Over 200 people crowded into the Canyon Middle School cafeteria last Monday for an elected Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) town hall.
The audience heard from county staff about different scenarios on how to convert the MAC to an elected body and from opponents and proponents of the proposal. The audience also spent a portion of the town hall asking questions and making comments about the proposal for Castro Valley residents to elect the MAC rather than the Board of Supervisors appointing it.
After a presentation from Alameda County Staff, four community members made statements about whether the MAC should be elected. Hera Alikian and Stacey Bristow spoke in favor of keeping the MAC appointed, while Castro Valley Matters President Michael Kusiak and Cliff Sherwood, who served on the first MAC appointed in 1981, spoke in favor of electing the MAC.
After the panel made their statements, the audience asked questions of the panel and were given the opportunity to make comments at the end of the event. The League of Women Voters coordinated taking questions and comments from the audience and timing the event.
Many of the questions concerned either the cost of an election to the County or the cost of a campaign to a candidate. In the interest of not conflating these costs, a quick recap of the costs in play:
- Running an election costs money to Alameda County. The cost of an election roughly scales with the number of voters; in November 2014 this cost worked out to about $1.62 per voter. The Alameda County Registrar of Voters has stated that costs will go up in 2016, due to the cost of translations, but as long as elections for MAC members occur in a November election this is less than $150,000 to the County.
- Running a campaign costs money to candidates. Recent successful candidates for the Castro Valley Sanitary District (CVSan) and the Castro Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) Board of Education have spent around $2,000-$3,000 in their campaigns. As Cliff Sherwood, a former MAC member who spoke at the town hall in favor of an elected MAC, has memorably said, “If you can’t get 100 of your friends to give you $20, maybe you shouldn’t be running.”
Support for Elected MAC Overwhelming
At the end of the meeting, audience members were asked whether or not they supported an elected MAC. By a show of hands, the audience overwhelmingly indicated their support for an elected MAC.
Castro Valley Matters also conducted a straw poll of attendees, giving blue tickets (to Castro Valley residents) and pink tickets (to non-residents) before the event. After the event, attendees were invited to vote for their preference: an elected MAC, an appointed MAC, or still undecided. The results from residents were:
- Undecided: 5 votes
- Appointed MAC: 9 votes
- Elected MAC: 119 votes
Two non-residents supported an appointed Castro Valley MAC and another non-resident supported an elected MAC.
Castro Valley residents who attended the town hall demonstrated overwhelming support for an elected MAC.
All four panelists, including Bristow and Alikian who spoke against an elected MAC, agreed with Kusiak, Sherwood, and Supervisors Nate Miley that Castro Valley should be able to vote of whether the MAC should be elected.
But what’s next?
At last month’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting, where the Supervisors took no action on a request by Miley for a board resolution making the MAC elected on condition of a confirming vote by Castro Valley residents, Supervisor Wilma Chan, whose district includes unincorporated San Lorenzo, encouraged community members to work through the Eden Area Livability Initiative (EALI) process for resolution on whether Castro Valley’s MAC should be elected.
The multi-year EALI process includes residents from Castro Valley, Ashland, Cherryland, San Lorenzo and Fairview discussing various issues facing unincorporated communities, including public safety, economic development, and governance. Recently, Fairview residents gathered to discuss the possibility of a MAC for its community.
The next EALI Governance Working Group Meeting is this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at San Lorenzo Library.
At the town hall, Miley and a county staffer suggested that another possibility for changing Castro Valley’s governance would be to pursue a legislation similar to the recent Isla Vista communuty service district solution that residents there will be voting on in November.