it.

I have no idea what she asked. I was too busy trying not to laugh.  Bonaccorsi is talking about better coordination between the city and school district.

Harrison asks how to balance neighborhoods with urbanization.
Bonaccorsi says with BART in Warm Springs, you can get urban around the stations while keeping the suburban feel. Says it’s not a zero sum game.

Wasserman asks same question about how to deal with massive budget reductions
Bonaccorsi suggests workshop after workshop with each department. Asks about furloughing administrative folks in police and fire departments.

Natarajan asks for pros and cons of becoming a charter city
Bonaccorsi says instinct is to have a charter, but realizes distinctions are few.  Charter city could allow Fremont voters to tax transfer of properties. But could lose control over bargaining with unions. He’s not really a fan of a charter city. Says just get lots of amendments. Wants to go with seven council members as  general law city. Doubt Natarajan agreed with him.

Bonaccorsi says he’s the applicant who’s changed city policy in last few years. Says his amendment has allowed for more affordable housing between .5 to 1 miles away from transit.  Says it’s important that all council members seek public support (run for election).

We’re taking a break. And’ we’re back at 6:40 p.m. with former Councilmember Dominic Dutra.

Dutra is asked what’s special about Fremont. Dutra says it’s potential to be a clean energy hub, in addition to all the usual stuff about safe streets and good schools.

Dutra said city must understand the fiscal implications of its zoning requirements.

Dutra says new employees are going to have to settle for lower pension rates. Says residents expects council to take harder line with unions.

Dutra says best development opportunity is around old NUMMI station.

Natarajan asks about how to make Fremont a more sustainable community. She wants three examples.
Dutra mentions the transfer station. Can’t really answer the question.

Wasserman asks for most satisfying part of his council term.
Dutra says it was Celebrate Fremont, the most written-about thingamabob in Argus history.

Harrison asks about  how Fremont develops downtown and balance downtown with historic districts.
Dutra says economy sucks, so developers aren’t going to be rushing to build a downtown. Says the city is doing a good job of planning for downtown. Dutra doesn’t think downtown would take away business from districts.

Council is very comfortable with Dutra. Natarajan made a joke about them both doing a charity dance competition. Harrison’s question name-dropped Dutra’s son. And Chan gave him a super softball, asking why he’s offering to come back.

Dutra has two minutes to sum up.  He’s no Robert Kennedy, nor has he served with Lloyd Benson.

More on Robert Kennedy. He’s quoting Kennedy. He’s still quoting Kennedy. Now he’s trying to connect the Vietnam era with Fremont, 2010. Says he has the fortitude and focus to face challenges, and he’s out of time.

6:10 p.m. Human Relations Commissioner Raj Salwan is up.

Salwan likes Fremont’s open spaces and diversity. He also likes the parks.

Salwan also likes the city’s proposed general plan, which will guide future development. He’s showing that he understands the plan. Fremont Boulevard = the spine.

As for the budget, Raj wants to get more efficient, reduce pensions, and generate revenue. Push green tech, clean tech, high tech. Wants Fremont branded as green capitol of the world.

Salwan doesn’t want to compromise on proposals that lead to more big box stores.

Harrison asks for thoughts on Redevelopment. Salwan likes it. Says it reduces blight. He’s listing all of the redevelopment areas, and uses the technical term “tax increment.”  He’s aware that the city has a lot more redevelopment dollars, which is something several council candidates earlier this year had no clue about.

Wasserman asks how he would approach massive budget cuts.  Salwan says can’t compromise on public safety and maintenance. Proposes community workshops to determine priorities.

Anu asks for three most important components of council’s job:  Salwan says to set the policy, be an adviser, be an advocate for citizens.

Salwan is thankful for the opportunity to interview. Points out his roots in the community and local nonprofits. Says he’s a fresh voice in the decision making process. He’s started many small businesses. He believes in getting things done.  He believes that his broad experience makes him uniquely qualified to serve on the Fremont City Council.

After Salwan’s interview was over, he came over to the press table and shook my hand. Considering what we wrote about him yesterday concerning his propensity to threaten lawsuits against former customers, that was classy.

5:51 p.m. Former Councilmember Judy Zlatnik is the first candidate to be interviewed

She said her toughest call during 10 years on the council was supporting the nuns’ affordable housing project in Mission San Jose. She said Mission folks were really pissed, but at least they haven’t had any affordable housing built since. That’s a sore subject for the mayor, who regrets opposing that project.

Speaking of affordable housing , that lobby is here in the council chambers. Joining them are some prominent local Democrats, along with Gus Morrison and Steve Cho.

Sue Chan asks Zlatnik if she has any regrets. Zlatnik doesn’t want to sound like she has no regrets. She loves shopping at Pacific Commons. OK, here’s a regret. She regrets moving businesses off the Centerville redevelopment site 10 years ago, considering there’s nothing there now. Not the way to endear yourself to this group.

Zlatnik says she’s the only person who will not look like a political decision. She said all the other applicants will run some day. Zlatnik said even though she’s 70, she can out hike anyone on the council. I say that depends on Sue Chan’s choice of footwear.

Zlatnik is done after stepping on every third rail of Fremont politics.

5:45 p.m. Will Fremont’s newest council member be Dominic Dutra or one of Dominic Dutra’s attorneys? At least a few people want to know, and we should get our answer before 9 p.m.

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