Two seats are up for grabs on the East Palo Alto City Council election this November, and seven residents are seeking the opportunity to serve.
The council hopefuls include the incumbent mayor; a minister and coach; a former teacher; two self-employed business owners; a data scientist and a candidate who described herself as a product of the public school system.
In this Q&A, the second article in a two-part series, the candidates touch on the reasons they hope to win a spot on the council. Palo Alto Online published part 1 of this series on Friday; it can be found here.
Also, on Oct. 11, the Palo Alto Weekly will host a live public forum on Zoom with the seven council candidates. The event will take place at 7 p.m. and will explore the candidates' positions on topics including affordable housing, development, infrastructure, policing and other issues that are important to the community. To register for the forum, go to PaloAltoOnline.com/epacc.
The Weekly is also seeking questions from the community that they would like for us to ask the candidates. To fill out the online questionnaire, go to surveymonkey.com/r/Campaign2022.
Q: Why do you think you are the best candidate for the job?
ABRICA: I have a solid record of public service in the community, and I am always open to dialoguing with residents of all ages to try new initiatives to better the life of everyone. I strongly believe in open and transparent government and teamwork, and shy away from grandstanding, ego-driven politics.
AUSTIN: I think I am the best candidate for the job because of my experience as well as the effective relationships that I have been able to build with other city council members as well as staff and service providers within the city. I have well-established relationships with local and state level officials that can only serve to bolster the effectiveness of projects and other resources for our city. I have proven through working with youth development programs over the past 15 years in the city what it means to roll up your sleeves and go to work on things.
BARRAGAN: I've lived in this community all my life and I've contributed to educating the children of this community. I have also seen the changes the city has gone through and I have been enlightened by community members as to where they would like for our city to continue progress.
DINAN: I bring integrity, experience and deep knowledge of the community to the city council. I have a track record of service and have contributed to making EPA a better, more engaged community.
LINCOLN: I'm well-connected with the community, and I hope that I can help get all our various local organizations, districts and city government on the same page, so that the city can provide East Palo Alto residents with the services that they deserve, address existing infrastructure challenges, improve quality of life, produce more affordable housing, and make our community safer and more sustainable.
SMITH: I am a product of East Palo Alto. I respect the diversity of our city and make decisions based on the needs of EPA residents and community members.
WILKERSON: I speak the language of "ALL" the residents. And those to come. I have the knowledge that they are in need of. Originally the council should have been filled with real estate persons that have knowledge. Persons with their pulse on the community. East Palo Alto (and this is only my opinion) is the equivalent to "Dubai" of the Peninsula. It has been circled around and nipped at by outsiders. But those same outsiders (are) not wanting to be caught doing business with anyone associated with East Palo Alto.
Q: What are some of your positions? Most important things you would like to achieve?
ABRICA: I am committed to improving the work the police have been doing to best utilize public safety resources to strengthen community based practices.
One of my priorities is to expand services and outreach to seniors by having the city work more closely with the Senior Center in the operation and administration of needed programs. I also want to explore the building of a state-of-the-art Senior Services Center to ensure that current and future elders are taken care of.
I want to focus on improving basic services like street repairs, public safety and the building of more affordable housing units. I will pay special attention to the implementation of Measure HH funds that provide training for local residents for jobs in high tech and the building trades and for the construction of housing for low- and moderate-income families.
On a regional level, the continuing work on the San Francisquito Creek and the Bay on flood protection is of great importance. I also will take on the issue with county, city and federal authorities to phase out the operation of the Palo Alto Airport. The constant air and sound pollution over several of East Palo Alto neighborhoods is unjust.
AUSTIN: I am for affordable housing that is all-inclusive. I am for development, done the right way. I am pro-labor. I believe that there is a solution to our affordable housing situation right under our noses. I will lay that out later. I believe that the laterals from homes to our main sewer lines are going to need to be replaced soon and there will be many seniors who will not be able to afford these expensive repairs. I would like to make sure that we have additional funding options for those seniors who will need this service done. I would like to see an increase in mental health services for our youth and their families. I would like to work with the school district and our great superintendent, Gina Sudaria, on this one. I would also like to accomplish a total rebuild of our Senior Center along with making East Palo Alto a more age-friendly city.
BARRAGAN: I believe that our children in the community would benefit from having a more updated library, clean and safer parks, a movie theater, and an event center where people of the community can have their celebrations. I would also like to see more small local businesses and restaurants thrive.
DINAN: Parking reform. Hire a parks and recreation director to competently manage our parks. Encourage developments, which bring jobs, businesses and improve our community with restaurants and services. Fund the traffic enforcement division of the EPA Police Department. Build housing at all levels.
LINCOLN: I want to ensure that our city is providing services that are beneficial to all residents, including our seniors, and help improve quality of life. I want to help advance new development projects that are equitable and offer significant community benefits, such as subsidized space for local entrepreneurs, jobs for our residents and more housing at all levels of affordability. I do not agree with subsidizing billionaire developers or shifting their costs onto our existing residents.
SMITH: My positions are the concerns of my community. I serve for an all-inclusive betterment. I want to achieve transparency in our community and raise awareness for effective community engagement.
WILKERSON: There are so many. I will stay away from using "talking points." I find they are a lot of rhetoric just to get votes. This has been one of the problems. You must== educate your citizens!
Council people use talking points that are "easy," used simply in keeping their uneducated base comfortable. And their educated citizens, in not using the "four-way test" as do the Rotarians. They use misleading talking points, then nothing gets done. Some of the things that I will bring forward is not== using "selectiveness" and cherry picking to satisfy certain citizens. We are a very diverse community and we will proceed and compromise. And if I see a certain block of residents that are always wanting things their way or the highway, this is where the leadership skills prevail.
Q: What's one interesting thing about you that most people don't know?
ABRICA: I was the Most Valuable Player on the soccer team the last year of my college career; and in East Palo Alto with a group of parents we started the AYSO Soccer League for boys and girls in the 1990s with about 24 teams!
AUSTIN: I love God. I am a musician of sorts; I like to play bass guitar. I also have coached youth football for a total of 21 years.
BARRAGAN: I love cooking, baking, and I love to collect hand fans.
DINAN: I have been a semi-professional musician for many years and play flute in jazz, bossa nova and Brazilian Choro settings. I am also a competent pandeiro player, a percussion instrument from Brazil used in samba and choro. I have lived in a few places before coming to EPA, including Mexico, Brazil and England. I am fluent in Spanish and competent in Portuguese.
LINCOLN: My cousin Kevin Lincoln is the current mayor of Stockton, California.
SMITH: I am interested in ants.
WILKERSON: I wear many "hats." Am a culinary chef and I've owned over eight restaurants. I have a strange sense of humor. I am the eldest of my four siblings I have three little brothers. I've written eight books, one that I will be pre-selling within the next weeks.
If you missed part 1 of this two-part series on the East Palo Alto City Council candidates, click here.