Ignacio De La Fuente v. Mario Juarez v. Beverly Blythe: LWV District 5 Oakland City Council forum recap

I started this recap weeks ago, but then never finished it, partly because I was busy, but mostly because I found this debate incredibly boring. The people running against De La Fuente are clowns. David Wofford wasn’t even there. Also, I didn’t find the questions all that interesting. Anyway, on with it.

Introduction

Ignacio De La Fuente said that District 5 has really transformed, citing the change in International Boulevard, which had a 50% vacancy rate when he entered office, and is now a thriving commercial street with less than 1% vacancy rate, and that it now provides the second highest revenues to the City. (I’m not sure if he meant District 5 provides the second highest revenues of the Council districts, or if he meant Fruitvale provides the second highest revenues of any commercial district. Both seem plausible.) He said he has a reputation as the person who gets things done, and talked about how Fruitvale had the first transit village in the country, and how he got three new schools built in the District because he cares about education.

Beverly Blythe said she’s lived in Fruitvale for 25 years, and has worked in the District “underground,” explaining that she’s chaired the City Board, the NCPC, and she’s been on a variety of boards. She said that some positive things have happened in the District, but we also have a lot of killing, and we need to pay attention to what’s happening underground. She complained about parolees and pedophiles, and said she wants to create a fast track to citizenship for the Mexican Americans in her district.

Mario Juarez said he grew up in District 5, from Hawthorne Elementary School to Fremont High. He said he’s a small business owner, and employs 6 people, plus 60 agents. He said he’s running to resolve the issue of crime, and that he has a plan to do that. His plan involves: focusing job development money into communities, add community police officers by growing our own officers in Oakland, provide additional funding for the school district, and enforce the curfew law.

V: Winner: Ignacio De La Fuente. Okay, I’m not even going to bother naming winners anymore in this one, because Ignacio De La Fuente just won every single question hands down. There was just no contest, ever. Both my viewing partners, one of whom was an Igancio supporter and the other of whom isn’t involved in City politics, strongly agreed. Anyway, what else can I say about this? The opening statements were probably the high point of both Juarez’s and Blythe’s performance. I don’t know what the City Board is, though.

Q: What would you do to promote community policing?

A: Ignacio De La Fuente said that people want to see their police regularly and know their police officers by name, and that he helped to write Measure Y, which added 63 community police officers. He spoke approvingly of the reorganization of the police department into geographic areas, saying it creates accountability because one person is in charge, and that you can already see the difference in District 5, because there are more police on the streets. Beverly Blythe said that on the Allendale NCPC, she’s had an opportunity to work with some great officers, but that when their officers get promoted, it leaves a gap. She said that she wants to create a transition period where the replacement officer can learn the neighborhood before the old officer leaves. She also said that the police department’s Youth Services division should become part of the NCPC process. Mario Juarez was all “You know, I actually thought about that.” He said Fruitvale is lucky to have a walking officer and a PSO, and then he started talking about “There have been several studies that have been conducted about the need to increase the police force” to as much as 1600 or 1400 officers, but that most of the studies say there’s a minimum of 1100 officers needed. He said he would achieve that by expanding our cadet program. We have 15 cadets in our program, but some cities have as many as 300 cadets, and we should provide this opportunity to high school students.

V: I didn’t think Ignacio’s answer was that great on this one, and a strong challenger really could have slammed him on the Council’s total failure to implement Measure Y. Lucky for him, he’s facing these two. Blythe’s transition team sounds nice, but staffing challenges in the police department really make it infeasible, so she should have addressed that. I think expanding the cadet program is a good idea as well, but all his talk about “studies” was bizarre. Where are all these studies? I haven’t seen them. I suspect that’s because they don’t exist.

Q: How will you bring hope and opportunity to young people to combat the lure of drugs and gangs and reduce truancy?

A: Beverly Blythe said she would look at the parolees being dumped into Oakland, and that most of them could have benefited from youth services before they became criminals. She said she has the “privilege of knowing” that the theft department only has two detectives, one covering downtown to High Street and one from High Street to the San Leandro border, and that the division needs to be fully staffed so we can stop chronic crime. Mario Juarez said we need to focus, and that we need to implement a comprehensive plan to provide for our youth, including expanding after school programs and ensuring that Fruitvale is provided with services. Ignacio De La Fuente said that truancy is one of the biggest problems in Oakland, “especially between the hours of 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM” (wtf?). He said that West Oakland has a very comprehensive truancy center, but that it has more multi-service agencies and social workers there than we have truants, and that we need to increase truancy patrols and make sure that the resources Measure Y and Kids First provide are used better.

