Political Climate with Mark Simon: Your guide to Redwood City council candidates

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The ballots in this all-mail election begin arriving in local mailboxes in less than two weeks and we can expect the pace of this long campaign to begin to resemble a ferret that has had too much coffee.

Meanwhile, so many things are being said by so many people about the candidates for the Redwood City Council that it might be useful to review what they are saying about themselves.

It might also be more accurate than the hints and allegations too frequently generated on local social media.

Based on recent candidates’ forums, public appearances and campaign materials, here is your current Political Climate guide to each of the candidates and the main message they highlight:

Vice Mayor Diane Howard, a 19-year veteran of the council: She says she will be the voice of experience on a council that is likely becoming increasingly inexperienced. Assuming she is re-elected, the seven-member council will have two new members at the end of the year. Assuming Councilwoman Shelly Masur goes forward with her plans to run for the state Senate and with Mayor Ian Bain termed out, another two new members will join the council in 2020. That means the majority of the council will be in their first terms. And with district elections possibly in place by 2020, the number could be higher.

“It’s important to have someone (on the council) with the authority and deep history of our community,” she said.

Certified Public Accountant and community activist Rick Hunter: He is the self-described man in the middle – allied with no contingent of established points of view. His campaign literature bears three word: “Balanced. Independent. Experienced.” He says most people are “in the middle” on the issues facing Redwood City, neither fully opposed to the growth that has occurred nor comfortable with the changes that have taken place. They are seeking solutions without predetermined ideology, he says.

Businesswoman, mother and Planning Commissioner Giselle Hale: She is seeking to be a voice of a new generation of families in Redwood City, while upholding what she calls the values and diversity of the community. Her campaign literature describes her as “a new candidate” and she frequently says she and her husband “chose” Redwood City as a place to live and raise a young family. She notes she will be the only member of the council with children currently in the city’s school district and among the issues she highlights is an increase in childcare options for working families with small children.

Small business owner Christina Umhofer: She is the one candidate who speaks most directly to those who are uneasy about the changes that have occurred in the city, couching it this way: “I plan to help Redwood City move into the future with residents’ quality of life in mind.” She also says, “I want to represent the residents of Redwood City, not out-of-town corporations.” Her campaign slogan is: “From Redwood City, For Redwood City.” She cites her experience owning local small businesses and as a property owner as examples of practical experience she will bring to the council. “I am solution-oriented,” she says.

Stanford community relations representative and community activist Jason Galisatus: He says he brings a “fresh perspective” to city politics and seeks to speak for Millennials who work in Redwood City and can’t afford to live here. Many of them are like Galisatus – born and raised and now priced out. He speaks most directly to the positive changes that have occurred and capitalizing on those changes. “I grew up in Redwood City at a time when it was an affordable city where working families like mine could afford to buy a home,” he says. “… I want to lead us into the future while respecting where we’ve come from.” If elected, he would be the only renter on the council.

Community organizer Diana Reddy: She calls herself the “community’s voice” and cites her long experience as a community level organizer on issues of “social justice,” including immigration reform, low-income housing and pay equity/living wage. She is a steadfast advocate for housing and seeks to speak to residents who have been bypassed or pushed aside by the economic boom overtaking the region. “I have the courage to fight for the residents of Redwood City and focus on working- and middle-class interests rather than special interests,” she says. She will “bring openness, transparency and accountability back to city government.”

Businessman and Planning Commissioner Ernie Schmidt: He has been in the middle of the approvals that revitalized the city’s downtown, and he seemingly knows everyone. Vice Chair of the Planning Commission for more than nine years and a manager at the Fox Theater, a downtown anchor, Schmidt’s experience is broad, matched by the number of people who know him and have worked with him, particularly in volunteer benefits for the community. He touts his relationships – in the community and throughout the state – as a measure of his ability to build consensus on the issues facing the city.

Contact Mark Simon at mark.simon24@yahoo.com.

In photo above, top-left to top-right: Jason Galisatus, Giselle Hale, Diane Howard and Rick Hunter. Bottom-left to bottom-right: Diana Reddy, Ernie Schmidt, and Christina Umhofer.

*The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Online.

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