ALAMEDA -- Political veterans and newcomers are making a bid for a place on the City Council this November, hoping their background, ideas and goals will resonate with voters.
In all, three women and four men are campaigning for the seats currently held by Doug de Haan and Beverly Johnson.
The seat of Vice Mayor Rob Bonta could also open up if he succeeds in his bid to represent the state's 18th Assembly District. If Bonta wins, the third top vote-getter would get his seat. His council term expires in December 2014.
De Haan cannot seek re-election because he has been termed out, and Johnson quit the council race after Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her deputy director at the state Office of Administrative Law.
The election comes at a critical time for the city. Along with guiding the future of Alameda Point, the new council must continue to revitalize Park and Webster streets and steer the Alameda Landing project, the mixed housing and business development in the city's West End.
What's more, the council must tackle the challenge of rising pension and retiree health care costs -- now estimated around $190 million -- plus it must find ways to pay for the ongoing deferred maintenance of the city's infrastructure, which tallies about $9.5 million annually.
The candidates are Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, Jeff Cambra, Stewart Chen, Tony Daysog, Gerald Valbuena Dumuk, Jane Sullwold and Joana Weber.
An attorney and arbitrator, Ashcraft has served on the city's Economic Development Commission and on the board of Alameda Hospital. She serves on the Planning Board.
"In my six years as a Planning Board member and president, I've helped stimulate economic growth and bring high-quality, sustainable development to Alameda," Ashcraft said. "Recently, I worked with VF Outdoor to bring 470 new jobs here. I've also helped revitalize Webster and Park streets."
Ashcraft's background includes working to keep the hospital open and build the main branch of the Alameda Free Library.
"I've spent most of my life in Alameda. My husband and I raised our children here. I care deeply about Alameda's future," Ashcraft said.
During Jeff Cambra's 25 years as an Alameda resident, he has been involved with more than 15 community organizations, including the League of Women Voters of Alameda, the West Alameda Business Association, the Alameda Chamber of Commerce and BikeAlameda.
"As a leader in our city's business organizations, I work to revitalize our business districts and sustain the locally-owned businesses that serve our families," Cambra said. "As a former assistant city attorney drafting laws and advising a City Council, I have learned how government works."
Cambra said he will promote fiscal accountability if elected.
"While the city may face challenges regarding the budget and the development of Alameda Point, I will use my collaborative style of bringing stakeholders together in an open and transparent forum (where possible) to resolve the most complex problems facing our city," he said.
Chen was elected to the Alameda Hospital board in November 2010.
"This is our home, and it has been good to us," Chen said about Alameda. "My wife and I raised both of our children here. They attended Alameda public schools and grew up with the benefit of our parks, libraries and hospital. I believe such facilities are important, and I pledge to work to keep them accessible to all Alamedans."
Chen has served two terms on the Social Service and Human Relations Board, as well as on Alameda County's Human Relations Commission.
Tony Daysog served on the City Council between 1996 and 2006. His background also includes stints on the city's Fiscal Sustainability Committee and Economic Development Commission.
"I see a City Hall that has lost that person-to-person connection with residents," Daysog said. "The Park Street tree fiasco, in which 31 trees were cut down with little notice, really, drives home the point that City Hall is going one way and residents another. Bringing back that 'person-to-person' connection is vital: that's part of our small-town charm."
Daysog works as an urban planner and holds a master's degree in city planning from UC Berkeley.
"I grew up in and continue to reside in the West End," Daysog said. "The Farmers Market is literally in front of my home, so, if elected, you can shop for farm-fresh produce and chat with your councilman."
Gerard Valbuena Dumuk is a newcomer to Alameda politics. He works as a wildland firefighter with Cal Fire.
He also was once chef and owner of Midori Mushi in San Francisco, a San Francisco sushi restaurant that won praise from SF Weekly and the San Francisco Chronicle.
"Everyone has a certain set of life experiences and skill sets that they can bring to the table," Dumuk said. "What makes me a great candidate is that I'm an ordinary guy doing an extraordinary job."
As an administrator with Cal Fire, Dumuk said he has helped oversee a budget for 16 fire stations and 32 fire apparatuses.
"It was like a small government," he said.
Jane Sullwold served on the city's Golf Commission for seven years. She played a leading role in turning back a proposal from developer Ron Cowan to swap a portion of the Chuck Corica Golf Complex for a portion of the Harbor Bay Business Park.
"I am running because I believe I can attack the problems facing the city using the same skills and approach that led to a successful outcome at the golf complex," Sullwold said. "I will ensure that the public gets input into -- not just information about -- important decisions. I will gather the facts, analyze the arguments and consider the options. I will never fear to compromise -- but I will never compromise out of fear of offending the powerful. My sole commitment is to preserving our heritage and securing our future."
As with Dumuk, Joana Weber is a newcomer to Alameda politics.
In her native Brazil, she said, she worked at the SECOM department, or the Secretary of Communication, and spent four years as the communication director for the Journalism and Press Department. Her top priorities, she told a recent candidates forum, are public safety, education and the budget. Weber also said she was a strong supporter of maintaining and creating jobs.
Professional: attorney and arbitrator
Personal: married to Howard Ashcraft; two children.
Education: juris doctorate from Santa Clara University Law School; bachelor of science from University of California, Davis
Profession: Entrepreneur who created Wine Concepts, a startup that achieved $1.4 million in sales. Owner of Festival Productions, a company that produces art and wine festivals around the Bay Area. Also worked for eight years as a deputy and assistant city attorney in Hayward.
Education: Chabot Community College; UC Davis (Wildlife Biology); John F. Kennedy School of Law (juris doctorate); East Bay Community Mediation Center (40 hour community certification); UC Berkeley/Ron Kelly (40 hour business mediation certification); Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center (facilitation certificate); Community at Work (group facilitation skills certificate)
Profession: City of Alameda Healthcare District director/chiropractor
Education: doctor of chiropractic degree
Party: co-president of City of Alameda Democratic Club
Professional: urban planner with Insight Center for Community Economic Development; Alameda City Council (1996-2006); Fiscal Sustainability Committee (2008-2009); Alameda Economic Development Commission
Personal: not married but in relationship since 2002
Education: master's in city and regional planning (UC Berkeley); bachelor's in U.S. history (UC Berkeley)
Gerald Valbuena Dumuk
Political: conservative Democrat
Education: associate degree in merchandise marketing; former EMT-P; currently licensed as EMT-B
Occupation: wildland firefighter
Professional: Lawyer in California since 1979; now semiretired
Personal: married to Bob Sullwold for 30 years
Education: Brown University, 1976 (magna cum laude); Harvard Law School, 1979
Professional: A native of Brazil and homemaker whose professional background includes work in radio broadcasting, voice-over, anchorwoman, journalism and production in the media industry.
Education: journalism, radio/television and communication