V: According to a report (PDF!) presented to the Public Safety Committee last month, the theft department has 11 investigators (13 are authorized), so I have no idea what Blythe was talking about. Fully staffing investigative positions to their currently authorized levels is not enough – we need to increase the number of authorized police (in a realistic and funded way) if we’re going to have enough investigators. Mario Juarez didn’t seem like he had anything to say. He’s really good at talking a lot and saying absolutely nothing of substance. I agree with De La Fuente about better truancy enforcement, and demanding more oversight of the violence prevention programs we fund.

Q: The city’s projected budget deficit for the next year is as high as $81 million with a likely $40-50 million shortfall. How would you balance the $502 million annual General Fund, either cuts or revenue, or both?

A: Mario Juarez said that we need to look out of the box, and that he recently read about how we have 1300 employees earning over $100,000 per year, and most of them are managers, and we need to look at that, and ask voters what level of service they want, and that we need to make managers accountable. Ignacio De La Fuente said that he’s balanced many budgets on the Council, and they have to be committed to the basics – police, fire, direct services, clean streets, clean parks, and any cuts will come from elsewhere. Beverly Blythe said that she had looked at the budget, but she couldn’t say what she’d cut, and would have to look at each department. She said we need to consider the quality of work done in Oakland, and that 35th Avenue was retopped five years ago, but is already filled with potholes.

V: Can someone explain something to me? Why is it that people think we need to be providing workforce housing and housing assistance to our police, whose starting salary is nearly $70,000/year, because they can’t afford to live in Oakland on that salary, but they also get all enraged about us paying people over $100,000/year? These two positions seem incompatible to me. Anyway, Juarez is wrong that they’re mostly managers. Of the employees Oakland paid over $100,000 last year, 1064 of them were in either the Police or Fire Departments. This guy has no idea what he’s talking about! Ignacio’s response was pretty good, pointing out that budget shortfalls are nothing new, and they’ll deal with this one just like they’ve dealt with every other one. Blythe…I have no idea why she’s even running.

Q: The city streets, for example, are full of potholes. The infrastructure’s falling apart. What will you do to make sure this doesn’t get any worse, and hopefully gets better, in the next 4 years.

A: Mario Juarez didn’t seem to understand the question at first, but then said that we need to look at quality of workmanship and that the managers aren’t providing proper guidance to their employees to do the job right. Igancio De La Fuente said we have tremendous infrastructure needs, and that in the last budget, the Council for the first time started putting aside money for infrastructure repairs and we need to coordinate better with other agencies. Beverly Blythe said that if we’re going to hire outside people to perform work for the city, we need to make sure they do their job and that we should get a 10 year guarantee for any work done.

V: Juarez barely used half his allotted time. Boo! And why does he keep harping on “managers”? Our crumbling infrastructure crisis is not due to managers failing to provide “proper guidance.” Ignacio was fine, again, and Beverly Blythe continued to demonstrate that she doesn’t know the first thing about how the City operates.

Q: Oakland has one of the highest fee and fine schedules in the Bay Area. Do you think we should rely on fees and fines as a major revenue source?

A: Ignacio De La Fuente said he didn’t know if we were the highest, and that we rely on a number of different types of revenues, but that we have a responsibility to maximize those resources and be accountable to the public and stop asking the taxpayers for more money, and that he has been working to make city government more accountable. Beverly Blythe sid that she didn’t know, because she’d never looked at that, but that she thinks the City should put more outbranches in the neighborhoods so people don’t have to go downtown, because she finds it really depressing to go downtown. Moderator Earl Hamlin moved on, and started asking the next question. Mario Juraez didn’t say anything, and finally Ignacio De La Fuente spoke up and pointed out that Juarez hadn’t yet answered. Mario Juarez said that we have one of the highest real estate transfer taxes in the nation, and that the high cost of parking tickets mostly impacts poor people, and that he doesn’t think that it’s fair or appropriate to balance the budget on the backs of poor people.

V: It thought it looked really bad that Ignacio had to speak up about Juarez not answering the question. Strong and prepared candidates have a lot to say. But Juarez kept coming in way under his time limit, and in this case, looked like he was hoping to skip the question. Weak! Blythe’s answer was, as usual, bizarre.

