ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. — The Alameda County Board of Supervisors held public interviews on Tuesday with four candidates vying for the 2nd district seat, which was left vacant by former Supervisor Richard Valle, who died last month.
The candidates included Ariana Casanova, a political organizer endorsed by Valle’s family; Hayward City Council member Elisa Márquez; Harris Mojadedi, Area 3 trustee on the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District board of trustees; and Fremont Vice Mayor Teresa Keng. Hayward Mayor Mark Salinas was also selected for an interview but decided not to move forward with the process, endorsing Márquez instead.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors has five members who are elected to serve four years for a compensation of about $185,000 a year. District 2 serves the cities of Fremont, Newark, Union City and Hayward. The board performs a variety of functions, such as appointing most county employees, approving an annual budget and guiding the policy direction of the county, among other things. Anyone who is appointed to the District 2 seat will have to run for reelection next year to remain on the board.
The board is expected to discuss the candidates and possibly make an appointment on Thursday. The person who is selected will be sworn in next Tuesday, April 4.
Each candidate was given 10 minutes to introduce themselves to the public and the board, after which they were asked several questions by each supervisor. Members of the public largely spoke in favor of Márquez, followed by Casanova and Keng.
Casanova has lived in the East Bay for two decades and got her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley. She has been working as a political organizer with the Service Employees International Union for the past 13 years, including representing workers in District 2. The Alameda County Taxpayers Association raised questions about Casanova’s residency since she has been living in Hayward for less than a year. However, the county counsel told supervisors at a previous meeting that being a resident for at least a year is not necessary for people who are appointed. Casanova reiterated she has been working with union members in the area for well over a decade.
Casanova said the biggest challenge that the district is facing is the precarity around St. Rose Hospital in Hayward, health care accessibility and emergency response times. In terms of the broader county, Casanova said maintaining county services in the face of economic uncertainty is a challenge.
On the eviction moratorium, Casanova said it was important to have in place to keep the homeless population from growing. As the moratorium sunsets, Casanova said it’s important to have resources in place to ensure the county does not cause more harm and force more people into homelessness.
Casanova said she would address lawlessness and sideshows by investing in violence prevention, working with police officers and community organizations on developing solutions, and creating jobs and opportunities for community members.
Márquez is a lifelong Hayward resident and got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal State East Bay. Márquez served on various Hayward commissions and committees before being appointed to the Hayward City Council in 2014. She currently serves as a council member and has been endorsed by many of the district’s current and former elected officials, including former Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday and current Union City Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci. She works as a probate court investigator in Santa Clara County.
She said District 2’s biggest challenge is finding a path forward for St. Rose Hospital so that it doesn’t have to close a year or two from now. In terms of the whole county, Márquez said ambulance services are a concern.
Márquez also said she wouldn’t have let the eviction moratorium last as long as it did but would have ensured that there was a plan in place to make the transition smoother for tenants and landlords. She said she would have worked with housing service providers to develop a plan that worked for everyone.
In terms of lawlessness and sideshows, Márquez said it’s important to find out why people are watching and participating in sideshows to create alternative avenues to meet those needs. She added it’s important for leaders to set a good example and not to promote lawless behavior, themselves.
Mojadedi is a lifelong Union City resident and got his bachelor’s degree from San Jose State University and master’s degree from Saint Mary’s College. He has served on the Union City Planning Commission, on the board of the New Haven Schools Foundation and on the Alameda County Human Relations Commission. He currently serves on the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District. He has worked in higher education for over a decade and currently works at UC Berkeley.
Stabilizing St. Rose Hospital is the biggest issue facing District 2, Mojadedi said, while the county’s biggest challenge is envisioning what a post-pandemic system looks like as federal funds dry up.
Mojadedi said the situation with the eviction moratorium is more complicated than the landlord vs. tenant narrative being pushed by many. Not every landlord is bad, but the eviction moratorium was also necessary to prevent an increase in homelessness, Mojadedi said. He added he would support a non-discrimination policy to protect tenants who have been evicted in the past.
It’s important to give law enforcement the training to address lawlessness, Mojadedi said, citing deescalation as one tool that could be used.
Keng immigrated to the U.S. at 15 and graduated from Newark Memorial High School before attending the University of California, Los Angeles, where she got her bachelor’s degree. Keng also has a master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine and is currently pursuing a doctorate in education leadership from San Jose State. She runs Milk and Honey Cafe in Fremont, which she opened in 2016, and has been serving on the Fremont City Council since 2018.
Besides St. Rose, Keng said the biggest issue facing District 2 and Alameda County is having sufficient affordable housing, vocational programs and job opportunities, particularly for the Black and brown community to make sure they can afford the ever-increasing cost of living in the area.
Fremont was one of the first cities to adopt an eviction moratorium, recognizing the importance of protecting tenants, Keng said, but people began taking advantage of the system as time progressed. The burden of rental assistance should not be on the landlord, Keng said, adding that the tenants’ need for relief should be verified in the future and there should be more investment in fraud prevention.
People who commit crimes should have to face the consequences, Keng said on the topic of lawlessness and sideshows. She pointed to the city of Fremont’s response, which was to adopt an ordinance to prohibit sideshows in the city. That has largely solved the issue, she said.