District 2 candidates square off in Virtual Debate

District 2 candidates square off in Virtual Debate

By Richard Eber

In the communications challenged Covid-19 environment, candidates in local elections are finding it difficult to reach voters. Deprived for the moment of being able to conduct door to door canvassing, they must rely on utilizing social media or sending out costly fliers through the mail as the foundation of their campaigns.
This is especially true in Concord’s 2nd District where incumbent City Council member Carlyn Obringer is facing a challenge from Harmesh Kumar, Hope Johnson, Paul Wood, and Tristan Piper. Each of these individuals are trying to communicate their stands on local issues to residents of their District.
Attempting to assist in educating voters, longtime Concord resident Tim Carr, President of Sun Terrace Neighborhood Partnership, (STNP), has organized a debate that was heard last Monday, August 31.
According to Carr, “Each election cycle, our neighborhood association organizes a live event for residents to hear those running for City Council seats explain why they should be elected to office. By conducting this “virtual debate” we tried to perform a similar service to what we normally do.”
To assist Carr with putting on the August 31st function, Dave Hughes worked on the technical logistics with Zoom and Facebook to make sure the debate could be heard by District 2 residents and other interested parties in Concord. Jeanette Green and Susan Metzger worked alongside Carr on formulating questions and taking turns moderating the debate.
Working within the parameters of giving equal opportunity to each candidate, opening remarks, answers to questions and rebuttals were formatted in 2-minute segments. Carr said he wanted to make sure this event was “conducted in a non-partisan way” consistent with the manor that the STNP conducts their business.”
For those who might have missed the debate, it can be seen on Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0P8IZ6FGsw&t=5813s. For our part the Diablo Gazette asked each candidate three questions pertaining to defunding police services, Housing, and the future of the Concord Naval Weapons Station project. Their responses are attached:

What is your position defunding, refining, and/or changing law enforcement in Concord?

Obringer: I support re-imagining policing so social workers/mental health professionals are deployed to service calls that may not require a conventional police presence. We on the Council have already initiated a conversation to solicit community feedback. A community advisory body could serve as a liaison between residents and Concord PD leadership.

Johnson: My public position to Council for years is Concord cannot continue spending almost 60% of its budget on the police department or other city needs will further deteriorate. The police budget and responsibilities must be reviewed to determine what might be more effectively handled by social services or other departments.

Wood: I am for providing our Police more diversity training to handle diverse situations with appropriate force. I am pro-body cameras on law enforcement officers to help hold them accountable to their actions. I have family that are Police officers and know that it is a very stressful job. Police officers are in very high intensity situations and have to make very fast decisions. I respect the tough job that Police officers do every day and put their lives at risk to protect us.

Piper: The Concord Police Department deserves respect and financial support. I am against any calls to defund first responders who risk their lives on a daily basis. The budget should be evaluated by how efficiently funds are utilized, not for the sake of following a politically charged agenda.

Kumar: We do need police to protect people and property. However, some tasks officers are performing, they are not qualified to perform like dealing with mentally ill and homelessness. We need to rethink allocating some police department resources for mental health services, to reduce homelessness and stop our kids from getting into prison pipelines especially minority kids.

What actions would you like the City Council to make pertaining to housing policy and implementing rent control in our community?

Kumar: . The City can repurpose vacant land (change zoning laws) to allow for multi-family development. The City can also make it easier and or facilitate the permits to allow for the addition of units to existing single family homes. These are commonly known as in law units. Promote or encourage affordable housing development opportunities in and around the City.

Piper: I support basic rent control for multi-family dwellings in the City of Concord. We should ensure annual rent increases are limited while creating incentives for landlords to make improvements. Rent should only increase as it correlates to the cost of living or operation.

Wood: I am for rent control and affordable housing. Every new housing structure built should help to fund affordable housing solutions to keep our community diverse and people sheltered in permanent housing. I am not a fan of encampments for homeless or moving them out. We need to have shelters and long term housing for those in need.

Johnson: Concord needs its own rent stabilization and just cause eviction legislation to promote housing stabilization, especially for essential workers. Had this been done before the pandemic, we would not be rushing to plan now, which is not good public policy. We need to pursue ways to finance building affordable housing

Obringer I support California’s recently enacted rent control and just cause eviction legislation. In response to the pandemic, I joined my Council colleagues in passing a rent increase/eviction moratorium. Our measure, enacted before state action, has been extended multiple times and has some of California’s most extensive rent payback provisions

Following the impasse of the City Council and Lennar to proceed with the development of the Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS) earlier this year, how should this project proceed in the future?

Johnson: Because the Building Trades and Lennar couldn’t reach a PLA agreement at the CNWS, Concord has a second chance to select a trustworthy developer. My public position to Council for years was that partnering with a known bad actor would negatively affect all other aspects of the p1.

Piper: As a self-funded candidate, it is unlikely I will abstain from votes of this magnitude, as my opponent did for CNWS. I am a 31 year resident of district 2, and support home builders that secure Concord Zoning approval to develop CNWS land. Post COVID-19 business partnerships will be crucial.

Kumar: I do not have a vision for the Concord NWS project because the City of Concord has spent more than $14 million dollars on that project and that has yet to come to fruition. What I can say is that $14 million could have been very well spent in revitalizing the Downtown area of Concord to make it more attractive to businesses or visitors. Or the City could have built a convection center to host events here in the City which in turn would attract more business to local businesses.

Obringer: I have led the push for a community-driven, sustainable, world-class project at the former CNWS. When the Council selects a new developer in 2021, I want to be there to ensure that the new development partner will support working men and women and invest in our community for the long-term.

Wood: First, City Council needs to comply with the US Navy to clean up the new chemicals found on the site and protect the near extinct wildlife known to be on the property. It is expected this could take two to three more years. I am an environmentalist and animal lover at heart. The solutions decided upon for this land need to promote clean industry, parks, hiking trails, dog parks, solutions for learning, and commerce that are eco-friendly.