Q: Should their be term limits for an Oakland City Councilmember?

A: Beverly Blythe said the City Council needs to be accountable, and that anytime people are working in the public, they should have time limits, because we’re providing service, not a job. She said that things never change because some people can’t win an election, and that if she’s elected, she will not use the word “I” because if everyone moved out of the neighborhoods, there would be nothing for the Council to do. Mario Juarez said he liked the question, and that 16 years was too long, because after that time, you lose your edge. He said that we need to move in a new direction and people should vote for him. Ignacio De La Fuente laughed, and said that we’ve seen how term limits work in Sacramento, where people get elected with no experience and have no clue, and run for re-election before they learn where the bathroom is. He said he thinks voters are term limits, and people should be able to elect who they want, and they’ll eject you when you stop performing.

V: Okay, Ignacio totally rocked this one. He was energetic, funny, persuasive, and got huge applause from the audience. Beverly Blythe’s argument for term limits is that it will make it easier for her to win? That’s sad. Also, all of her answers are just so weird. Juarez had an opportunity to slam Ignacio here, but instead he basically made the exact same point, saying the voters get to decide when we need change.

Q: What specific tools would you use in the coming years to increase accountability within the city?

A: Mario Juarez said that on his website, he proposes making the City Councilperson’s calendar available online, and also wants to have a system that would create a record of all citizen concerns and calls, and if the matters don’t get resolved within a certain period of time, the matter escalates. Ignacio De La Fuente said that he’s been proposing a 311 system, like in Baltimore and Boston, for two years, and that apparently Mario Juarez is learning at the debate. He said he wants all city vehicles to have a GPS system so we can track and manage our resources. Beverly Blythe said that the great thing Robert Bobb did in Oakland was bring management to the neighborhoods, so people wouldn’t have to come downtown to a City Council meeting where they didn’t have any input on what’s on the agenda.

V: Oh, this was so sad. Juarez seemed very pleased with his elaborate description of a 311 system, and really seemed to think it was a revolutionary idea. Since such a system was a major part of Ignacio’s Mayoral campaign platform, it made him look really clueless, which De La Fuente did a good job exploiting. I strongly support the technological innovations Ignacio has been advocating for as a means of improving accountability and efficiency in Oakland’s government, and wish more Councilmembers would get behind them. Why does Beverly Blythe hate downtown so much?

Q: What would you do and can do to increase public confidence in Oakland’s city government?

A: Ignacio De La Fuente said that we need to provide better service, and that he’s been working to create a more accountable system and we need to focus on the basics – police, fire, clean streets, clean parks. Beverly Blythe said that she thinks the City Council needs to take more responsibility for staff, instead of listening to staff’s recommendations. Mario Juarez said that we need to return to the basics and provide basic services, and that he sees young girls working as prostitutes near his store, and sees people getting killed on International Boulevard, and that people should receive the basic services they pay for.

V: If Beverly Blythe is proposing that we increase political staff for the Council so they aren’t so beholden to City employees do to everything, then good for her. I strongly support that. Unfortunately, I don’t really think she’s thought it through that far. Juarez’s answer was just a less impressive version of De La Fuente’s.

Q: What would you do to get rid of the visual eyesores in Oakland?

A: Beverly Blythe said that people who leave trash on the sidewalk should be ticketed, and that this is the major problem blighting Oakland. She said these people should pay a very strict fine, and if they do it again, they should spend six months in Santa Rita “Oakland was a beautiful city, but we need to do something about people who leave trash in our neighborhoods and on our streets.” Mario Juarez laughed at Blythe, then said that we’ve lost a focus on the neighborhoods and that we focus too much on development downtown. Ignacio De La Fuente said that we’ve cleaned up 15 blighted properties in District 5, and that we forced Oakland’s 12 worst landlords to clean up their properties two years ago. He said that it’s a continuing challenge and that we need a comprehensive approach and coordinate all the different agencies, and said that funding for litter enforcement officers is budgeted.

V: Woah. Beverly Blythe really doesn’t like litter. She kind of scares me. De La Fuente rocked the question, Juarez continued to appear clueless.

Q: What is your position on public financing of elections in the City of Oakland?

