One of the last few things that was done at the City Council meetings before the August break was the nominations by Trish Spencer of the Transportation Commission and the Planning Board. The Transportation Commission appointment was a complete surprise given that Trish Spencer had delayed on reappointing Chris Miley to the Commission for almost two whole months. When Eugenie Thomson placed her application for consideration, it seemed inevitable that Eugenie Thomson would get the nod from Trish Spencer. But perhaps Trish Spencer surveyed the political landscape and realized that the optics of replacing a young, Black, qualified, and highly involved Alamedan with an older white lady whose latest claims to fame was picking fights with City Staff on the op-ed pages would probably reflect badly. Whatever the motivations, Chris Miley’s reappointment is a good thing.
For the Planning Board, Trish Spencer opted to wait to announce two names and neither appointment was for the sitting incumbent. Two seats were up for renewal on the Planning Board and both happen to belong to the two persons of color on the Planning Board: Stanley Tang and Dania Alvarez. Stanley Tang opted to not throw his name back into contention, but Dania Alvarez did. However, for some reason, she was not appointed.
Now, I can’t say that I’ve always agreed with Dania Alvarez 100%, in fact, while watching the Planning Board I often find myself disagreeing with what she has to say. But what I do acknowledge is that Dania Alvarez is 100% committed to her job on the Planning Board. She shows up, she’s read her packet, she’s done her homework. That should have been more than enough to earn her another term on the Planning Board, but somehow, it wasn’t.
Instead the two names offered for City Council approval are: Sandy Sullivan and David Mitchell.
Sandy Sullivan’s application was light on the details, but for some reason she felt the need to insert this into her “other comments” which appeared to be a direct shot at the only realtor sitting on the Planning Board: Dania Alvarez:
Her major selling point is that she has been involved in Bay Farm HOA politics which means that she’s probably the Planning Board member to lay down the hammer on any Ron Cowan applications that appear before the Planning Board.
David Mitchell was interested in both the Public Art and Planning Board which, if I were Mayor, would make me disqualify him for both, because I’m a hard ass and want people to commit to one particular board of interest and not hedge their bets, particularly if one of those Boards is — arguably — the most important one in the City. If he hasn’t been paying attention to all the issues that are at the forefront or bubbling near the surface, it’s going to be a huge learning curve to get up to speed to the details of everything that is happening. However I do think that he would be an okay choice but that there were other, better qualified applicants on the list, including the incumbent:
Karen Bey is well informed about all current development issues in Alameda, plus would bring much needed diversity on to Planning Board. Heather Little is young and highly involved and really showed her commitment to getting into the fine details during creation of PLAN Alameda.
Honestly it doesn’t really matter who is appointed to Stanley Tang’s seat, but what is a shame is that hard work and competence does not appear to be the most valued quality for incumbent board and commission members. While ultimately it is the Mayor’s decision on who to appoint, the City Council does have ability to vote yay or nay on her picks.
And, if the Mayor is concerned about optics of political appointments, she may want to consider how it will look to replace the only remaining person of color — and a fellow Latina at that — with two white Planning Board members bringing the non-white representation on that Board to a big fat zero.