A vote of confidence for East Palo Alto
Publication Date: Wednesday Oct 30, 1996

A vote of confidence for East Palo Alto

The community needs stability on its City Council. We strongly support incumbents Rose Jacobs Gibson, R.B. Jones and challenger Duane Bay

Since 1992, East Palo Alto has clearly experienced a turnabout. Gone are the national TV news crews, the high murder rate and the bitterly divisive government meetings that turned off investors. A community that was known for its homicides is now recognized for its relative harmony in the streets and on the City Council.

That political cohesion has brought East Palo Alto to the threshold of its first major redevelopment project, Gateway 101, a retail center that is projected to bring 1,200 jobs to the area and supply the city with $1 million a year in sales tax revenue.

The city still faces many hurdles, including financial challenges and the ongoing battle over the city's parcel tax. But the East Palo Alto City Council deserves much credit for the successes of the past four years. What it needs most on Nov. 5 is a vote of confidence.

Eight candidates, including two incumbents, are competing for three seats in next week's East Palo Alto City Council election. Council member Bill Vines, who has served on the council since 1988, has decided not to seek a new term.

Among the candidates, we strongly support the re-election of R.B. Jones and Rose Jacobs Gibson. We also support challenger Duane Bay, a 15-year community volunteer who has a clear understanding of the financial and planning needs of the community.

Gibson, who has served as mayor for the past two years, has demonstrated a talent for forging consensus and encouraging community involvement since her election 1992.

The owner of a small business, Gibson has been a strong advocate of economic redevelopment through the Gateway project and her ongoing work to bring a bank to East Palo Alto. She has also been a leader in fostering greater public participation on city boards and committees, creating youth programs and working closely with neighboring communities.

Likewise, Jones, who also was first elected in 1992, has been a leader in the efforts to turn East Palo Alto around.

As a coordinator of the City Council's landmark retreat in 1992 that set the foundation for the group's working relationship, Jones understands the importance of unity among civic leaders. This is particularly important when it comes to encouraging community investment.

As the City Council's liaison to the Police Department and the Public Safety Commission, Jones has been instrumental in helping guide the efforts to reduce crime and maintain the city's control over its own Police Department. He, like Bay and Gibson, wants to improve the city's relationship with the Ravenswood School District.

Bay has been an East Palo Alto resident for 21 years. A former city planning commission member as well as former chair of the Economic Development Task Force, he narrowly lost in the East Palo Alto City Council race in 1994. We felt he would make a good City Council member two years ago. We still do.

The founder of a high-tech company, he is committed to expanding the city's tax base through redevelopment. He also would like to expand the community policing program, create a two-year budget for East Palo Alto and improve communication with the public by hosting regular Thursday night gatherings to answer questions and receive input from residents. He is hoping other city officials will help him with that kind of forum.

The strongest among the remaining five candidates are Nelson Santiago, a mortgage banker, who is seeking Latino representation on the five-member City Council, and Samuel Rasheed, a recently elected member of the East Palo Alto Sanitary District board who got involved in politics through a dispute over a liquor store near his home.

Santiago is clearly knowledgeable of financial matters, but both he and Rasheed are overly critical of the recent City Council, and they lack Bay's breadth of community experience.

The remaining candidates are Michael James, Robert Reynolds (also known as Ola Wallacee) and Julius Van Zandt.

James is a nursing assistant, sports coach and member of the city's Public Safety Commission who also lacks government experience but makes a case for himself through his devotion to East Palo Alto.

Van Zandt did not respond to requests to meet with the Weekly editorial board and has not participated in community forums. Reynolds also did not meet with the Weekly.

What East Palo Alto needs most in the days ahead is strong and stable leadership. We believe Gibson, Jones and Bay will provide that stability.

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