Election Forum Held for Council Hopefuls

Nandini Sharma -- The five City Council candidates took part in an election forum conducted by League of Women's Voters

Election Forum Held for Council Hopefuls

The Alameda League of Women Voters (LWV) held a virtual election forum on Monday, Sept. 12, for the five candidates vying for two City Council seats in the November 8 General Election.

Each of the five candidates (Paul Beusterien, Hannah Groce, Tracy Jensen, Jim Oddie and incumbent Tony Daysog) attended the virtual forum, which was open to the public via Zoom. LWV board member Anna Crane moderated the forum.

The forum began with each candidate giving a brief introduction.

“I’m running to serve Alameda because we need trust and community leadership,” said Tracy Jensen, director of the City of Alameda Health Care District Board.

Jim Oddie referenced his experience on the Alameda City Council. “I’ve had the honor to serve as a councilmember for six years. If you want to know what my agenda is just look at the areas where I have led. I have led in areas Alamedans believe in,” he said.

Crane began the Q&A session by asking the candidates whether they would be in favor of the council putting a measure on the ballot that would implement ranked-choice voting in Alameda elections.

“I think [ranked-choice voting] would encourage people to work together, and Alameda would benefit from that,’ said Groce, a housing policy fellow. “As far as having council placing something like that on the ballot, I have mixed feeling about that. I definitely would support another organization, like League of Women Voters, for putting it on the ballot.”

Daysog was intrigued by instant runoff voting, but also expressed his support for expanding the council.

“Instead of having five people, let us have seven people, similar to San Leandro,” he said. “One mayor elected citywide, two councilmembers elected citywide, and four councilmembers elected district wide.”

Oddie agreed with Daysog. “The worst thing about running for City Council is the cost, and I think if we were able to focus on a smaller subset of the city, whether it’s one-sixth or one-seventh, it definitely would drive down the cost of elections. I also hope it would increase participation,” said Oddie.

Crane’s second question asked the candidates how the city should address the state-mandated housing requirements and affordable housing.

“I think 5,353 is going to be a huge challenge for Alameda,” said Beusterien. “We shouldn’t try to go beyond that. We also need to deal with the traffic implication, the infrastructure implication, and keeping parks and things we love about Alameda in the process.”

The software engineer also said he would like to see more incentives for middle income people and that it was critical Alameda has an approved Housing Element.

Oddie touted his history of advocating for housing issues.

“I have been a leader in all the areas of housing,” he said. “Whether it be affordable housing, standing up for the wellness center… and also tenant protections.”

Later, the candidates were asked to discuss budget plans for the following year.

“My priorities are informed by talking to residents,” said Daysog. “Priority number one is to continue to increase our police staffing levels. When I started in 2018, we were at 69... now we are at 77... our ultimate goal is 88. Within that I would prioritize our police traffic division. Our second priority would be partnering with the school district where it’s possible. And third would be bumping up more dollars towards economic development marketing.”

Groce said she would like to see the city continue to fund the Alameda Community Assessment Response & Engagement Team Pilot Program. She also mentioned funding street development projects at Alameda Point, particularly adding sidewalks for disabled people in wheelchairs so they have access to the amenities available in the area.

Other topics discussed include sea level rise and campaign spending.

To watch the full forum, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=tg91ZwojH1o.