But much remains to be accomplished, and there appears to be a need to bolster the city's top management, beset with vacancies of key positions and in need of stronger policy backup and direction from the council.
Two longtime community leaders, Pat Foster and Donna Rutherford, are leaving the council, making room for some new faces and perhaps a renewed commitment to fulfilling East Palo Alto's potential. A third longtime community leader, the often fiery and sometimes vitriolic Councilman Peter Evans, is seeking reelection — but his angry outbursts have been a divisive element on the council even though some of his criticisms may be on target.
Those seeking to fill the vacancies include Chester Palasoo, current chair and longtime member of the Ravenswood City School District board; David Tschang, who has a strong but hard-to-communicate opinions on leadership; Michael Francois, who is running primarily out of concern for community health and water contaminants; Laura Martinez, a youth-program director at the YMCA with a strong commitment to community betterment as part of a community-based "Coalition for Change"; returning candidate Bernardo Huerta, who narrowly missed election two years ago and who is a member of both the city's Planning Commission and Public Works and Transportation Commission; Carlos Romero, a longtime resident who is a developer/consultant in the field of below-market-rate housing, in addition to longtime community involvement in anti-violence and education; and Goro Mitchell, a former Planning Commission member.
There is a wide range of community involvement, experience and vision represented in the field, from the idealistic and committed Martinez to the deeply involved Huerta, Fort, Romero and Mitchell. Palasoo has a deep knowledge of the community, but his 12 years on the school board carries baggage that seems to reflect backwards rather than forward in terms of community leadership.
We believe there is one overriding necessity for voters to consider in this election: That it is time to move beyond the over-personalized politics of East Palo Alto's past and select candidates who not only speak of collaboration but who actively practice it.
The City Council needs to become a focused whole rather than a collection of individuals who may have their own visions of the community's future but who as a group fall short of providing needed direction to top city staff in terms of both policies and individual-performance goals.
Based on the above perception, we believe the best bets for the immediate future of East Palo Alto are:
• Doug Fort, a former drug dealer who has demonstrated personal commitment to helping those who have been in trouble salvage their lives. Fort has shown he can work with a wide range of people in achieving his goals. His lifelong residency and drug-dealing past enables him to reach elements of the community that are inaccessible to others.
• Carlos Romero, whose personal commitment to building affordable housing matches his vision of collaboratively strengthening both city management structures and community-involvement mechanisms. His educational background of Stanford and Harvard degrees provides a depth of knowledge that matches his feet-on-the-ground community efforts over many years.
• Goro Mitchell, who holds masters degrees in city planning and political science. He is executive director of the nonprofit Community Development Institute, and is a former member of the city Planning Commission. He has served on the EPA Sanitary District board, the San Mateo County Commission on Aging and other boards.
We recommend Douglas Fort, Carlos Romero and Goro Mitchell for East Palo Alto City Council.
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