VALLEJO – Vallejo voters in the city’s downtown and on Mare Island will have the opportunity to choose between four candidates this year to represent them on the seven-person Vallejo City Council. The city switched from citywide council elections to district-based elections in 2019, ensuring the area will have a voice on the council.
The candidates include former Vallejo school board Trustee Ruscal Cayangyang, Planning Commissioner Charles Palmares, former Planning Commissioner Chris Platzer and community advocate Ravi Shankar.
To aid voters, the Vallejo Sun sent questions to all of the District 4 candidates on some of the city’s most pressing issues, such as homelessness, policing, and a possible sales tax increase on the November ballot, known as Measure P. Their answers have been edited for length and clarity. Candidates were also allowed to skip any biographical and campaign questions they didn’t want to answer.
Vote by mail ballots were mailed on Oct. 11 and can be returned anytime before Nov. 8. Find out more about how to vote here.
Who is Ruscal Cayangyang?
Occupation: Legislative Aide
How long have you lived in Vallejo? 30+ years
Previous/current civic engagement: Current: Commissioner for City of Vallejo Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee, Climate Emergency Mobilization Task Force (CEMTF). Previous: former trustee on the Vallejo school board, former chair of the city of Vallejo Youth Commission, Regional Task Force on RV/Tiny Homes Solutions to Homelessness, City of Vallejo Interagency Committee, and Safe Routes 2 Schools Committee
Endorsed by: Sierra Club, Solano County Orderly Growth Committee, Mayor Robert McConnell, Councilmember Cristina Arriola - District 6, Vallejo school board Trustee Christy Gardner, former school board Trustee Marianne Kearney Brown, Mare Island Preserve President Myrna Hayes, and former California State Assemblymember Mariko Yamada.
What are your three goals while serving on the Vallejo City Council?
- Fixing our streets and making them safer by stopping wasteful spending and mismanagement so we can fund repairs.
- Working with state and county agencies to help the homeless into housing and services.
- Cleaning up our city by prosecuting illegal dumping and enhancing code enforcement.
On a possible sales tax increase: I’m strongly opposed to Measure P, which would raise Vallejo’s sales tax to be one of the highest in the Bay Area. Measure P is a general use tax, where the money generated would just go into a black hole in the general fund with no guarantees where the money will be spent. Raising the sales tax would cause residents to shop in other cities. We need to shop in Vallejo first!
On homelessness: One of my priorities I would like to work on is having a tiny house village and safe RV parking with services for the homeless in an appropriate location. The city has mismanaged the navigation center, with money wasted down the drain. We cannot wait for the city to help the homeless. In order to help the homeless now, Vallejo needs intervention from county and state agencies.
Job performance of City Manager Mike Malone: There’s a huge disconnect between what city hall wants and what residents want. Last year, after the previous city manager left Vallejo in chaos, I spoke out at the council meeting opposing the promotion of the water director to become the next city manager. I’ve advocated for hiring a turnaround interim city manager specialist who can help fix our city.
Opinion on Vallejo adopting a strong-mayor form of government: I do not support a strong mayor form of government for a city of our size. What Vallejo needs now is a stronger city council, which will strongly hold the city accountable. I would support a hybrid approach.
On police oversight and reform: I strongly support community oversight of the police department as it's long overdue. I also support the proposal put forward by Common Ground. We have $50 million in police misconduct lawsuits against the city. Had the city implemented an independent community police oversight commission that includes hiring an inspector general, the city would not be in this current mess. The commission should be independent of the police department, police union, city manager, and city council. The commission should have powers to conduct independent investigations from misconduct to officer-involved shootings to any complaints brought by the public. The commission should also have the power to fire police officers.
How would you restore confidence in city hall and Vallejo City Council: I would introduce the following legislation at a council meeting:
- Change city council meeting rules to expand the first community forum to 30 minutes in order to allow more people to speak. In addition, have people on Zoom speak in the first community forum
- Create an independent community budget committee to review all expenditures and find ways to stop wasteful spending.
