VALLEJO – The Vallejo City Council was in full agreement Tuesday when it officially named economic development as the city’s top priority for the current fiscal year. The council also identified police reform, finding affordable housing, and providing youth programs as top multi-year goals.
“I can't emphasize enough how important economic development is,” said District 3 Councilmember Mina Loera-Diaz, who was responding to questions on why economic development was selected as the top priority over addressing homelessness and other issues affecting the city.
“But if you think about it for a second, you will understand that, in order to deal with the homeless issue, and everything else that was mentioned a little bit earlier, we need money, you need funds to be able to work [on] the other things,” she added.
Much of the council’s discussion centered on members’ support of youth programming.
Shanyiah Nims, a recent graduate of Jesse Bethel High School, highlighted several youth issues in the city.
“As a high school student, I feared walking home, to and from school, [and] being grabbed,” she told the council. “There are a lot of us that struggle, some of us [deal] with drugs, because it’s a coping method due to what we see going out in Vallejo.”
Nims also brought up the amount of prostitution and human trafficking in the city. Council member Hakeem Brown praised Nims for raising these issues with the council.
“For myself, it’s hard to feel like you’ve done a good job, when you see that every day; particularly young sistas of color because you see they’re out there every day,” Brown said in response to concerns about prostitution in town.
Brown, who said he liked hearing from the youth, said the average person in town doesn’t know that “it’s a scary thing to get from point A to point B as a student in Vallejo, particularly a student of color.”
City Manager Mike Malone said the city is in the process of hiring a youth coordinator as the council authorized creation of the position earlier this year. The position will be tasked with building relationships with the community around youth issues. The coordinator will be an administrative analyst in the city manager’s office.
Additional issues identified including youth programming, developing a youth initiatives plan, and working on opening an early learning center.
The council stated that police reform was a multi-year priority, which included following recommendations from the OIR Group, establishing a police advisory commission, and locating a new headquarters for Vallejo police.
In April, the council directed city staff to begin looking at the possibility of moving the department from its aging facilities as 111 Amador St. to the John F. Kennedy Library in downtown Vallejo.
Loera-Diaz, who remains a staunch opponent of moving Vallejo police into a two-story building along the city’s waterfront, defended the council’s decision of making it a priority to find a new home for the city’s police force.
“[I’m] very much against the police building being on the waterfront, they have no business being down at the waterfront,” she said. “The waterfront should be used for other things; however, do they need a police station.”
Loera-Diaz said she would not want her kids working in 111 Amador St., which suffers from multiple issues, including asbestos and lead contamination.
Additional noted police reform efforts include creating a police oversight model and a surveillance advisory board tasked with monitoring the city’s use and possible purchase of surveillance technology. The surveillance board began meeting in April.
Meanwhile, housing goals include creating an inclusionary housing ordinance, updating the city’s housing element, and a required document on how the city is planning to meet its housing needs. The council noted the need to retain current participation rate in the city’s housing program and increase the utilization rate of housing vouchers.
The city suffered another housing setback when it was revealed last week that the federal government has asked it to pay back $2.6 million in grant funding associated with a permanent supportive housing project. Vallejo officials said that “a series of administrative errors from 2019 to 2021” led to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) to request Vallejo to pay back the grant funds intended to support the 75-unit Sacramento Street Apartments project.
Two council critics said the identified priorities didn’t reflect the results from a recent survey of 500 likely voters about their views of life in the city and whether they would support a sales tax hike to pay for city services.
“City Hall’s priorities are not in alignment with the community,” said Melissa Swift.
Homelessness was the top priority as 80% of survey participants identified that issue, as crime, gangs, and drugs, along with public dumping and trash each received 79% as a top priority affecting the city.
“I get that the city likes the goal of economic development, and I understand it, we need revenue, we need jobs [but] there is a disconnect between what the city has surveyed the community about and what the city decided to adopt,” said local resident Anne Carr.
The poll found that about 60% of residents had an unfavorable opinion of the city council, while 67% said they had an unfavorable opinion of the city government overall.
The city council voted earlier this month to place a seven-eighths-cent sales tax increase on the Nov. 8 ballot to pay for road repair, addressing homelessness, and cleaning blight in the city. If approved, the tax hike is expected to net the city an additional $18 million annual revenue into the city’s general fund.
Councilmember Pippin Dew, At-Large, said she thought only economic development and youth programming were the only top goals identified by the council. Dew said that if there were additions, she wanted to see homelessness solutions, crime reduction, blight and illegal dumping, road repair, as additional goals and priorities.
“We have a lot of needs,” Dew said, “but they all take funding and the only way to grow that funding is by increasing our tax base.”
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- economic development
- police reform
- Mina Loera-Diaz
- Pippin Dew
- Hakeem Brown
- Shanyiah Nims
- Mike Malone
- OIR Group
- John F. Kennedy library
- Vallejo Police Department
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Vallejo City Hall
- Vallejo City Council
- Anne Carr
- Melissa Swift
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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