Blogging Bayport Alameda

September 24, 2012

You asked, they answered: Stewart Chen, City Council candidate

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Election — Tags: , , — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

1. What is the hardest decision you’ve had to make in your professional life?

The hardest decision that I have had to make, so far, is my decision to run for Alameda City Council and, potentially, leave the Hospital Board. I really care about improving the state of health care in Alameda and I believe that I have helped bring about some of the improvements, such as maintaining labor peace at the hospital in spite of having four different labor unions in the workforce; helping to initiate several programs like the Kate Creedon Center for Advanced Wound Care and Orthopedic Spinal Surgery Department; and helping to balance the hospital budget with a projected surplus. I have also gotten to know my colleagues on the board, as well as the staff and volunteers at the hospital, and I have developed a rapport with them. That’s why I was very reluctant when numerous community members approached me and asked me to run for city council. I felt that I have to, at least, finish my first term and there were still a lot of things that I wanted to accomplish for our hospital but I was finally convinced that I could make a more significant contribution to the welfare of our community as a member of the city council.

2. Explain your understanding of the current state of the City Budget.

From what I understand, our city is able to balance the budget for the next two years and maintain a healthy reserve of over 20%. However, the five-year forecast is very conservative and quite cautious, giving a sense of urgency for us to find new revenue streams in order to maintain a healthy budget. We are currently contributing 2.6 million dollars into OPEB, and another 2 million dollars into the police and firefighters’ pension fund. This will not be enough to meet our unfunded liabilities.

3. Much is made of the City’s “unfunded liabilities,” briefly explain the issue and what solutions, if any, do you feel should be pursued

The issue of our city’s “unfunded liabilities” is related to the pension that is planned to be paid to our city’s public employees. Due to the mounting economic problems that brought upon our financial crisis, our city currently cannot afford to pay for its retirement plans. Because the city is bound by its contract with the public employees, there is very little that can be done about modifying the agreement. The state pension reform will address some of the issues but the city still has to look at increasing other sources of revenue to fund for these. If we can improve our local economy, we can generate more revenue for the city in the form of sales tax. I would like to work with our local businesses to see what can be done to attract more customers to our area. I would also help our commercial building owners fill their empty spaces so we can have a more vibrant business district.

4. Explain how you, as a member of the City Council, would address these issues facing Alameda; falling revenues, increasing costs, deferred expenses and Alameda Point redevelopment.

I believe that the issues of falling revenue, increasing costs, and deferred expenses would be solved if we can improve our local economy and become self-sufficient. Basically, we need to improve our current source of revenue or find other sources of income. As I said in my previous answer, the sales tax could be a major source of revenue for the city if we can help our local merchants and work with them to develop our business districts. Webster Street and the Marina Village and South Shore shopping centers can be improved to attract more visitors and shoppers. We can revitalize these areas, like we did on Park Street, to help improve our local economy. With the increased revenue, we can cover the increasing costs and build up our reserves to pay for the deferred expenses.

Alameda Point can also be a contributing factor to our city’s economic growth. With over 900 acres of land, it can be developed to provide jobs, housing, recreational areas, and a shopping complex for our residents and visitors. There is a lot of potential in Alameda Point, but there is also the concern about toxic wastes and hazardous materials that have been left there. I would like to first make sure that Alameda Point is cleaned up and determined to be a safe environment before proceeding with any further developments. Once we achieve this, we will work with urban planners, real estate developers, and business investors to come up with the best use of this resource.

5. Explain your position on employee negotiations and the role of the public in this process.

I believe that all employees have the right to negotiate with their employers and come to an agreement regarding their salaries and benefits. Concerning public employees, I believe that it is good to have these negotiations in public because it demonstrates good faith and accountability. I expect public employee negotiations to follow the prescribed process and I also welcome public participation, whenever appropriate, because, after all, the duty of public employees is to serve the public.

6. As an elected official what is your specific role in promoting civic engagement as opposed to staff’s role?

If elected, I will recognize and acknowledge that I became a member of the Alameda City Council due to the community’s belief and trust in me. I will take this mandate seriously and will do my best to represent the community and work for its welfare. In terms of promoting civic engagement, I see my role as someone who reaches out to the different groups in the community to listen to their concerns and ideas. On the other hand, the staff are the experts that can help me turn these ideas into realities. So, with the help of the staff, we will consider these suggestions and come up with ways that will address these concerns while engaging the residents and promoting collaboration among themselves.