- Initiate an audit on every city department, identify what is not working, and come up with solutions and work plans, identifying who will be implementing solutions with timelines.
- Bring in experts to turn around city departments including the city manager’s office.
- Require the city to have a five-year street rehabilitation plan to ensure street maintenance and repair in a timely manner. Also have the city provide regular updates online of what streets will be fixed next week, next month, etc.
More information: ruscalforcitycouncil.org
Who is Charles Palmares?
Occupation: Quality Control Inspector (manufacturing) on Mare Island.
Previous/current civic engagement: Planning Commissioner (current) and Participatory Budgeting Delegate (former)
Endorsed by: I am not soliciting or accepting endorsements, contributions, or advocacy from political action committees, 501(c) organizations, political parties, current and former elected officials, and other candidates currently running for city council.
What are your three goals while serving on the Vallejo City Council?
- Create more vibrant neighborhoods. We need to consistently pursue the vision of the General Plan and ensure that our neighborhoods are serving the needs of the community. We need to populate our vacant storefronts with thriving businesses, develop our unused or underutilized lands (while protecting our green spaces), activate our public spaces, make our transit options work for our residents, invest in clean, safe, pedestrian-friendly/bike-friendly streets, and coordinate with our community organizations and other public agencies to effectively address homelessness and prevent crime.
- Shift toward financial resilience. We need to have fully-staffed planning, building, and code enforcement divisions; by doing so, we would be effectively helping our business owners, homeowners, and developers to create vibrant neighborhoods, thereby increasing our revenue from taxes (without having to increase our rates). We need to ensure that we have sufficient housing for our entire workforce. We also need to focus on our local and small businesses, particularly with streamlining our permitting processes and reducing or eliminating any unnecessary fees. Additionally, we need to eliminate or drastically reduce the CFD special tax requirement on Mare Island, which would essentially be an investment into the economic development of Vallejo. Lastly, we need to continuously and critically examine our budget to ensure that we are getting the “best bang for our buck.”
- Build consensus. We need to build consensus within the City Council and between our city government and the residents of Vallejo. That requires building trust with our community instead of burning bridges.
On a possible sales tax increase: I do not support Measure P. As much as we need revenue, we cannot sacrifice accountability, and I am unsure as to whether the revenue generated from Measure P would be responsibly allocated.
On homelessness: I would like to establish a sub-committee dedicated to addressing our unhoused population, and I would ensure that the City of Vallejo is working in conjunction with all relevant stakeholders and maintaining its relationships with community organizations already working on this issue. Through this coordination, particularly through relevant Solano County departments and non-profit organizations, we can identify what obstacles need to be removed and what ways we can facilitate so they can get the job done. My intent is to focus on permanent housing solutions combined with wraparound services in order to sustainably address chronic homelessness; implementing half-measures is essentially kicking the can down the road. We also need to ensure that we have accurate, granular data on our unhoused population; having this data on-hand keeps us honest, allows us to set goals and milestones, and helps agencies and non-profit organizations address the problem in a meaningful way. Lastly, we need to engage other cities and counties to understand what worked and what did not work so that we can modify our strategy accordingly.
Job performance of City Manager Mike Malone: City Manager Mike Malone has been doing a fair job so far. While I am not privy to all of the goings on in city hall, I can attest that he is open to dialogue and new ideas, and he has met with residents outside of city council meetings in order to figure out solutions. Communication and follow-up can be improved, but I fully acknowledge that the challenge before him is no easy task. With that said, the success of Vallejo is on the city council and I accept that responsibility as a councilmember.
Opinion on Vallejo adopting a strong-mayor form of government: I do not support a strong-mayor form government. For a mayor to have that kind of unilateral decision making power (without the support of city council) is dangerous. If there are misgivings regarding specific issues, such as meeting agendas, city staff priorities, and transparency, we can explore other changes to our processes or introduce institutional checks until we solve those problems. But that will be on myself and the rest of the city council to ensure that we are making progress.
