, August 09, 2022

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More than a dozen seek a seat on Vallejo City Council


  •   6 min reads
More than a dozen seek a seat on Vallejo City Council
Vallejo City Council candidates starting at top left: Tara Beasley-Stansberry, Garrett Toles, Ruscal Cayangyang, Charles Palmares, Melissa Bowman, Ravi Shankar, Dwight Monroe Jr., Cassandra James, Don Jordan, Diosado "JR" Matulac, Chris Platzer and Peter Bregenzer.

VALLEJO – The upcoming Vallejo City Council election is drawing significant interest so far as more than a dozen candidates have officially formed campaign committees in hopes of being elected to one of the three open seats this fall.

Opening a committee allows the person to solicit donations and spend money on the campaign, but it doesn’t ensure they are an official candidate, that happens during the candidacy period in which the prospective candidate files paperwork to be on the November ballot. The candidacy period which began this week runs through Aug. 13.

The general election is scheduled for Nov. 8.

District 4 - Mare Island and downtown

District 4 has generated the most buzz over the last year as six prospective candidates have stepped forward, including former Vallejo school board Trustee Ruscal Cayangyang and current Planning Commissioner Charles Palmares, as both hope to represent the new district that includes Mare Island, downtown and the northern Waterfront.

“After listening to Vallejo residents’ concerns and what they want to see change, we are not being adequately represented in City Government,” Cayangyang said in a statement on his campaign website. “We can not afford to do business as usual as we risk going back into bankruptcy and worsening infrastructure.”

Palmares, a military veteran, said in a statement on his campaign website that he “has been a tireless advocate for creating vibrant neighborhoods, cultivating strong businesses and good jobs, increasing public safety, dedicating housing to our workforce, and making our city more sustainable and resilient.”

Cayangyang and Palmares are joined by former Planning Commissioner Chris Platzer and community advocate Ravi Shankar.

Platzer served on the Planning Commission from 2016 to 2020 and generated international headlines when he was caught “throwing” his cat during a Zoom meeting. Platzer, a staunch supporter of the city using and expanding its fiber network, resigned before the city council began removal proceedings.

Platzer unsuccessfully ran for city council in 2013.

Shankar, a longtime advocate of Vallejo’s sister city program, said he was running for city council “to proactively support the many compassionate, community visions of our veteran mayor by being a people’s leader and by setting a good example of committed service on various boards and commissions that I continue to serve.”

David Haldane, an engineer who formed his campaign early in the election season, announced last month that he would be dropping out of the contest, stating he has a full-time job and a young family.

“The simple fact is that I do not have the time to commit to both a full-time engineering job as well as being a good dad and a representative for 20,000 of my neighbors,” he wrote in a June 26 post on Facebook.

Andra Davis, a prospective District 4 candidate and member of the city of Vallejo’s human relations commission, died of an illness earlier this month.

District 5 - Central Vallejo

Meanwhile, five candidates have expressed interest in serving on the council representing the District 5 seat, which covers Vallejo from Sereno Drive to Curtola Parkway between Interstate 80 and Sonoma Boulevard.

The candidates include local businesswoman Tara Beasley-Stansberry, Planning Commissioner Melissa Bowman, Peter Bregenzer, Tanya Hall, and Dwight Monroe Jr.

Beasley-Stansberry, who co-owns the restaurant Noonies Place with her wife Rhonda, told the Vallejo Sun in May 2021 that she wants to see small businesses come back to District 5. Beasley-Stansberry said her list of top priorities includes working to address homelessness and bring additional youth programs to the city.

“District 5 is where I make my home, this is where I live, and this is where my family lives, and we just want to make it a better tomorrow for you and me,” Beasley-Stansberry said in a May 6 2021 YouTube video announcing her candidacy.

She also serves on the Housing and Community Development Commission.

Bregenzer said business development, land use, and equitable housing are his priorities if elected to the council.

“I am running for Vallejo City Council because I want to see our shared community values reflected in the council’s decision-making and governance,” he said in a statement posted to his campaign website.

Both Bregenzer and Hall serve on the Architectural Heritage and Landmarks Commission. Bowman previously served on the same commission.

Bowman is no stranger to campaigning as she was an unsuccessful candidate for the Vallejo City Unified School District Board of Education in November 2016.

She said District 5 has unique needs in the city of Vallejo.