7. Who is funding your campaign and which groups and individuals have endorsed your candidacy?

So far, my campaign contributions have come from family, friends, and individual supporters. Organizations that have endorsed me include the Sierra Club, Alameda Firefighters’ Association, Alameda Police Officers’ Association, Alameda Fire Managers’ Association, and the Alameda Labor Council. Individuals who have endorsed my candidacy include the following:

  • The Honorable Leland Yee, California State Senator
  • The Honorable Marie Gilmore, Mayor of the City of Alameda
  • The Honorable Lena Tam, City of Alameda Council Member
  • The Honorable Bill Withrow, former Mayor of the City of Alameda
  • The Honorable Frank Matarresse, former City of Alameda Council Member
  • The Honorable Hadi Monsef, former City of Alameda Council Member
  • The Honorable Karin Lucas , former City of Alameda Council Member
  • The Honorable Michael McCormick, City of Alameda Health Care District Director
  • The Honorable Margie Sherratt, President, City of Alameda School Board
  • The Honorable Niel Tam, Vice-President, City of Alameda School Board
  • The Honorable Mike McMahon, Board Clerk, City of Alameda School Board
  • The Honorable Trish Herrera Spencer, Trustee, City of Alameda School Board
  • The Honorable Robert Raburn, BART Board of Directors District 4
  • Mr. Henry Villareal, Vice-President, City of Alameda Social Service Human Relations Board
  • Ms. Cathy Nielsen, Member of the Alameda Sister City Association and former Member of the City of Alameda Social Service Human Relations Board
  • The Honorable Jean Quan, Mayor of the City of Oakland
  • The Honorable Henry Chang, former Vice-Mayor of the City of Oakland
  • The Honorable Pat Kernighan, City of Oakland District 2 Council Member
  • The Honorable Jose Esteves, Mayor of the City of Milpitas
  • The Honorable Linda Perry, former City of San Leandro Council Member
  • The Honorable Hermy Almonte, Trustee, City of San Leandro School Board
  • The Honorable Pat Gacoscos, Vice-Mayor of the City of Union City
  • The Honorable Jim Navarro, City of Union City Council Member
  • Mr. Norm Budman, President, Alameda County Human Relations Commission
  • Mr. Mike Wallace, Commissioner, Alameda County Human Relations Commission
  • Mr. Don Kiang, District Governor, Lions Club District 4C3 (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties)
  • Dr. Jennifer Ong, Candidate for State Assembly and Commissioner, Alameda County Commission on the Status of Women
  • Mr. Ed Yu, President, Chinese American Citizens Alliance
  • Ms. Carole Chan, President, Alameda Chinese Club
  • Mr. Carl Chan, Chair, Asian Health Services Board
  • Mr. Phong La, APAPA-BAR Board Vice-President and Asian American For Good Government Board Trustee
  • Mr. Mike Robles-Wong, Board President, Community of Harbor Bay Isle Home Owner’s Association (CHBIHOA)
  • Dr. William Smith, Community Activist at City of Alameda

8. What current American (not a relative) do you admire the most and why?

This is the hardest question for me to answer among all the questions on the list. Among the Americans living today, it is difficult to pick just one, whom I admire the most, because different people represent different traits that are equally valuable to me.

On the one hand, there’s our current president, Barack Obama. While growing up in the Philippines, I have always wanted to come to the United States because I always considered this to be the land of opportunity, where you can be whatever you want to be as long as you’re willing to work hard for it. Being the first African American President, Mr. Obama proved this to be true. He inspired hope in people and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. I also believe that he has acted in the best interest of our country.

On the other hand, there are these nurses who have been with the Alameda Hospital for over 40 years. This shows their dedication and commitment to their profession, as well as the hard work and long years they put in to provide for their families. It reminds me of what my parents had to go through to provide a better future for all seven of their children.

In the end, I would be hard-pressed to make a choice. I suppose what I admire the most are the qualities of dedication and determination to pursue your dreams – the qualities that come to mind when I think of “America”.

2 Comments

  1. 1. Re: Hardest Decision
    I’d recommend you stick with your (not my) hospital and figure ways to have your people find a revenue stream for your hospital then rescind the parcel tax

    Revenue Streams seems to be the dominant theme for Mr. Chen. Makes one wonder if he’s ever considered the flip side of the coin, like maybe ‘stop spending’. But after learning who his most admired person is, his coin is two faced.

    Comment by Jack Richard — September 24, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

  2. I endorsed Stewart Chen because he is a strong supporter of the wildlife refuge included in the reuse plan, and of all our parks and open spaces. He understands how to grow Alameda’s business base while enhancing our natural and public spaces. He appreciates that the wildlife refuge can be used as an educational resource to teach our future generations about wildlife and to increase their awareness of the importance of nature.

    Comment by William Smith — September 24, 2012 @ 10:06 pm


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