On police oversight and reform: I unequivocally support police oversight, and I favor the model drafted by Common Ground. Due to potential cost constraints, I am flexible about the scale of some of the components of a police oversight model. However, independent investigations are absolutely critical to making this model work.
How would you restore confidence in city hall and Vallejo City Council: I would like to start forming neighborhood councils in order to empower our residents and acknowledge the unique needs of each part of Vallejo. I would pursue more special study sessions and more informal meetings with the public. I would also have “office hours” to just chat with residents. And I plan on institutionalizing a report card for myself – my success as a Councilmember will be tied to the prosperity and safety of Vallejoans, and nothing else.
Anything else you would like to add: I also want to focus on our youth. Through our youth coordinator, local non-profit organizations, and community leaders, I am hoping we can empower youth (particularly, at-risk youth) and help them navigate readily available resources. Additionally, I would like to see more businesses that can give space for youth to socialize. These early interventions would be an investment in the community. I would also pay particular attention to the human trafficking along Sonoma Boulevard and sideshows and speeding throughout Vallejo. Through a combination of urban design and innovative ordinances, I believe we can make a significant impact.
More information: www.charlesforvallejo.com
Who is Chris Platzer?
Occupation: United States Coast Guard-licensed Deck Officer, sailing instructor. Graduate of California State University Maritime Academy.
How long have you lived in Vallejo? 28 years
Previous/current civic engagement: Former Vallejo Planning Commissioner, former member of Housing and Redevelopment Commission, the Ad-Hoc Fiberoptics Advisory Committee. Member of Vallejo Yacht Club, member of Central Core Restoration Corporation and Vallejo Main Street.
Endorsed by: Napa-Solano Central Labor Council, Congressman Mike Thompson, Iron Workers Union Local 378, Bricklayers, Tilesetters and Allied Craftworkers Local 3 Union, Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan, Benicia councilmember Lionel Largaespada, former Vallejo city councilmembers Hermie Sunga and Jesse Malgapo.
What are your three goals while serving on the Vallejo City Council? I want to serve Vallejo because Vallejo is worth serving.
- Fiscal accountability and responsibility
- Infrastructure - including municipal broadband
- Economic vitality
On a possible sales tax increase: I support the revenue that it will generate. If we want to provide the city services that we would expect from our city, we’re going to have to pay for them. I don’t mind paying my fair share for city services and if that means paying a little extra in the sales tax, I’m willing to do that.
On homelessness: I’m just one vote on the city council but I would do [is] bring to light some of the situations encountered when you’re talking about homelessness. It’s easy to say that housing is a human right and it's even easier to say that the solution to homelessness is a home. It’s something that is so hard to actually accomplish because there is no one way of encompassing the entire population of homeless people.
Opinion on Vallejo adopting a strong-mayor form of government: I support a strong city mayor. I think the present model of a strong city manager has proven itself ineffective. It’s worth changing the charter to empower the mayor of the city to have more influence on directing departments in doing their jobs and creating the priorities he would like to see them accomplish.
On police oversight and reform: I believe in police oversight. I believe it should be approached from better qualified police officers and to get to that you need to provide more and better training so that the police have alternatives to use of force. I think that they need to be given resources, beyond what they have right now, that give them alternatives that they don’t have right now to desecrate situations, to provide a degree of community engagement that doesn’t run the risk of the divisions that we are seeing between certain communities and the police department. To find that they are being singled out. And to some extent, it is very true that being Black and the racism that exists in this country can cause health consequences and that’s been documented. That you need to bridge that gap by being better engaged with your community. And the community needs to see the police as a partner and not a threat.
They do a thankless job, and they need to be given the tools to do their job and that doesn’t always involve a service revolver. On 400 Mare Island Way possibly being a new police headquarters: The [proposal to move the police to the downtown library building] is not a bad one. If the costs approach the cost of renovating 111 Amador, I think we should consider the possibility of taking the time to renovate that location because it's centrally located.
More information: Platzer4citycouncil
Who is Ravi Shankar?
Occupation: Accounting/business consultant
Family: Widower. Uncle of 13 nephews, nieces. Grand-uncle of 12 grandnieces, and grandnephews.
