On September 29, residents of Oakley had their first opportunity to hear how seven candidates running for Oakley City Council see the future of Oakley.
Presented by the Oakley Chamber of Commerce and Brentwood Press, candidates were asked a series of questions.
Of the nine candidates, seven attended which include Randi Adler, Claire Alaura, Stephen DeMarco, Michael Dupray, Dezi Pina and Paul Seger. Unable to attend due to a work conflict, Dezi Pina while it was listed that Bruno Korbmacher has withdrawn from the race.
Editors Note: answers will be paraphrased and in some cases short-hand writing due to the length of the forum being more than 2-hours.
Fire Service: Do you support Oakley’s Measure E & G, if so, what makes you think this go around will be successful? If not, what do you believe the solution is to the fire districts staffing and financial issues are? How do you propose fixing them?
- Hardcastle – hopes people will think of this issue on a personal issue and stop looking it as if it will effect someone else. He says there is a problem with the fire department financially and that he does not want to pay extra tax but wants his family safe. If he needs fire service, he wants them quickly. He hopes the public supports both measures.
- Dupray – says he was for both measures.
- Seger – Says he was voting for both measures saying they have to do something about the fire district but explained his disappointment there is no sunset clause.
- Adler – says it’s very disturbing that the fire board is still barking about the same thing over and over again and says it’s time to get a new fire board. Suggested possibly going to another agency and hiring them as a contractor to ensure service now while suggesting people can’t afford more taxes. (she never stated if she supported the measure or not).
- Alaura – stated she supported the measures, but the biggest concern about these measure is that the funds go into a general fund calling it a huge concern. Suggested the biggest naysayers of this tax should serve on the advisory committee to ensure funds go to the right place. Everyone needs to know how the money is flowing and goes where it should go.
- DeMarco – says he is against both measures because the money can be diverted because it goes into the general fund and could go anywhere. Says the oversight committee has no teeth to ensure the money goes where it is supposed to. He says this is not an Oakley issue, but it involves 5 communities and they a general tax to satisfy all communities, not just Oakley. Part of the problem is lack of trust and need a ballot measure with trust.
- Romick – we have a crisis in fire funding today, a number of ideas come up of this is what we should do or how we can do it but that won’t solve the problem today. He says he is in favor of both measures and stated the budget process is done in public and anyone is free to come see how the money is spent or can participate in following the money. He explained that right now, the District is relying on support from its neighbors from Antioch, Pittsburg to as far as Richmond. He says they need to solve the problem today.
How well prepared is Oakley for the additional growth and the inevitable infrastructure that will be required including schools?
- Dupray – we do have a growth management plan and believe the projected growth between now and 2020 is about 9,000 more people. In the growth management plan there is a requirement for cities to plan for transportation infrastructure and components such as community benefit agreement that the city can make with developers such as adding parks and a fire house. As far as the city being ready for the growth, they are part of a pretty complex organization to plan ahead. Oakley is prepared but has to stay ahead and make sure when we build and plan that we have the schools, water supply and emergency services to support it. Says he wants to see more business from high-tech to a power plant to jobs with living wages.
- Seger – says the city of Oakley has been incredibly “irresponsible in how quickly it is developing and the infrastructure is not keeping up with the pace of development,” while saying the city is in a rush to pave all of Oakley. We have a very definite space and when its full its full. Just now we are starting to create a culture which is Oakley and I want to keep in mind the leap frog development that is going on which is pushing for more development… what that is going to do is put a lot of strain on the agricultural areas and infrastructure. He says Oakley is not prepared and the 2020 General Plan is about to expire and whoever is elected will be responsible for creating the process for the next 10-to-20 years of how we are going to development and what our strategy is as a community. That process needs to be open and fair and need to listen to the people of Oakley.
