District 2 has a new county supervisor, Elisa Márquez, a lifelong Hayward resident and Cal State East Bay alumna. Márquez was appointed to represent Fremont, Union City, Newark and Hayward a few months ago after the death of Supervisor Richard Valle left the seat open. The former Hayward City Council member is expected to serve out the remainder of Valle’s term and will be up for election in 2024.
In an interview with the East Bay Echo in May, Márquez described what inspired her to apply for the position and how she plans to address what she considers are the main issues affecting the 2nd District, public safety and access to services.
Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to apply for the position of county supervisor?
I am a lifelong resident of District 2, specifically South Hayward. Even from my teenage years, I have been actively engaged in local government, driven by my desire to serve and understand the needs of the community. With my extensive experience on Hayward City Council, I felt that this was a valuable opportunity to bring my knowledge and compassion to a new level. Unfortunately, this position became available due to the passing of Supervisor Richard Valle back in February. However, I believe that my familiarity with the district and its needs positions me well to serve and connect residents with vital services. Additionally, having lived in Hayward my entire life, I have noticed that people don’t understand the roles and responsibilities of the county, and I aim to address that through engaging with the public and bridging that knowledge gap.
What would you say are the major issues affecting District 2 and what steps do you plan to take to address those issues?
I believe that public safety and access to services are major concerns across the board. Fiscal management is a priority — ensuring a sound budget for delivering services to the community. Additionally, I aim to prioritize community safety and provide services for seniors, children, and overall public health and welfare. Specifically, addressing behavioral health needs is important. We are currently facing a crisis with the unsheltered population, and the county is diligently working to expand services and programs to meet their needs. Partnering with cities is crucial, as each city has its unique priorities and approaches. I plan to present options to the cities and let them determine what works best for them, while providing information and resources to facilitate those connections.
How do you plan to engage with constituents and ensure their voices are heard, particularly those that have usually been excluded from the decision-making process?
I believe it’s crucial to be actively present in the community by attending events and introducing myself to people. To enhance public awareness, we will distribute a regular and informative newsletter. Building strong relationships with nonprofit organizations and faith-based leaders is also essential, as many individuals trust and rely on their services. It’s important for them to know that we are a resource, and this extends beyond just me; our entire team in District 2 consists of experienced staff who are familiar with community resources.
I aim to make myself accessible and approachable, keeping an open mind to receive feedback, including negative comments or criticism. Embracing this feedback is vital for improvement and addressing concerns. Maintaining a receptive and non-offensive stance is important to foster productive communication.
Moreover, it’s crucial to meet people where they are. While community surveys are valuable, we must also engage with individuals beyond social media. This entails visiting places like laundromats, grocery stores, libraries and religious institutions. However, we must also address the needs of the isolated population. Partnering with nonprofits that provide resources, such as Meals on Wheels, can help reach individuals who may be isolated. Our goal is to collaborate with these nonprofit providers, ensuring they are aware of our presence and willingness to assist.
Housing affordability is a significant issue in the district and county. Do you have any specific initiatives or policies in mind that you plan to support to ensure people can remain in the community?
We are currently focusing on cost protections, which will be reviewed by the unincorporated committee at the end of May. Since joining the Board of Supervisors, I have consistently advocated for these protections. Additionally, there is ongoing consideration for fair chance housing. I fully support these initiatives and urge the county to take further action in order to minimize displacement. It is crucial that we make every effort to retain residents who wish to continue living in our diverse community. I am supportive of policies that advance these efforts.
How do you envision economic growth occurring in the district and county? While there is a focus on attracting larger corporations, are there any initiatives you have in mind to foster and support small businesses within the community?
As part of the procurement committee, I will explore ways to inform businesses owned by women, minorities, and people of color about contracting opportunities with the county for services. However, I believe we can go beyond that. Throughout the district, there are numerous small businesses, including those owned by immigrants. In the future, I plan to provide resources and information on our website in multiple languages, ensuring awareness of small business loans and funding assistance. I am also interested in organizing workshops where these individuals can come together and learn about available resources. Although I don’t have a specific plan yet, I am meeting people who are already engaged in this work, and I am compiling a list of potential partners. I strongly believe in collaborating with those who already have relationships with these individuals and expanding on their efforts. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel but rather build upon existing connections.
During a recent planning meeting, we successfully supported a business operating in Castro Valley. There were concerns regarding their drive-thru window and its compliance with the new general plan provisions. However, we voted in favor of the business because I value the investment and entrepreneurial spirit of those who lease and improve their businesses. It is important to create job opportunities and foster entrepreneurship in our community. I am committed to expanding opportunities and providing support to ensure the feasibility of opening and operating businesses. Small businesses truly form the backbone of our community, and I will continue advocating for their success.
Sustainable mass transit infrastructure is crucial for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but there are uncertainties about the future of transit. What are your thoughts on complete streets and increasing transit accessibility and affordability?
I recognize the need for creative partnerships and exploring opportunities to expand transit ridership, particularly among students. Cities like Hayward, Fremont, and Union City, which are increasing housing development, present opportunities for improving bus line frequency and making public transportation more accessible. Enhancing infrastructure, such as user-friendly applications for bus routes and schedules, is important. Advocating for state and federal infrastructure funding through county lobbying efforts is also key. To achieve our climate action plan goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, maintaining and expanding public transportation is crucial. Encouraging people to shift away from personal vehicles is a priority, and I personally contribute to this cause by owning an electric vehicle. However, I understand that not everyone can afford such vehicles, so we must find ways to incentivize the adoption of electric or hybrid vehicles, especially among lower-income individuals.
In terms of sustainability, my role on East Bay Community Energy involves collaborating with cities to establish charging stations, microgrids, and battery-operated grids as backup power sources. I strongly support these initiatives. While I am still learning about the county’s specific actions toward our climate action goals, I am committed to prioritizing efforts that reduce our carbon footprint. This includes exploring options for electrifying buildings during construction or lease agreements. It is important for us to lead by example in these areas as well.
You mentioned that public safety is a priority for you. In a time when community members have differing visions for the future of public safety, how would you describe a safe community and what steps are necessary to create such a community?
I believe we can enhance public safety by strengthening partnerships with behavioral health therapists, ensuring appropriate responses to situations involving mental health challenges. Community policing should be a focus, and I commend the Sheriff’s Office for their active involvement in events and programs like the Deputy Sheriff’s Activity League, which offers free programming for youth. Engaging with the community helps break down barriers and emphasizes hiring local individuals who genuinely care about our community. It is crucial to address public safety in a way that is culturally appropriate and respectful, prioritizing the well-being of all individuals involved.
While I am still acquainting myself with the budget for the Sheriff’s Department, I am aware of the significant investments made in behavioral health programs, assistance, and reentry support. Our district office has successfully implemented programs that empower individuals who have faced academic challenges or interacted with law enforcement, investing over $200,000 annually in internships and class programming to foster leadership skills. Achieving balance is important—ensuring adequate funding and support for law enforcement while providing opportunities for our youth. This includes addressing crucial aspects like job availability and housing. To reduce recidivism, we must tackle various fronts, partnering with the sheriff’s department in programming efforts. We are piloting initiatives to connect individuals at Santa Rita Jail with Medi-Cal insurance and vital services prior to their release, aiming to prevent recidivism through job placement and wraparound support. Taking a holistic approach that addresses the comprehensive needs of individuals is essential to making meaningful progress and promoting community well-being.