“We are the very heart of Vallejo, both geographically and demographically,” Bowman said in a statement on her campaign website. “We have decent sidewalk space and it is time to improve the walkability score for our district by calming traffic and creating a pedestrian-friendly environment.”

Monroe said in a social media post that he is running “because Vallejo needs a council member that is honest, has integrity, and is transparent while promoting humanitarian efforts to help the City of Vallejo.”

If elected, Monroe said, he would beautify Vallejo, address “our unhoused communities' needs,” work with small business owners “to create jobs for our residents, and youth jobs.”

“Focusing on reallocating funds from The Vallejo Police Department to help emphasize and address the wants and needs of the community like mental health and social workers to address addiction and homelessness,” he added.

District 2 - North Vallejo/Mini

Finally, four have said they would like to represent District 2 in North Vallejo. They include Planning Commissioner Diosdado “JR” Matulac, Cassandra James, who serves on the Housing and Community Development Commission, local realtor Don Jordan, and community advocate Garrett Toles.

James said her reasons for seeking election to the council came when one of her sons asked her “what can we do” in response to issues in the community.

“As a mother raising two boys in the Crest, it was imperative and important to bring issues and solutions that impact all community members – young, old and everything in between,” she wrote in a statement released by her campaign. “I live in a bi-lingual intergenerational working household that has experienced the good and the bad of Vallejo, yet I know that our resilience and determination have given us this chance.”

Jordan, who has served on numerous committees and commissions, including the Vallejo Branch NAACP, and as an alternate member of the city’s Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee, was direct with why he is running for office.

“The reason I’m running is because I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” he said in a video posted to his campaign website. “I’m running for safer streets, cleaner neighborhoods and ending the gridlock down at city hall.”

Toles told the Vallejo Times-Herald last year that he wants “to leave Vallejo a better city for my daughter and her generation.”

Toles cited “equity, safety, and vitality,” as the three biggest issues facing Vallejo.

“Our community is extremely underserved, especially our most vulnerable. Many Vallejo residents suffer from a lack of basic resources such as housing, access to healthy food, healthcare, and transportation,” Toles told the Times-Herald. “Our youth programs are under-funded. There are few economic opportunities. When you’re dealing with all these elements, it creates bigger issues such as violent crime and an overall sense of hopelessness.”

Toles has faced allegations of domestic violence because a former romantic partner sought a restraining order against him in Contra Costa County Superior Court. In turn, Toles sought his own restraining order against the woman in Solano County, according to court records. He has said in public statements on Facebook that he was the victim of abuse and posted photos of injuries he alleged were inflicted by the partner.

Toles was also an organizer behind the “Potholegate Vigilantes,” a rogue group that filled potholes without the city’s permission.

Three councilmembers not running

Councilmember Hakeem Brown announced last November that he would not be seeking a second term on the council. Brown was swept into office on a wave of optimism from different areas of the city’s political spectrum on the perceived promise that he would bring change to the beleaguered city.

Brown found himself in a number of controversies and had his 2020 mayoral campaign beset with concerns after allegations of past domestic violence surfaced a month before election day.

Besides Brown’s decision not to seek re-election, the council is guaranteed to gain two new members as councilmembers Pippin Dew and Katy Miessner are ineligible to run again. Both were elected in 2013 and were re-elected in 2018 and can serve a maximum of two terms in office.

The November ballot will be the second to feature district elections. Vallejo decided to adopt council districts after receiving a challenge letter from Southern California based-lawyer Kevin Shenkman in September 2018. Shenkman argued that the city’s at-large election format violated the California Voting Rights Act because there were no African American or Latino councilmembers on the council.

“African American and Latino residents that each make up nearly a quarter of the city have no one to speak to and for their struggles at the city government level,” Shenkman wrote in his Sept. 17, 2018, letter. “And their struggles are unique, and are exacerbated by the fact that they have no voice on the council.”

Months after the city received the letter, Vallejo voters elected Brown, who is Black, to the council.

The electorate sent two Hispanic residents to the council in November 2020, the first election under the new format: Mina Loera-Diaz represents District 3 - Glen Cove, while Cristina Arriola represents District 6 - South Vallejo.

Vice Mayor Rozzana Verder-Aliga, who was born in the Philippines, was also re-elected in 2020, but this time she represented a district instead of being elected city-wide. Verder-Aliga represents District 1 - Hiddenbrooke/Northgate.

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