How long have you lived in Vallejo? 20 years as homeowner, tax payer.
Previous/current civic engagement: Participatory Budgeting, Sister Cities program, board member on the Vallejo Naval & Historical Museum, Chief’s Advisory Board, member of the Solano County Library Foundation Board of Directors, involved with Vallejo’s community gardens.
What are your three goals while serving on the Vallejo City Council?
- A more unified, compassionate city council with a top priority to reduce and eliminate homelessness and offer mental health counseling and other needs.
- Work toward equitable taxing, zoning for Mare Island residents and homeowners. Restore the Mare Island Preserve Trust with funding and support.
- Rapid, phased pothole fixing, downtown revitalization, more affordable housing, relaxed incentives for small business owners, bring back youth commission and skills training for youth. Yearly performance review for council by citizens with a bonus/penalty structure.
On a possible sales tax increase: No. It is unfair, unjust when most people are still struggling and bad timing. City council and staff have failed badly to earn our trust, spend it wisely, show honesty in bait and switch tactics.
On homelessness: [I would push to] discipline all staff, managers who delayed and promised unjustly the navigation center opening, including putting back $688,000 of participatory budgeting monies from years ago. keep [in place] for future councils until fully resolved.
Seriously review and present other successful models in the nation for fast implementation by 2024. Offer basic needs distribution, Alcoholics Anonymous, drug addiction counseling as well as psychological help for mentally compromised folks. Where possible, applicable, bring training and temporary opportunities to those who just need help, lift, boost, etc.
Give them temporary free public transit, library and church coaching to assist them, improve their self esteem. Use local experts, volunteers under the mayor’s office to directly monitor progress and report to the people each year.
Job performance of City Manager Mike Malone: Generally, barely satisfactory. Needs a few more months with the new council to assess. One bad move was buying that $800,000 home for the water department safety. Lots of unanswered questions.
Giving raises to him, police department, department managers, city attorney is quite unfair, when they drum beat not enough funds for public projects. Send the city manager around city neighborhoods and nonprofits for constant lobbying! Every chamber mixer, a representative from his office to network and build trust. Most importantly, fulfill that oath of office to serve the people of Vallejo by obeying the directions of the council. [Malone] must be better, he and all his staff need to cease and desist any and all contact, communications with the ex-city manager to dedicate 100 percent loyalty to the current mayor and council.
On Vallejo adopting a strong-mayor form of government: Not really. Since it takes two years to bring it to reality; starting with charter changes, public hearings and council votes. Instead, a hybrid starting next new city council where the mayor and city manager share top decisions and accountability to the public with consequences for failed priorities and adverse impact on our standing.
On police oversight and reform: Common Ground model with citizens oversight board with city council input.
How would you restore confidence in city hall and Vallejo City Council: Many things over two years:
- Set serious accountability of their oath of office, do what it takes to deliver to the public, reduce hassles and red tape, change staff attitude with a two or three strikes system.
- Hire local experts, consultants who cost less and have better community trust.
- Hire more local staff and union workers from Vallejo.
- Mandate some public community service as part of their first year in local nonprofits and schools
- Conduct, review, present publicly polls on broad services. When making a mistake, public acknowledgement is a must, not hiding behind legal mumbo jumbo.
- Have school kids, seniors, veterans, grace the city council chambers for a few minutes of real world mingling, that builds trust.
- Let our council dialog with successful, happier councils of our city size and do a self.assessment each year.
- Council strives to build genuine friendships with each member and their families.
More information: RAVI Shankar 4 Dist-4 Vallejo Council 2022 | Facebook
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- Election 2022
- Vallejo City Council
- Vallejo City Hall
- Ruscal Cayangyang
- Charles Palmares
- Ravi Shankar
- Chris Platzer
John Glidden is a journalist reporting on the city of Vallejo. The native Vallejoan has written for the Vallejo Times-Herald, Fairfield Daily Republic, the Appeal, and Solano Tempest.
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