- Adler – Our present government we have a problem. When our present government takes six-months to decide what kind of fountain they want to put in downtown Oakley and then make the commute a lot harder for people, you have a problem. She highlighted how when she first moved to her neighborhood, they were paying for services that they were not receiving and Oakley did nothing about it. She says Oakley needs to move faster to make things better. She says “Oakley looks great on the service, but we need to look at it as a whole and bring new businesses here, talk to our children, as soon as they are 18 they are running for the door to get out. How do we keep them coming back to Oakley?”. She noted the need for businesses that mean something and not continue to be the fast food capital of the world.
- Alaura – She noted that she has two young children in schools, noting school class sizes were 20-24 and now they pushing 30-kids per class. She says Oakley is behind in supporting its infrastructure saying the growth is good, but they need to catch up on infrastructure—she is supporting Measure W.
- DeMarco – “Do I think Oakley is prepared, no. Do I think Oakley has a plan, everybody has a plan. There is nobody who doesn’t have a plan. Does the plan they have is it going to work. More than likely not.” Explained DeMarco. He accused Oakley of being behind in sewer, schools, police, and the list was long. He noted living in Summerlake, they have been promised a fire station, the road is going to be widened, schools, the plan is great, but there is no foundation.
- Romick – says that Oakley does have a plan and that is the general plan which was created when they incorporated and had citizen participation. He called it “funny” this question included the schools because both the City of Oakley and City of Brentwood are not responsible for providing schools, that responsibility lays with the school districts and that every new home has $60,000 in fees to schools, $20,000 of that goes to build new highways and streets. Admitted that they are behind in building streets but school sites are planned of where they can be built. He noted that every new development enhances neighborhood infrastructure in that particular area. He says they do have a plan but were slowed down by economics.
- Hardastle – says Oakley has grown from a farming culture to 40,000 people. Someone mentioned we have a terrible police force and sanitation district, he argued they are the 41st safest town in California to live in the last 3-years. Our cops are the very best and go out and meet with the community. The 2020 plan will come up in 2020 and the community will be involved. We don’t hold secret meetings, I don’t know where you guys get that or that we are not open in what we do. Everything we do on the city council you can see online the same paperwork I see. I have my business right down the street, come down and ask questions. Per the building houses, it is America and if they have a piece of land they can build on it and they have that right.
Commercial Property & Job Growth: Oakley currently has two large properties that are sitting stagnant. One is the Cline Property at the entrance for town which is zoned for a shopping mall. The other site is the DuPont property on Bridgehead Road… both properties have been empty for some time with possible suggestions but no progress made. What do you think the city should do with those two valuable properties?
- Seger: The DuPont property has been sold and owners. I don’t know how much influence we can have and its always nice to go out there and throw out ideas, but the truth is the developers are going to come in and do what they want with it. As far as pursuing things for the town, we have great access with Highway 4 and the I-1160, one of the first thing I ever came involve in was helping to stop Walmart that was slatted for the Cline Property. The biggest issue in my mind was there was no conversation with the public and was basically put together by the City Council and had one single plan with no Plan B and all their eggs in one basket. Bottom line, we can do better and smarter and do something to make us very unique other than a shopping center.
- Adler: It’s time to do something with them. We need to figure out what businesses can come in, how we are going to use them to keep jobs in this community and increase our tax base. These properties need to be development immediately because they are costing us money and we are paying taxes on them and that money can go somewhere else in the community.
- Alaura: The city should help influence and help develop these properties, create call centers to bring jobs. Stated it would be nice to develop the areas as a destination area and make use of the Delta and create views of the water to showcase Oakley is more than to pass through. Stated with the Cline property, some retail or larger companies such as technology.
- DeMarco: says the developer will develop DuPont as they see fit and on the Cline property as a shopping center will help bring jobs—especially for teenagers. Oakley in many ways is a bedroom community and is not a destination. Compared it to Brentwood as Oakley doesn’t have shopping, noting our downtown has two restaurants and not really set up for a destination. As a community we need to stretch other parts of the city to a bigger degree. Oakley City Hall is not the center of the city, the community needs better businesses to allow kids to stay and develop here. People need to work and stay here. Businesses would move here due to the tax rate being lower.
