No one would mistake Oakley for Bell, but Oakleyites were virtually nowhere to be seen four years ago when council members Bruce Connelley and Carol Rios ran unopposed for election. As a result, the election was canceled and they were de facto winners. Connelley, who had been appointed to his council seat, has served on the council for more than five years as well as becoming mayor for a year under the city’s rotating mayoral system – but has yet to receive a single vote from Oakley residents. Rios, who had been previously elected to the council, served as mayor last year, also without having received a vote in the 2006 non-election.
Fortunately, Oakley residents have become more involved in their government in recent years, due in large part to controversies like whether Walmart should become an anchor tenant in the River Oaks Crossing shopping center, high-density development projects and a proposed power plant on the old DuPont property. Connelley and Rios are once again on the ballot, but this time they are being challenged by four others: Rodger McKeon, a police officer who ran two years ago; Paul Seger, a community activist/videographer at council meetings; Oakland police Sgt. Randy Pope; and Joseph Klinge, who describes himself on the ballot as an electrician.
As the population of Oakley is expected to double in 10 years, there will be a lot for these candidates to discuss and debate in the coming months. Indeed, democracy is alive and well with good candidates in competitive races throughout East County.
Perhaps no contest will be more pivotal for the future of its constituents than the Antioch City Council race. Councilman Reggie Moore is running for a second term and Councilwoman Martha Parsons, who was appointed to fill the remainder of Mayor Jim Davis’ council term, is seeking her first elected term of office. Challenging them in a city that is dealing with an ongoing budget crisis, massive staff and service cuts, a proposed half-cent sales tax hike, lawsuits alleging police racism and the possibility of city bankruptcy are former councilman Arne Simonsen, former Antioch school board member Gary Agopian and current school board member (by appointment) Wade Harper.
There will definitely be a change in Brentwood’s leadership since Councilman Brandon Richey decided to not run for re-election after one term. Richey, who offended some Antioch residents with his 2006 campaign slogan “Protecting Brentwood from becoming another Antioch,” also wasn’t afraid to buck the Brentwood establishment with votes against major projects such as the $28.5 million civic center and a $9.8 million trash facility as well as opposition to Measure F.
But Councilman Chris Becnel, who voted for both projects, is seeking re-election to a second term. Surprisingly, given the emotional, contentious battles over those projects and Measure F, his seat and Richey’s vacant seat are being sought by only two candidates (as of press time Wednesday): Liberty Union High School District (LUHSD) Board member Steve Barr and Jim Cushing, a commercial realty broker.
There will also be a change in the leadership of politically turbulent Discovery Bay. The man who is often in the vortex of that tornado, David Piepho, has decided not to run for re-election to the Community Services District Board. The two CSD members running for election are both appointees: Brian Dawson and Kevin Graves. Challenging for the three seats up for grabs are Walter MacVittie, who has served on the East County Regional Planning Commission and Transplan, and businessmen Jonathan Silver and Chris Steele.
Voters will have the opportunity to choose from a mix of old and new candidates for some of the local school boards. Joanne Byer, who has become an institution after 25 years on the LUHSD board, is seeking yet another term along with Yolanda Peña-Mendrek, who is seeking her second term. Challenging for their seats and Barr’s vacant seat are recently retired LUHSD administrator Roy Ghiggeri, project manager Steven White and businessman Daron Spears.
Interest lagged in some board races, however, to the point where the number of candidates matched the number of openings – in effect making those elections irrelevant. They include the Knightsen School District, Oakley Union Elementary School District, Knightsen Community Services District (which will still have a vacancy), Bethel Island Municipal Improvement District, Byron Sanitary District, Diablo Water District and East Contra Costa Irrigation District. We hope more candidates will step up in the future to serve on these boards and that the new East Contra Costa Fire Protection District board seats will be up for election in 2012.