In honor of the upcoming elections, WNI is starting a new category today called “All politics is local.” Given the hype and hoopla over the presidential election, it is easy to forget that there are lots of local elections also going to be determined on November 4th. And unlike the presidential election, your Californian vote will actually count for a lot in these races, which are decided often by margins of a few hundred votes.
UPDATE: Vinnie Bacon lost his bid to be on the Fremont City Council.
We’ll put out some of our recommendations closer to election day, but today we profile Vinnie Bacon, who is standing for Fremont City Council. Like another Democrat who is making waves on the national stage, Vinnie is banking on grassroots mobilization to make him better known at the local level. A member of the environment friendly Sierra Club and with experience in transportation planning, Vinnie is running on a platform of sensible urban development.
WNI spoke to Vinnie Bacon a few days ago.
What was your motivation to run for Fremont City Council?
VB: The big issue for me is city planning. I have a master’s degree from Berkeley in urban planning and I am a bit of an idealist about it. I am not in favor of cookie cutter urban development, which is what I see in suburbs like Fremont. We need some new blood on the city council for a new direction in city planning for Fremont.
What makes you different from the other candidates?
VB: A lot of the candidates take money from local developers like the Patterson family. I have pledged to not take money from any developers. I am raising it all through the grassroots.
What are your thoughts on the Patterson Ranch development?
VB: I have been involved with the Sierra Club for some time. As a resident of Fremont, I often visit Coyote Hills to pursue my interest in photography. I was involved with campaign for Measure K which would restricted development in the area. That measure was defeated because we were outspent by the opposition. In general people did not want development in that area and their wishes are not being respected.
What other issues are part of your platform?
VB: Overcrowding in schools is something that is important to me. You would not think of housing development without water and electricity hookups; the same logic should be applied to availability of schools.
I am also in favor of balanced development. I like the idea of more business and retail. Fremont has what you might call and hour-glass economy. (Editor..There are wealthy residents and underprivileged ones.) There is no decent middle class. I am in favor of both high tech jobs and green collar jobs focusing on employing people right out of high school.
I am also against moving from retail to residential. Residential development does not pay for itself. Our police department is under-funded. If you bring more business in, there is no better way to improve the coffers. The type of retail that would like to attract are like downtown Pleasanton or Mountain View.
Fremont is not exactly considered conducive to entrepreneurship.
VB: One guy who owns a restaurant said that opening a business in Fremont was a two-step process – the business application followed by psychotherapy! Another woman who wanted to open a daycare in her home had to go through an unbelievable amount of red tape. I would make the rules very clear and easy to understand and process.
What are your views regarding the A’s stadium?
VB: I am not formally opposed to it. But the current proposal doesn’t work. It is about transportation and economics. The current plan has not provided a clear way the shuttle buses would be funded. It is not clear if the proposed train station could actually come through. I wouldn’t completely rule out the project, but I would ask for a better allocation of the funds coming out of the project so our basic infrastructure needs like police and firefighters could be funded.
Given that only two seats are up for grabs this year and one is probably going to go to an incumbent( Bob Weickowski), what influence would you have to implement your ideas?
VB: I’d like to think that I am good at working with other people. Anu Natarajan on the city council has a good grasp of urban planning. These are people who want to do the best for the city. Hopefully the infusion of new ideas and a fresh voice will make a difference. I understand politics. I am not going to go in there with an adversarial attitude, only that I have a point of view to share and some different ideas to bring to the table.
To learn more about Vinnie Bacon and his platform check out his website. In the upcoming weeks we will try and interview some of the other candidates for Fremont City Council.