A: Mario Juarez said that we’ve had a good debate over public financing in the last couple of years, and that know we’re learning what works and doesn’t, but he thought it was healthy that we had the process and established an ethics commission, and that we need to expand public financing. Ignacio De La Fuente said that he has no position on the issue either way, and that that’s a decision that should be made by the voters, and that if the people decide they want to use their tax dollars to finance campaigns, he respects that. Beverly Blythe said that the public financing money is not just given away, and that it has strings attached, and that you have to work to get it and meet certain benchmark, and that if you have any money left over, you have to pay it back.

V: I have no idea what Juarez was talking about. De La Fuente answered very smoothly, and Blythe’s answer was once again, bizarre.

Q: Oakland needs more neighborhood serving businesses. What will you do to bring more businesses and jobs to your district?

A: Ignacio De La Fuente said that we make it too difficult to businesses to function, and that we need to work at creating a more pro-business environment, and create more opportunities to help local and small businesses through facade and tenant improvements, and so on. Beverly Blythe said we need businesses where youth can spend money, because most of the businesses she sees are not youth oriented. She said that she’s upset because she had a part in the Estuary, the transit village, and the new school, but that she wasn’t invited to the celebrations. She said we need to pay kids stipends and supplement their income somehow. Mario Juarez said that he employs people and provides good wages and benefits for his employees, but that we don’t provide a good environment for businesses. He talked about a union business owner he knows in the South Bay who decided not to bring his business to Oakland because of the crime.

V: Juarez is all over the map, and as they debate went on, I became increasingly convinced that the reason he wasn’t providing any detail was because he just doesn’t have any to offer. De La Fuente was detailed and practical, and Blythe…well, I agree that we should have more things for youth to do, but giving them stipends that they’ll theoretically spend at new, youth-oriented business doesn’t seem like the best solution.

Q: How should we balance jobs, affordable housing, and open space with development in Oakland?

A: Beverly Blythe said she hears lot of talk about open space, but that what we need first is a viable workforce of young people and the elderly, and that if put them to work, businesses will come, and that she thinks a lot of businesses have left Oakland because of the heavy taxes. Mario Juarez said that one of the clear distinctions between him and Ignacio De La Fuente is that he supports a policy that will preserve industrial land, and that’s a level of focus we don’t have now. He said that for every acre of industrial land we preserve, we create 70 jobs, and we need a policy that will preserve that land. Ignacio De La Fuente said that the key is to balance, and that we need to attract private investment, and the reason we’ve built more parks in the last 10 years than any time in the past is because we’ve been successful at attracting private investment. He said that we need to generate resources, and that we pay for affordable housing by paying for market rate housing.

V: Blythe thinks we’re going to solve our problems by putting the elderly to work? I really don’t know about this woman. Juarez is, once again, clueless. This debate happened on April 4, 2008. The City Council adopted an industrial land use policy that would preserve industrial land on March 4, 2008. Ignacio De La Fuente supported it. The only distinction between the two on this issue is that Juarez doesn’t seem to be aware of what the Council decided. Also, if he really believes that we automatically create 70 jobs by not taking industrial zoning away from existing land, he must not be the brightest guy around.

Closing Statements

Mario Juarez said that he’s not a politician, so he didn’t think up a great closing, but that he grew up in the neighborhood, he’s trying to raise four kids, and he knows we can do better than we’re doing now, and the election is very historical.

Beverly Blythe said that she’s concerned about the killings in Oakland, and that nobody cares about the people committing them, that they have no place to go, they’re ignored, they’re hungry, they can’t get jobs, and we need to do something about it.

Ignacio De La Fuente said that it’s been an honor to represent District 5 for the last 16 years, and that he’s proud to have improved the community, and that the citizens of District 5 have seen the improvements, and has seen more improvement that any other District, and he wants to continue working hard.

V: Okay, so I really like Ignacio. As with everyone on the Council, I have some issues with him, particularly in terms of his lack of interest in implementation and refusal to stand up to Dellums’s half-baked plans, so I would have been open to supporting a challenger, if it was someone really impressive. Mario Juarez is just not that person. I knew enough about him before watching the debate that I had already decided I was supporting Ignacio in this race, but after watching his performance, I have to say that I am frankly, flabbergasted that this is a competitive race at all. It makes me really depressed about Oakland’s electorate. I honestly just don’t understand how any informed voter could select anyone but Ignacio in this election. Juarez didn’t highlight any ideological differences, and was unable to provide any explanation of how he would be able to accomplish more for District 5 or for the City as a whole than Ignacio. He doesn’t appear to know very much about City government.

