News

Current council members pull papers for East Palo Alto council race

Abrica, Rutherford intend to run for two open seats

The East Palo Alto City Council race has stayed relatively quiet so far, with only current council members Ruben Abrica and Donna Rutherford pulling nomination papers, according to City Clerk Nora Pimentel.

Both Abrica's and Rutherford's terms expire this November, opening up two seats on the five-member council.

Abrica has a long track record behind the dais, first serving for five years on the council in the 1980s after the city was incorporated in 1983 and again starting in 2004 for a two-year term. He was elected mayor in 2006 and again in 2008. He was most recently re-elected to City Council in 2010. He also served 12 years on the Ravenswood City School District Board of Education.

Abrica said he wants to focus on improving police services and public safety through continuing to "strengthen the community policing approach that we have started," he said Tuesday.

He said more immediately, he wants to help the city finish its process of hiring a permanent police chief. The position has been a revolving door since longtime chief Ronald Davis left last November, with the third interim police chief hired in eight months in June.

Abrica also cited affordable housing, local economic development and government transparency as issues he's concerned about.

He said if re-elected, a priority of his will be "constantly reminding (city officials) that we need to have a transparent and responsive City Hall that's open to the public. (This applies to) all officials, whether it's elected officials or management officials."

More specifically, he said, he plans to focus on speeding up the construction of a pedestrian-bicycle bridge across U.S. Highway 101.

"That's a high priority for me," said Abrica, who lives on the West side of East Palo Alto.

Rutherford, a longtime East Palo Alto resident, was elected in December 2013, filling a sudden vacancy left by then-Vice Mayor David Woods. She also served on the council from 2000 to 2008 and is a former East Palo Alto mayor. She, too, was on the Ravenswood City School District Board of Education for 12 years. She is currently a program administrator for Mateo Lodge, a Redwood City nonprofit that provides 24-hour residential care and services for the mentally ill.

Rutherford said when she was appointed to the council last year, she wanted to "make informed decisions that would kept the city moving forward."

Since then, she said, she has discovered new issues she wants to focus on, including the rise of illegal garage conversions in East Palo Alto.

"Since more people have moved into this community and (there is) no place affordable to live, they are living in unsafe conditions," she wrote in an email. "I want to make sure the council does not let this issue fall by the wayside."

She also mentioned senior citizen and youth issues, but topping her priority list are public safety and the hiring of a new police chief, she said.

The terms of the other three council members – Mayor Laura Martinez, Vice Mayor Lisa Yarbrough-Gauthier and Larry Moody – expire in November 2016.

The candidate filing period for the Nov. 4 election is set to conclude at 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 8.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sandra
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2014 at 11:15 am

EPA needs change. Re-electing incumbents will continue to hold us back. Having elected officials serve for more than 10 years in one city is not healthy. Rutherford has proved that she cannot keep her word. Listen to the tape from the council meeting from Dec 5, 2013. When appointed to fill vacant seat for Woods Rutherford said she was not running for council in November 2014 and now she is?? Doesn't make any sense. How can we trust that she'll keep her word? Rutherford also LOST an election campaign for EPA City Council in 2012 (5th place). EPA needs new blood in office.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Al Barlevy
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2014 at 1:58 pm

I was one of the 16 candidates who applied to fill the Woods vacancy. Of the 16 who applied, only myself and former EPA mayor and councilmember Carlos Romero pledged not to run for the seat when it becomes open in Nov 2014 during the candidates' presentation to the councilmembers. Following her appointment, Donna Rutherford announced that she she forgot to mention during the presentation to the council that she did not intend to run for the seat when it becomes open in Nov 2014.

I found the announcement to be quite bizarre, as making the statement did not benefit her (her appointment had already been confirmed at the time she made the statement), and only opened her up to allegations of being not-trustworthy had she decided to run for the seat in 2014 -- which appears to be the case given that she pulled papers to run (but until she turns the papers in, she can still change her mind).

Given that she did go through an election just 13 months prior to making the statement that she would not run for the seat in 2014, I was wondering what took place in her life in the 13 months between her defeat in November of 2012 and her appointment in December 2013. Had Rutherford won in 2012, she would have been on the council until December 2016, so why would she not want to run for the seat in November 2014?

Which is why her statement, after her appointment, that she was not going to run for the seat in November 2014 was bizarre. If she files, it would be interesting to hear what would be her response to the question "what made you change your mind about running for the seat, after saying in December 2013 that you won't"?

Lucky for her, East Palo Alto elections are usually low budget elections (candidates don't spend much money), so most likely voters won't know about this gaffe -- unless a challenger spends the money to advertise it to EPA voters.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Is the above comment from the gentleman who is pro-Magda Gonzalez? Why is it so odd that Rutherford wants to run again? People are allowed to change their minds.