- Romick: We don’t own those properties and people own those properties and can develop those as they see fit. We have a specific plan for the 75-acres of the Cline Vineyard and is available online (River Oaks Crossings). The DuPont property has been sold and the buyer has asked us to remain quiet until the process is completed. This is not the field of dreams where we build it and they come, somebody has to want to come here. They are not clamoring to be in Oakley, you have the Streets of Brentwood, Slatten Ranch, open buildings up and down Lone Tree Way. There is an overabundance of commercial where its easier to fill in buildings that are already complete. At O’Hara and Laurel there is a grocery store coming in the not to distant future. We are expanding our downtown.
- Hardcastle: For people to come into down, all we can do is encourage them. We can’t force them or invest their money. It takes people with money to invest in our city and Fred Cline has world famous grapes and wine, he is not in a hurry to sell his property. Its going to take someone a lot of money to purchase his property. Then you need the infrastructure, when Walmart was coming, they were going to pay for all that. It takes that big of a person to bring that type of infrastructure. I love Oakley and I hope people do come, we have a brand new gas station coming on Laurel Road to increase the popularity of our town.
- Dupray: I’ve been interested in the DuPont property for a while and believe we can bring a power plant and living wage jobs and money into the city budget. We can bring in high-tech business and after that, it makes it easier to bring in big retail business. The key is getting money and careers in Oakley so the money stays here so we can fund our police and fire departments.
How important is the areas (agricultural and delta) in terms of legacy, profitability and tourism?
- Adler: says the Delta is very big where people launch their boats but other areas have restaurants on the water and have a good time, Oakley needs to become a destination. We need to change it and showcase the beautiful vineyards but no place to taste the wine. She highlighted that part of the issue is Oakley has a $100 a year rental fee on homes and says Oakley needs to get off their butt to change things more quickly and get rid of our government and start fresh to move things better.
- Alaura: Those areas are very important. Big Break has developed a marina center and its an important area to preserve—we need to protect the delta. We need to develop more destination items along our Delta such as restaurants and parks to allow people to stroll. The vineyards, it would be lovely to have a tasting room, but the wines contribute to wines that go to Napa and other areas. It would be nice to keep them home and in the area for people to enjoy.
- DeMarco: Oakley is not known for being part of the Delta, not exactly the best fishing area and not a whole lot of activities that push that. From my perspective, there are activities that we can do to push it. Instead of having everything at City Hall, we can push it towards big break. Owners of vineyards have their wines, they can have their tasting rooms if they want. There are opportunities, what we are doing is not working. We need to push our assets more. They are beautiful but its not known to the rest of the Bay Area.
- Romick: We have 500 acres of vineyards in our city limits and says they are working with property owners and identify key areas to maintain the growth of the vineyards we have. We have a marina in Oakley that use to have 20-30 tournaments a year out of Big Break before the economy went south. The tournaments are coming back, the Delta area is known as one of the premier bass fishing areas in the world—people come from Japan who are coming to Oakley to fish. There is a lot we are doing but it takes time. The vineyards are private property and it’s their retirement, they are in no hurry to sell.
- Hardcastle: You guys are missing a lot not coming to City Council Meetings, as Kevin has said these properties we don’t own but do encourage people to keep their farms and vineyards. Our grapes are world famous and go to Napa and Livermore. My friends and I talk about a co-op with 4-to-5 wineries for people to taste cheese and wine but no one has come up with the money—it’s a dream of mine that requires money. We have to be an encouraging force. We have world famous fishing that is televised on ESPN.
- Dupray: I love gardening and we do have an urban limit line which we just adopted from the County that was vote on. We can prevent urban sprawl and taking care of our historical farmland and vineyard. He also suggested home grown produce along with working with First Generation Farmers by creating more community gardens.
