Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 25, 2014

Just two candidates pull papers for East Palo Alto council race

Incumbents Abrica, Rutherford intend to run for two open seats

by Elena Kadvany

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. Councilmembers typically serve four-year terms.

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 the 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."

Additionally, 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 city's West side.

Rutherford, a longtime East Palo Alto resident, was elected last December, 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 mayor. She, too, was on the Ravenswood City School District Board of Education for 12 years.

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

Online Editor Elena Kadvany can be emailed at ekadvany@paweekly.com.

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