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Posted by Al Barlevy
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2014 at 5:14 pm

If you carefully listened to my statements at the July 14 EPA City Council meeting, you'd realize that I wasn't exactly "pro-Magda Gonzalez". I was just not the "anti-Magda Gonzalez" that all the other public speakers were (I said that she should be judged based on how she implements the policies that the City Council lays out for her, not based on how popular she is with the residents of EPA).

But be that as it may, would being "pro-Magda Gonzalez" make me evil?

I'm willing to bet that if Magda Gonzalez changed her mind, you'd be full of outrange.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tony
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Let's pray that someone else besides these two run for council. EPA can do better! I have supported Abrica for many years...but NO more. Abrica is embarrassing and let his emotions get in the way of doing his job correctly. He handled himself horribly while supervising the city manager. Who would ever want to work under his leadership? Public humiliation of staff at council meetings? Another Evans... Shameful. Unprofessional, corrupt and close minded!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Memories
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 6:24 pm

[Portion removed.]

East Palo Alto deserves better than Magda Gonzalez. If our mayor was truly more intelligent, savvy and objective, she would've seen that several months ago.

Barlevy is wrong. People who are anti-Magda are that way because of what she has done and not done. Hard working residents don't waste their personal time on city meetings unless something is at stake for them.

It is disturbing that council members Gauthier and Moody haven't taken more action to investigate Gonzalez, instead of letting Tenants Together do it. Now they just want it all to quietly go away, but it won't.

The city is lucky to have Abrica. He is Magda's boss; she isn't his. He is active with residents, he cares, he listens and he isn't trying to ignore the problems caused by Gonzalez. It seems to me that as an experienced city leader, he saw early on her lack of collaboration with council and her favoritism toward certain interests that ran counter to city law. She has tried to isolate and disempower him numerous times, with the mayor's obvious agreement. It has been disgraceful.

East Palo Alto has had a history of lousy city managers, and Gonzalez is the most current of these.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Al Barlevy
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2014 at 6:43 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Al Barlevy
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Al Barlevy is a registered user.

In order to protect the integrity of my comments, all future comments(including this one) will be by me as a registered user.

All future comments by a person using my name but not registered should be treated as having been made by an imposter.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Memories
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 7:04 pm

[Portion removed.] He asked her for documentation, numerous times, regarding an issue. He never got the requested documentation. When he asked her if she'd actually done what she said she had done, at first she said she didn't remember, then she admitted she hadn't. [Portion removed.]

She has been competent in certain areas of her job. Her job isn't an easy one. Perhaps she's been competent in the areas of her job in which you've interacted. But the areas she's not handled well are ongoing problems, very telling, full of drama and the appearance of serious bias.

Mr. Barlevy, people like you are great commenters because you are very thoughtful. Thank you for that.

Why is it a problem that Rutherford changed her mind?

I observe East Palo Alto civic issues because they're a small, unique city working to balance many variables, and I work there. Palo Alto is just exasperating to observe and Menlo Park seems to have headed in that same direction.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Al Barlevy
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Al Barlevy is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

Is it a problem that Rutherford changed her mind? That's a question that each and every voter has to answer for him/herself -- which is why it would have been best for Rutherford not have made that statement to begin with.

In general elected officials do not want to use the words "I changed my mind" since it doesn't look good. See Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton vis a vis same-sex-marriage. They did not change their minds -- their positions on same-sex-marriage "evolved".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sam R,
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2014 at 4:55 am

I think the problem with getting new candidates to run in East Palo City elections comes down to the process itself not being well known. There isn't an EPA Guide to City elections like there is in Palo Alto or Melo Park etc. The cities around us make the guide pretty simple, you need 25 signatures to run [in Palo Ato] etc.

Since the process isn't made clear and can't be found easily, it probably keeps people from throwing the hat into the ring.

-Samuel


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Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2014 at 8:32 am

Mark Dinan is a registered user.

I don't have any objection to someone changing their mind about serving again. I imagine serving on the City Council can be a thankless job, if my experience serving on a HOA board is in anyway similar. My biggest concern about the city council is that I have not seen any evidence of the local government is moving EPA forward. Most actions seem to be defensive, taking extreme actions to protect the rights of renters instead of trying to encourage development, increase property values for homeowners, and encourage Silicon Valley professionals to live in EPA. Businesses and investors are correctly concerned with building here given the anti-development attitude of the city council, and until the council changes, we won't see EPA dramatically improve. Increasing tax revenues for the city will only occur when development happens, and this council is more concerned about keeping rents low for some EPA residents than improving the city for all who live here. The population of EPA has to change for many of the long term problems (crime, poor school system, lack of local businesses) to be solved, and this city council is acting solely to maintain the status quo.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Mark - perhaps you should move somewhere that is more in alignment with your values. Your pro-development, pro-gentrification, anti-city values reflect some real ignorance about the lack of current development. Your narrow focus on homeowner property values is reflective of a belief that homeowners are somehow superior to renters.

