Opinion by Leland Traiman
Lena Tam’s base of support was supposed to have been the city of Alameda in her run for a seat on the BART board. However, the Alameda voters overwhelmingly rejected her with only 39.8% of the vote. That is only a little better than Mayor Gilmore’s plurality of 36% of the vote when she was elected mayor four years ago.
Clearly, with the majority of voters electing slow growth candidates, Mayor Spencer and Councilmember Matarrese, and the overwhelming defeat of two council members who supported rapid and inappropriate over-development, there is a mandate for change.
Our other new council member, Jim Oddie, is associated with the same give-the-developers-anything-they-want faction of the council (Gilmore, Tam and Chen) which the voters rejected. However, Mr. Oddie won a council seat with a minority of votes by default because there were only three people on the ballot for two seats. Even with large financial backing Mr. Oddie failed to win a majority of the votes.
In Alameda’s next election we need debates where there is a robust discussion of differing viewpoints. Pablum forums, such as the Alameda League of Women Voters, needs to change. At the League’s forums there are no debates whatsoever, only polite presentations by each candidate and written questions from the audience which are screened beforehand by the powers that be. Such forums do not reveal a candidate’s true intentions. This is a disservice to Alameda’s voters particularly at this time of rapid development when it is critical for voters to have a clear picture of the policies each candidate supports.
Now that the bulldozers are working overtime, Alameda’s voters are beginning to wake up and smell the asphalt. That smell made us reject the incumbents. But too many voters were still unclear about the intentions of our local officials. Hopefully, an honest, clear, robust exchange of ideas will avoid council members by default in out next election.