As you can tell by this photo, some parts of the City’s 4th District are beautiful. This shot from the area behind the Jacobs Center is a good example. It sits just behind Market Creek Plaza at the corner of Market and Euclid. Here’s a useful graphic to understand the core “diamond” business district in the area. And a nice piece from 2011 by a good journalist who has very high emotional intelligence about the changes in District 4. With that bit of background, I can move away from my normal food and craft beer topics for a moment to talk about civic engagement and the race to elect a new city council representative for District 4. Three forums in three days, and I’m planning to attend at least portions of all three. Here goes…
The first one was held at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation on the 29th. Technically there was at least one earlier one at the Malcolm X Library, but this is the first one after the candidates officially qualified. I’m not a reporter, just a guy who cares about what happens in this city and in the community where I spent much of my youth, met my wife and coached a little youth soccer. So you can only hold me so responsible if I fail some journalistic test. The best way to know what was actually said is to attend in person. One caveat. I don’t live in D.4 and don’t claim to speak for anyone in D.4, but I have spent a lot of time lately listening to political figures and I understand most of our city’s issues, so my filter is based on a combination of who came across most ready to handle the job at hand and who I believe has a base of support that can push them into the run-off. For those who didn’t know this, the election is March 26th and if no one gets more than 50% of the vote there will be a run-off election within 45 days. With 11 candidates who qualified for the ballot (I think), the chances any one of them will win outright on the 26th are very, very small. With that, here are my quick notes:
Dwayne Crenshaw acquitted himself very well, I thought. He fielded the first question of the night about the perception (from some) that he left the Coalition for Neighborhood Councils in a financial mess. His response: I built it to a very strong, professional organization with staff and a legitimate budget. (my note: I’ve heard conflicting versions of financial successes and setbacks from people I trust and suspect both have grains of truth). Crenshaw came across up for the task and passionate about the community.
Barry Pollard also did well, offering business solutions and standing on his personal action and commitment in the community as well as his role on the Redistricting Commission to keep both sides of Euclid Ave in D.4. He mentioned shrinking the Enterprize Zone designation to make it applicable to a more focused portion of the District, working to bring warehouse companies (and the jobs that come with them) to the space near the train tracks, and focusing on economic development. He also said something about partnering with schools for places for youth to go after hours, or something close to that, I didn’t write anything down.
Myrtle Cole came across very energetic. Randomly, I met someone just before the forum over at Felix’s (while enjoying a Ballast Point Big Eye IPA) who was committed to convincing me she was the best for the District, so I assume she has supporters. I didn’t hear her talk about anything specific she’d done in District 4, or about how she’d handle city issues (which she may have said, I just didn’t hear). I think she said she’s in favor of increasing “living wage” jobs (which I put in quotation marks because I don’t know if that meant a specific dollar amount/type of job/etc). Just the same, I will try to get better details tonight at the Joyce Beers Ctr forum. She did mention being recruited by community leaders to run for the seat and having the support of Assemblywoman Shirley Weber. I can tell you from personal experience that Dr. Weber is one of the most popular people in the area, so I suspect that support will help.
Bruce Williams has been around a long time, probably has done the most direct service by virtue of his job in former Council President Young’s office, and my friends tell me he is a very nice man. He’s a bit soft spoken, so I didn’t actually hear much of what he said. I hope to hear him discuss more of what he plans to do in the next couple forums, so I don’t have much to add.
Ray King has the commanding presence you’d expect of a man of the cloth. I hope to remember more of the substance of what he has to say because I feel like he had important points, I just can’t remember them.
Sandy Spackman is a Lao-American candidate, which I wouldn’t normally mention, but in a heavily Asian-American district it somehow seems relevant. And not terribly obvious from her name alone. She was very soft-spoken and seemed a bit overwhelmed by the spotlight. I remember her mentioning churches and the Boy Scouts as options for giving young people more to get involved in. Oh, and she’s a member of the Diamond Business District. I don’t know about her level of support, but if her presence draws more Asian-Americans in D.4 into political participation that will be a good thing.
I should apologize to Tony Villafranca, who I can only remember as a real estate professional who discussed the importance of not being limited by race and of having integrity, and Monica Montgomery, who is an attorney that worked for Judge John Houston–an extremely highly regarded federal judge–and has been in private practice. It was a bit hard to hear and the format only gave them so much time to answer questions, so I didn’t get much more from either of them.
Tonight’s forum at the Joyce Beers Center in Hillcrest should be interesting. First, the Dems for Equality have surveyed at least some of the candidates and so the candidates’ positions on LGBT equality and reproductive rights are likely to be front and center. (Aside: even if the winner won’t have a vote on these issues, the reality is they matter to people. I hope they all follow the lead of the Mayoral candidates and announce their unequivocal support for marriage equality, but that is my own bias). The forum will also be interesting because each candidate had a little practice dealing with timing and honing what they think is important. I noticed a few political heavies in the crowd last night so I suspect some of the messages will get refined a bit, too. Two other big things to note. First, as someone who lives off University in a part of the city where transit, homelessness, walkability and small business promotion matter, I expect this forum to flesh out what candidates see as important in that regard. Second, since the forum has a broader base attending I’d expect to hear someone ask about the multi-million dollar budget shortfall, the fate of Plaza de Panama, the framework for addressing the city’s physical infrastructure and the relationship of the City Council to the Mayor.
Update: I realized this is actually a monthly meeting for a specific political group whose primary concern is LGBT equality and advancing Democratic party platform ideals. That will probably shape how the forum goes. Just information. In strong commitment to my biking brethren (and disdain for Hillcrest parking, I plan to do a night ride to the event, which should make for interesting tales tomorrow.