There are good reasons that long time EPA residents value affordability for housing and are suspicious of cultural erosion. I've been happy to see that we have actually had thoughtful, careful development, reflecting the need to balance increasing revenues and maintaining affordability. It's not an easy thing to do. That said, I don't trust Doughty, nor does his smug, condescending tone result in deep trust from the community.

I agree with you that changing one's mind about running for office isn't a big deal, especially for a seasoned councilmember. Rutherford seems to be very much her own person, bending in the wind with each little change.

How aware are you of the current reasons to not develop? How engaged are you in the civic process? How do you plan to deal with living in a city that values renters as well as homeowners?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cactus
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Agreed with Sandra.... Really? Again same things? Arent you tired from it? ENOUGH !


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Mark Dinan is a registered user.

Hmmm- encouraging development is not at odds with affordable housing. East Palo Alto will inevitably gentrify, and you are already seeing lots of young professionals, Stanford Grad students, and software engineers moving into East Palo Alto. As you know, crime has dropped dramatically in EPA, and people who would never consider moving here 20 years ago are now your neighbor. Affordable housing should be only one of the considerations of EPA's city council and low income renters are only one of the constituencies. Integrating with Silicon Valley will only help East Palo Alto, not hurt it. I don't see how my views would be considered "anti-city." And I am really curious what you consider "cultural erosion." Was East Palo Alto changing from majority African American to majority Latino "cultural erosion?"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cactus
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Affordable Housing - Ha-Ha - it's a big MYTH…. face it, accept it, realize it, or keep live by past while world around (including EPA) changing rapidly. All of this Blah-Blah-Blah about affordable housing is just about to get some of yours votes on the next elections.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

"Already seeing lots of young professionals, Stanford Grad students, and software engineers moving into East Palo Alto."
Mark - they've been here for decades. We already have plenty of affordable housing. It's called rent stabilization. Giant towers of apts with a few "affordable" ones thrown in for good measure isn't affordable housing.

Integrating with Sili Valley? Dear dog, why? And yes, your views are "anti-city", in my view. And yes, a lot of the city culture's been eroded with the loss of so many African American residents. We don't need people pushed out even more. Sure, some of it's inevitable, which is why very careful development, as we've had so far, is called for. Will that happen? I don't know.

And here's a newsflash, something that I learned a looooong time ago - being a white professional Sili Valley person isn't viewed as the salvation that you believe it is. I think you're a super nice guy, truly, but your ethnocentrism has left you with some blinders on. I learned what I know via observation, experience, asking questions, learning about the city's history and values. My suggestion is that you consider my words, ease those blinders off a bit, and see what you then see. I've found it to be very enriching, but YMMV.

With regard to Rutherford changing her mind, again, I'm glad that you don't think it's a big deal. She seems to have some gravitas, but I may not know as much about her as I should. The fact that you survived time on an HOA board should serve you well in assessing candidates!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2014 at 9:08 pm

Mark Dinan is a registered user.

Hmm- Did I say anything about race? The vast majority of people I interact with on a daily basis in Silicon Valley are anything but white. Today I spoke to a variety of folks from all over the globe: Chinese, Indian, Israeli, Brazilian, Mexican, Eritrean & Taiwanese. Integrating EPA with Silicon Valley professionals can only help in break up poverty enclaves, and give local kids exposure positive role models.

I am more concerned with the lack of development on the many empty lots around town than with the existing apartments West of 101. It is amazing to me that in a booming local economy, there are huge empty lots across from city hall on University Ave. There are also many empty lots in my neighborhood. Certainly building new structures on empty lots can only benefit the city if it is done right.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Mark - I was referring to your race, not those in SV. I am guessing you're white.
Mark - There's a reason for the lack of development of those empty lots, and it's not the fault of the city council, as far as I know. I know that there has been some movement re some of those lots, but it's all stymied from lack of water. I am not sure who has the latest info on that, but may be able to update you.
I'm not sure what is the best way to get the info, besides go to one of their meetings. Web Link
What is strange is that often commissioners will list their contact info, but I am not seeing any for any of the boards/commissions. Maybe you have to search for it. Or, call John Doughty's office at the city.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Abrica is committed to the expansion and well being of the Latino population sometimes at the expense of the whole. Can't blame him for all politics are racial, local and vocal.


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