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9 thoughts on “Ignacio De La Fuente v. Mario Juarez v. Beverly Blythe: LWV District 5 Oakland City Council forum recap

  1. Sergio Martinez

    V: Sorry, but I have to do this:
    New informatio was posted on Mario Juarez website at http://www.oaklandcitycrook.wordpress.com

    Turns out Mario Juarez was arrested in 2000 for resisting or obstructing police. Mario was ultimately found guilty of distrubing the peace.

    The voters have a right to know such things about people they are considering as candidates.

    Like you, I’m really concerned about the electorate. Wanting “change” for the sake of change is not always good. De La Fuente’s district has probably improved more than any other district in Oakland under his tenure. Do we elect people to get things done, or do we elect them to always say the right thing in eloquent ways, while getting nothing done? Baffling.

  2. Craig Dunkerley

    Ignacio DeLaFuente’s non-committal response to the question about public financing of campaigns in which the only thing he mentions about it is that it’s paid for with taxpayer dollars sounds like a typical and not-so-subtle jab at the program. I think Beverly Blythe by contrast was pointing out that those tax dollars he was referring to are not just given out willy-nilly, but must be qualified for. DeLaFuente also failed to mention that the alternative is to let private special interest groups continue to fund campaigns. And the strings attached to their donations are much more problematic being frequently at odds with the public interest. The only thing wrong with Oakland’s public financing system is that it doesn’t go far enough. While better than nothing, it still tends to reward those candidates who are most adept at raising private money. The full public financing systems used in Portland, OR and Albequerque, NM are far superior and much more effective. (For more non-partisan info see http://www.CAclean.org)

  3. Ken O.

    I agree that Oakland’s public campaign financing should be bolsters, to help challengers to the incumbents. There is too much inertia in Oakland letting lacksidasical incumbents steamroll through.

  4. Karen

    My concern is that none of our elected official are doing the jobs they are paid to do. They need to focus on getting the job done and how to do it rather than find fault in what is currently not happening. They are all able to point the finger at the person or people they believe are at fault. A five year old can do that. Their working hours should be spent on taking care of the problems, not trying to please every Tom, Dick, and Jane, or pointing fingers. Stop running from their responsibilities. Stop trying to run the city like corporate America. Get to know the people. Go door to door and ask the people what are their concerns and ideas. Surely they can do that. Brain storming with the people, so we can all work together to solve the problems in our city.

    Their are a few private citizens who do more for their communities than our elected officials. Mother Wright is one. Talk to her. See what it is she does to be successful. Their are a handfull of church organizations that have wonderful programs that are working in their communities and around the city. There are store owners who feed people during the holidays. What are they doing right. Talk to them. How are they able to get their neighbors and others pitch in and help. See what it is these people are doing that our elected officials can’t seem to get right. Sure, they show up at their doors to congratulate them for a job well done. But, they don’t come away with an inkling of what these people are really doing to make their acts of kindness work.

    Yes, the elected officials must know finance to balance the budget, they must know all the rules and laws and regulations they must follow. But, do they really know why they are in office. Not just to make a name for themselves. Which their names mean nothing to me as long as they sit in their offices or board rooms and try to out-guess each other.

    DeLaFuentes lost my respect when he tried to defend his son by accussing the police department of corruption. Every family has a black sheep. Admit it and move on.

  5. Miguel

    Mario Juarez was arrested and cited several times in san leandro for driving on a suspended license and impeding the police in their duties, what kind of a leader is this?

  6. Deanna Martinez

    oaklandtruth how much more evidence do you need on Mr. Juarez ??? I mean did you read East Bay Express I am sure that the journalist that wrote that story on him really did his homework and personally, I know MR. Juarez when we were in High school that a-hole used to carry a knife in his locker and then when he got caught he let another innocent guy take his rap! I could go on and on I even know his personal,sexual and disgusting diseases he has and if you need evidence on that look real close on his videos and you can see the HERPES on his lips and he gets a outbreak every couple of months and yea that is a fact cause he gave it to a girl i once used to know but lost all respect for her when she didn’t leave him for constantly beating her and having SANCHAS (other women) on the side. I guess you will be another district 5 taxpayer that in the end will owe all us believers and knower’s an apology!!