On April 26, the Danville Express hosted a community forum and debate for Contra Costa County District 2 supervisor candidates. The debate, which featured two of three candidates for the Board of Supervisors, highlighted the differences between Candace Andersen and Tomi Van de Brooke.
Van de Brooke, president of the Contra Costa Community College Governing Board, and Danville Mayor Andersen were put into the spotlight and addressed topics such as the county budget, unfunded liability in county pensions and the urban growth boundary.
Candidate Sean White wasn't able to attend due to a prior teaching engagement although he provided his written statement. In it, White stated that the theme of his campaign is to discourage candidates from taking donations and encouraging voters to look at where candidates' money is coming from when they vote.
"I believe that if our founding fathers were here today, they would be horrified to see the influence that money has on political campaigns. If they could have foreseen the freedom of speech inherent in the Internet, they would have left money out of politics completely," White wrote.
During one of her statements, Andersen emphasized that experience matters. Because she has served on city councils is a known entity, voters know her personality and how she serves as a public official.
"When you've lived in the public eye for 21 years...people know who you are. People can trust you to make good decisions or not. And that's how I truly believe how people can know who to vote for, who is the most effective leader," Andersen said.
Van de Brooke also has considerable experience under her belt, having served on many boards and worked at various businesses. She said that, in addition to a good job, a high quality of life is significant to voters.
"As your county supervisor, I will support job growth, work to create a diverse employment base, ensure efficient use of tax payers dollars and look out for a healthy environment and a high quality of life for all of those who live here," she said.
After their opening statements, both candidates were asked five questions from the Express staff as well as several questions from the audience. They were each given 90 seconds to respond as well as time for a rebuttal.
Express Question 1: Both of you have stated that the county needs to re-prioritize funding in its budget, how will you approach this?
Both candidates shared the concern that local law enforcement is underfunded and that general funds must be used to employ public safety officers. However, Andersen was confident that the county will be able to fund additional sheriffs and district attorneys and was more concerned about economic development.
Van de Brooke said, "One of the re-prioritizing I would do is ensure that we don't continue to blend and mingle (local and state-mandated service) buckets. We need to preserve our local government funding for police, fire and infrastructure and we need to ensure that the state is funding the programs it's asking us to do on its behalf."
"Where we really need to focus our efforts is on economic development. We need to build up once again our tax base. We need to help our property tax level increase as we work to help businesses grow. We need to increase sales tax as well," Andersen said. "As we move in that direction, we will be able to have additional revenue that we can move over to public safety and ensure that we do provide the very services that our communities demand."
Express Question 3: Two controversies have come to the surface during this campaign. Tomi, approximately $14,000 of your campaign contributions have come from labor unions. Candace, your personal beliefs and religious affiliations are well known and Tomi has brought up that you could be against funding for Planned Parenthood. How will each of you overcome the perceived bias these situations are bound to initiate?
Van de Brooke said that she is not taking any money from the county employee unions and Andersen said that despite her religious affiliations, she respects differing opinions and beliefs.
Andersen was adamant that a woman's right to choose is well entrenched in California and is not a county issue. Her opponent pointed to an article which showed that Orange County had defunded its Planned Parenthood. She said that a woman's right to choose needs to be protected.
Express Question 4: Measure W was soundly defeated in 2010 by San Ramon voters who did not want to extend the urban growth boundary into the Tassajara Valley. How would you balance the wishes of voters to maintain rural land with the need for additional revenue and job creation from new homes and projects?
Both candidates supported the voter approved urban limit line and urban growth boundaries. They also agreed that new development is important and when the time comes to extend into the Tassajara Valley, it should be the city's decision, not the county's decision.
The audience was additionally curious about development in the Tassajara Valley, with one attendee submitting the following question:
Audience Question 3: The new supervisior will undoubtedly have to address the proposed Creekside Cemetery and the New Farm project that has 187 houses planned. Both of these will be in the Tassajara Valley. Even though they are in District 3 now, where do you stand on this?
"A cemetery in open space can work if it's done appropriately. It's certainly worth looking at," Andersen said.
Van de Brooke said she is not inclined to take the open space east of San Ramon and turn it into a cemetery.
"As it's proposed today, it appears to be an urban development beyond the urban limit line," she said.
Audience Question 1: Chevron, the largest employer in the county and Richmond are engaged in litigation over taxes on a refinery, some of which are county taxes. Chevron contends they already pay more than a fair share and a refund is due them. Richmond and the courts disagree and the courts added a penalty. Would you urge Chevron to give up on the litigation and pay its taxes or would you urge Richmond to back off?
While Andersen said she would urge Chevron and Richmond to work it out in mediation, Van de Brooke said that Chevron simply needs to pay its fair share.
"I know we we're looking at having to return millions of dollars over several years from the Community College District, education and other areas, to refund money to Chevron at a time when we could not afford to do that," Van de Brooke said. "So they need to pay their fair share, we need to figure out what that is and it needs to be done."
To hear the complete debate, visit the Express Youtube page. The community forum and debate is part of the Express's mission to "to educate, inform and engage the community," according to Express publisher Gina Channell-Allen.
Contra Costa TV will broadcast also the debate on Thursday, May 3 at 8 p.m., Tuesday, May 15 at 9 p.m., Wednesday, May 16 at 10 a.m. and Thursday, May 31 at 8 p.m. In the meantime, read our profiles on Tomi Van de Brooke, Candace Andersen and Sean White.