Supervisor Nate Miley rejected the two finalists for an open seat on the Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) after a multi-month selection process that included 16 applicants, candidate questionnaires, and two rounds of interviews where the Castro Valley public was invited to “observe.” It’s time for Castro Valley residents to take a more active role in our local governance.
Castro Valley’s “Un-City Council”
Castro Valley’s seven-member MAC, nominated by Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley and approved by the full Board of Supervisors, plays an important role in helping our residents better connect with the County. An FAQ on its website describes the MAC as “basically Castro Valley’s ‘Un‐City Council,’ without fiscal authority.”
Absent a City Council, the MAC is one of the few forums in Castro Valley where people can express their opinions of the community in which they live. Alameda County is set up to provide health and welfare services rather than local planning; the MAC is an opportunity for Castro Valley residents to recommend or request Alameda County’s investment and planning in Castro Valley.
Long-Term Vacancy Goes Unfilled
Given the MAC’s role as a bridge to county planning and services in an unincorporated community, why has one of these seats been vacant for more than six months? As of February 2015, there were three open seats. A total of 16 residents applied for these openings; these MAC candidates participated in a group interview in April 2015.
In May, Supervisor Miley appointed two candidates to the MAC, and named three finalists for the last open slot. These three finalists provided Castro Valley Matters with their MAC candidate statements. While one candidate withdrew from consideration in August 2015, Supervisor Miley interviewed the last two MAC candidates, and also shared the MAC candidates’ written answers to questions from the selection committee.
On August 12, Supervisor Miley announced that rather than appoint one of the two candidates to the last open seat, he would re-open the call for applications to the open seat on the MAC.
MAC Recruitment Highlights
We were encouraged by the high number of applicants for the MAC — we took it as a sign of an increase in civic participation in Castro Valley. We thought it was terrific that many people who were already involved in the community were willing to put in even more work on the MAC to help build a bright future for Castro Valley. And we were heartened by the increased transparency of the process. Through Supervisor Miley’s open recruitment, Castro Valley residents could see who had applied for the MAC, and hear their views.
A Broken Process
At the beginning of the interview of the last two candidates, Supervisor Miley introduced his selection committee, which included several of his long-time Castro Valley supporters as well as the current MAC Chair and Vice Chair. While MAC incumbents certainly have first-hand knowledge of the requirements of the job and can provide interview questions relevant to their experience, their participation in selecting new members is questionable. One wonders if more of a priority was given to who would not rock the boat with new ideas rather than who could help articulate a new vision of our community. Ideally, the MAC membership should represent a range of perspectives.
Tiebreakers via run-off elections are a fact of life in electoral politics, but to have the last two candidates go through a second round of written questions, a second interview, and then pick neither of them after six months is arbitrary and misguided. Having seen two strong, qualified candidates be subjected to a long, drawn-out process with neither being selected, we wonder who will want to apply in a new recruitment.
A Better Process
While the MAC is an advisory board, it need not limit its judgment to land use, design, and paint colors.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors is our municipal government and may have the final say as to how money gets spent in Castro Valley, but the MAC could lead in other ways. Some missed opportunities include advocating for Measure BB capital projects and advocating for better design and place-making projects to bring our community together.
How do we avoid a prolonged new recruitment process with a null result?
We urge Supervisor Miley to appoint one of the two existing candidates to the MAC. While we applaud Supervisor Miley for making his MAC appointment process more transparent, in future recruitments, he needs to articulate more clearly those qualities he feels are needed on the MAC. We encourage him to prioritize selection of people with new ideas on moving Castro Valley forward and not worry so much about whether they agree with current MAC membership.
We also urge Supervisor Miley, the current MAC members, and the Board of Supervisors to consider new models for planning and local governance in Alameda County’s unincorporated communities, including an elected MAC (a permissible option under California law that is used to select MACs throughout California).
We need to create accountability between the MAC and the public, which in turn will empower the MAC to advocate more fiercely on our behalf.
Finally, we ask residents of Castro Valley to look around the community and consider how your elected and appointed officials could be working for you. We encourage you to join Castro Valley Matters as we seek meaningful reform of Castro Valley’s municipal governance, via advocacy at local and state levels.
Editor’s Note: Michael Baldwin, who is on the CVM board and serves as a Vice President for the organization, was one of the two rejected candidates along with Linda Tangren, a former member of the Castro Valley Unified School District Board of Education and a current member of Nate Miley’s community cabinet.