Q&A with Alameda Council Candidate Jim Oddie

Q&A with Alameda Council Candidate Jim Oddie

Public service positions come with public ridicule, knowing this, why are you deciding to run for another term on the City Council?

Jim Oddie: You have to have thick skin to run for local office, but the criticism is nothing compared to the real-life problems of our neighbors who are homeless or facing staggering housing costs — it is worth the grief if we can make a difference for these residents, as the getting ridiculed pales in comparison to the problems that many of our neighbors face every day.

What are some of the lessons you learned from your first two council terms, that you will use in this term if elected?

JO: I’ve learned that one can’t be everything to everybody and to stay true to your values. I’ve also learned from, acknowledged, and apologized for my mistakes.

How would you have voted on the staff-recommended Grand Street improvement plan and why? What other street improvement projects would you like to see the city do to improve traffic safety?

JO: I was disappointed in the initial vote coming on the heels of the release of the Active Transportation Plan and would have voted to approve the staff recommendation. When I knock on doors, the top issue I hear (besides the cost of housing) is the safety of our streets for cyclists, pedestrians, and even drivers. I would prioritize improving the safety of Lincoln Avenue and the eastern portion of Clement.

What are your thoughts on the draft Transportation Action Plan? Would you make any changes to it?

JO: The Active Transportation Plan is an action plan, which implements existing, adopted city policies. The key to this plan, like so many others, is for the council to fund the staffing and projects that are outlined in the action plan. I think it is well done and appreciate all of the community and staff effort that went into producing it. But we can’t let it sit on the shelf if we want to improve safety on our streets.

In what ways can the city improve its efforts to curb homelessness?

JO: First, we need to make sure at-risk residents don’t become homeless in the first place by protecting and strengthening our rent and eviction protections. I’m proud to have led on that issue in my earlier terms. For those who are homeless, any plan should include: services, temporary shelter, and permanent housing. During my last term, we used HEAP [Homeless Emergency Aid Program] funds for a day center and safe parking program and provided funding to Building Futures for case management. I was also one of the members who spoke up against building a business park where Dignity Village will be built (the “bottle parcel”), asking for housing instead. We also need to pass the housing element to provide more housing, stop fighting the wellness center, and move along the West Midway project for APC [Alameda point Collaborative.

City leaders want to build housing at many transit corridors and shopping districts. Do you agree with this philosophy? Is what’s described in the draft Housing Element the most efficient way of reaching the city’s housing mandate? What changes would you like to see, if any?

JO: I support the housing element and would not alter it, although it should be passed by the current council if I understand the timelines correctly. Housing is a basic human right. Period. End of Sentence. Stop. The state requires us to identify where historical impacts have occurred and to specifically address them in those locations, so I would not vote to undue any parts of an approved housing element. I don’t want Alameda to be in a situation where a judge controls our housing policy or developers can exercise the “builders remedy” as I want Alameda to be compliant, and remain compliant, with State law.

What should the city do to mitigate the problems regarding sea level rise?

JO: We amended the Master Plan 5 years ago for any development adjacent to the shoreline or lagoons to plan for 50 years of sea level rise and protect from a 100-year flood event. That was a good start. We also adopted the Climate Action and Resiliency Plan (CARP). I brought a referral to declare a climate emergency and following adoption, the developer at Alameda Marina changed its plans to go 100% electric. We received voter approval for a stormwater fee increase, bringing in $30M for infrastructure projects for our storm drains and pumping stations and the Veterans Park seawall. But we need to do more. The CARP, like any other plan, can’t sit on the shelf gathering dust. The council needs to fund the positions and projects outlined in the CARP. I would propose bringing an infrastructure bond to the voters 100% dedicated to climate change projects because we cannot afford to wait.

In terms of policing, how would go about meeting the needs of the police force, while also listening to the concerns of residents? For example: the police department wanted to use ALPRs to help solve crime in the city, but some residents felt it is an invasion of privacy.

JO: The city recently hired a new police chief and he should be given the opportunity to implement his vision of policing in Alameda and trust him to do so in a way that protects our residents. If you recall when the previous council was about to discuss ALPRs, the story broke that the vendor we were using for the car-mounted ALPRs had shared data with ICE. This concerns me as we could have another President like Trump who would want to track immigrants or women going to abortion clinics. I will pay close attention to the privacy concerns as well as the crime prevention data when the stationary ALPR program is reviewed by the new council.

Your thoughts on the importance of council members working together to find common goals, even if they disagree on some issues, and listening to residents’ concerns even if you don’t agree?

JO: I’ve always believed that if an idea is good, it doesn’t matter who came up with it. I’ve been able to collaborate with my council colleagues on a number of issues — with Trish Herrera Spencer on cannabis, with Frank Matarrese on banning flavored tobacco products, with John Knox White on gun safety, with Tony Daysog on DePave Park, with Malia Vella on gender-neutral restrooms, and with Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft on a number of items — just to name a few. I will (as I have in the past) sit down and listen to anyone, regardless of whether they agree with me or not, whether they voted for me, or not — that’s our job.

How would you have voted for the Transient hotel tax, and where would you like to see some of the new funds go to if you had a choice?

JO: I’ve supported this idea for many years and would have voted “yes.” Since it’s a general tax, it will all go into the general fund. Had the council designated specific funding items, it would have required a 2/3 vote. With that said, I think some of these proceeds should go towards promoting Alameda, either as an overnight or day-trip destination. Our business associations and Chamber of Commerce can be very helpful in these efforts and should be our partners here.