HAYWARD -- An incumbent and six challengers are running for two City Council seats in the June 3 election.
Councilman Marvin Peixoto is seeking re-election, and the second spot is open, with Councilman Mark Salinas giving up his seat to run for mayor.
Other candidates with political experience include city planning commissioners Rodney Loche and Sara Lamnin, former planning commissioner Julie McKillop and former AC Transit board members Ryan "Rocky" Fernandez.
This will Ralph Farias Jr.'s third run for council, having lost in 2008 and 2012. Rounding out the race will be newcomer Phillip Gallegos.
Whoever is elected faces difficult challenges. Hayward's deficit is growing, and its employee benefit costs are rising. To help rein in those costs, the city sought a 17 percent reduction in its workers' total compensation, including wages and benefits. Some unions agreed, but the city reached an impasse with SEIU Local 1021, which represents clerical and maintenance workers. Over workers' opposition, the council unanimously imposed the pay cut in February.
While Hayward is starting to recover from the recession, many buildings downtown and along south Mission Boulevard remain empty. The city has a reputation as being unfriendly to business, with some pointing to the council's recent rejection of a plan to convert the long-closed Mervyn's headquarters building into a mix of housing and stores as further evidence of that. The process dragged on for two years, with the developer changing the project several times to address concerns of neighbors and the city before the council turned it down on a 4-3 vote.
Police are frequently called to disturbances at the Green Shutter residential hotel downtown, which has been a city headache for years.
Hayward completed a large road construction project from its northern edge down Foothill Boulevard to south Mission last year. The city has been praised for the upgrades on north Foothill and south Mission, where sidewalks were widened, landscaping took place, medians were added, utility lines were put underground, roads were repaved, and new traffic signals and streetlights were installed. But the project's one-way multilane traffic loop through downtown has been blasted as encouraging commuters to speed through the city, hurting merchants and making it unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473. Follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.
More information about the council candidates' views can be found at:
League of Women Voters' website, www.smartvoter.org/2014/06/03/ca/alm/race/001
Hayward Area Planning Association's website, http://brucebarrett.com/hapa
We asked the City Council candidates three questions:
How would you revitalize downtown Hayward and south Mission Boulevard?
What would you do to address the city's unfunded liabilities and increased pension and health care costs?
Other than the above, what is Hayward's biggest challenge, and what would be your plan to meet it?
Their answers were condensed for space reasons.
Ralph Farias Jr.
Occupation: Broker and business consultant
Political experience: None
Family: Married, two children
Revitalize: Less red tape for businesses, hire marketing firm to brand city, work with property owners to attract tenants and reward those who fill their buildings, convert Green Shutter Hotel to apartments for young professionals.
Costs: Work with staff so they understand the financial bottom line. At the same time, talk about cost-effective ways to help staff. Create incentives for those who look for different routes.
Biggest challenge: Funding. City asks for tax and wage increases when there's no money. Become more business-friendly. Cater to young professionals and students. Re-brand our city. Give tax breaks to attract businesses. Allow pop-up businesses.
Ryan "Rocky" Fernandez
Occupation: Assemblyman's district director
Political experience: AC Transit director, 2006-10; Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, 2004-present; Hayward Personnel Commission, 2006-10
Revitalize: Build transit-oriented housing downtown and at South Hayward BART. More people living in these areas will give businesses a larger base of customers within walking distance.
Unfunded: Grow economic base. Use data-driven approach to plan transportation and resources, freeing up money in budget. Work with employees to find paths to funding liabilities while advocating for more cost-effective health, retirement plans.
Biggest challenge: Seeing a strong vision for our future. Need an economy that relies on creativity, entrepreneurship, team-based approaches to problem solving, as well as the housing and entertainment young families seek.
Occupation: Nonprofit program director
Political experience: Hayward Planning Commission, 2010-present; Hayward Citizens Advisory Commission, 2007-10; Task Force to End Hunger and Homelessness in Hayward, 2013-present
Revitalize: Address downtown traffic loop safety issues, improve signs throughout city. Partner with Cal State East Bay to create student- and faculty-friendly businesses and housing on Mission corridor and downtown. Incentives for new employers.
Unfunded: Facilitate dialogue with city workers to develop a collaborative solution to liabilities. Use models that have addressed these issues.
Biggest challenge: City's image. Hayward need to become known for opportunities it creates. Streamline permit process. Collaborate with schools to support students, keep graduates in Hayward. Develop internships, business incubation opportunities.
Occupation: Nonprofit community development director
Political experience: Hayward Planning Commission, 2007-present; Hayward Sustainability Committee, 2007-08; Hayward Citizens Advisory Commission, 2003-2006
Family: Married, three children
Revitalize: Bring youth and young-adult friendly businesses to downtown and Mission by streamlining city's permitting process, bolster transportation between Cal State and downtown, and work with merchants to mitigate negative impacts of loop. City government must shed anti-business reputation. Set ourselves apart from neighboring cities, allowing our centralized location and lower leases to help make Hayward a great location for businesses.
Unfunded: Make sure employee pensions are actually there upon retirement. Set firm goal to increase funded benefit liabilities to at least 75 percent.
Other: Restore the relationship with some of our city employees. Balance fiscal responsibility and respect for livelihood. We need to find a way to work with employees to negotiate a fair contract the city can afford.
Occupation: Certified public accountant, educator, restaurateur
Political experience: Hayward Planning Commission, 2002-10; Hayward Citizens Advisory Commission, 2000-03
Family: Married, two children, three grandchildren
Revitalize: Address Green Shutter Hotel problems. Shut down Internet sweepstakes. Provide clear development guidelines and financial incentives to investors. Mervyn's project is precisely the way things should not have been done and sends a very bad message. Develop transit-based community with retail on south Mission and around BART, and include Cal State; consider transportation to campus from that area.
Unfunded liabilities: Use respectful negotiation, as has been seen in contracts with firefighters and police. The same process should work for the city's workers. In addition to cutting expenses and adjusting employee expectations, the city needs to attract residential and commercial real estate projects to create jobs and bring in residents to support businesses. Attract businesses to the industrial area. We need to fight for great projects and businesses; the competition is too great.
Other: Fix the loop downtown. We have an expressway through the heart of our city. Alter traffic patterns, reduce speeds allowed and force regional traffic back onto freeways.
Occupation: Retired budget analyst
Political experience: City Council incumbent, first elected in 2010
Revitalize: Create walkable space with a sense of safety. Expand downtown bicycle patrol. Replace Green Shutter with mixed-use development on Main Street. Develop south Mission neighborhood-serving retail, such as supermarket, drugstores, cafes.
Unfunded: Closing gap requires employees to assume greater responsibility for pension, medical coverage costs. Ensure continuation of User Utility Tax (a 5.5 percent tax on utilities that expires in 2019), promote passage of Measure C (half-cent sales tax on June ballot that would fund rebuilding of city library and other projects and services).
Biggest challenge: Becoming destination city that attracts businesses with regional draw. Study loop's impact on downtown economy and traffic. Aggressive outreach to businesses.
Occupation: Performing arts technician
Political experience: None
Family: Married, two children
Did not respond to questionnaire