- Seger: A few years ago I started videotaping city council meetings and in 2008-2009 they were talking about “people better enjoy the grapes while they can” so shortly after I ran for city council. He says that at that point in time he pointed out Oakley was out of compliance with the general plan and not following the right to farm ordinance in the general plan. Shortly after the city created an agricultural committee. He says that he created a group called PACE Oakley – promoting agricultural community equestrian –because its what Oakley has. He noted the financial opportunity in those areas. He says he is in favor of wine tasting rooms.
The relationship between the City and the School District is an important one, both entities are stakeholders in the future and ultimate success in Oakley. How do you see the role of the city as it relates to being a good neighbor to the school district and visa versa.
- Alaura: says schools are overcrowded and unbalanced, says supporting our schools with outside resources is a must through the city to streamline processes. She courage’s support of Measure W because it benefits everybody and keep class sizes manageable. Says it should be a priority for the city to help the schools develop.
- DeMarco: I am used to dealing with schools mentioning he worked for a school of 6,000 students in Los Angeles. He says the city and schools should work hand-in-hand to get things done. The school district and city council do not have all the resources they need but combined they can get more accomplished. Schools are the foundation of a community and if you don’t have good schools, people are not going to stay.
- Romick: He highlighted the relationship between the city and schools are “obviously really important and the growth coincides with one another” but says his kids are in the Antioch School District while living in Oakley—due to being on the west side of Empire. Stated he worked to bring an elementary school to Oakley to keep Oakley kids in Oakley. He has worked with Liberty Union High School District. Says the city has a great relationship with the school districts and will build on the foundation and relationships. He notes they have quarterly meetings to keep everyone updated.
- Hardcastle: Says the schools and city council are in this together to allow everyone to plan ahead. Says we are there to help them and not put a demand on them—says standards come from the State and they help out in every way possible.
- Dupray: Says its important but also they need to reach out more to the youth and veterans. He supports having local community college courses available for people to improve their knowledge. Better educated residents will be able to find higher paying jobs.
- Seger: Stated as a former teacher, that he believes the children are our future in many ways and many ways the city could work and build stronger relationships with the school districts. For example, having park and school programs that would help with homework, basic attitude toward the community and one another. Programs where people can work together towards a common goal.
- Adler: Says she moved up here to be a substitute school teacher and that she was frightened. She says we need to teach our children respect for their elders. Where did Mr. or Mrs go? “Kids have no respect and we need to put it back in the schools. We need to teach it in our households. She also says there is a breakdown with the major use of cell phones saying people can’t go a day without using them—it’s like taking away peoples oxygen. She says cell phones have an impact in our lives and we need to help people understand the problem in our schools, lack of respect, expectations. Notes that if a teacher gives an assignment, it should be respected and treated as such. It’s time we put respect back in our schools and the cities need to help with those expectations of students.
The night clearly belonged to Mayor Kevin Romick who showcased his knowledge by providing new information while cleaning up misinformation stated by other candidates. While I do not always agree with Mayor Romick, he is the best in the field and has been given my endorsement.
Oakley Councilman Doug Hardcastle was in a tough spot having to follow Kevin Romick on four of the five questions–they had much of the same things to say. He defended the police department and the City when needed but also came off defensive at times. He should have little trouble being re-elected for a second term.
If Oakley residents are looking for a complete change, three candidates who stood out at the forum include Claire Alaura, Michael Dupray and Paul Seger. Unfortunately, the line of questioning Thursday did not give these candidates a chance to shine. Having spoken to all of them, they all bring something unique to the table and a new energy that Oakley residents may be seeking. Dezi Pina, who did not attend the forum, is also worth a look.
Later this week, I will be posting our Q&A with the candidates which touched on a variety of issues within the City of Oakley.
Oakley Councilmember (3 seats)
Randi Adler – no website found
Claire Alaura – more info
Stephen DeMarco – more info
Michael Dupray – more info
Doug Hardcastle – no website found
Dezi Pina – more info
Kevin Romick – more info
Paul Seger – more info