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February 4, 2009 > Union City Commemorates 1959 Incorporation

Union City Commemorates 1959 Incorporation

By Simon Wong

A commemorative meeting to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the incorporation of Union City was held from 7 p.m. until 11.15 p.m. on January 26, 2009 at Barnard White Middle School on Whipple Road. What is now Room B-1 was the Board Room of the Decoto School District and the same room in which the City's forefathers held their first council meeting.

What was originally envisaged as a "re-enactment," as part of the City's 50th Anniversary Celebrations (UC50), was a celebration of civic pride, heritage and community. Far from being a sombre affair of remembrance, those present reflected on what has been achieved, gave thanks, relished the moment and look to the future with optimism. Speakers related anecdotes that amused and informed. The mixture of sobriety and merriment struck the right tone.

Mayor Mark Green, Vice-Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci and Councillor Jim Navarro attended. Councillors Richard Valle and Manny Fernandez were unable to attend.

City Staff were represented by City Manager Larry Cheeves, Deputy City Manager and Leisure Services Director Tony Acosta, City Clerk Renee Elliot, Economic & Community Development Director Joan Malloy, Public Works Director Mintze Cheng, Fire Chief Carlos Rodriguez, Police Chief Greg Stewart, Administrative Services Director Richard Digre and City Attorney Mike Riback.

Guests included Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steel, Heidi Kitayama (widow of Mayor Tom Kitayama, the City's first mayor), ex-Councillor Irv Williams (1964-72), former Mayor & Councillor Dick Oliver (1972-93), ex-Councillor Delaine Eastin (1980-86), former City Manager Karen Smith, recently-retired Economic & Community Development Director Mark Leonard, Al Rose (now aged 90 and the former volunteer Fire Chief of Old Alvarado), Mattie Rousseau (ex-Planning Commissioner and ex-Parks & Recreation Commissioner), Jaime Jamarillo (Executive Director of Centro de Servicios and former Planning Commissioner), Jess Martinez (currently a lector and usher at Our Lady of the Rosary Church and life-long community volunteer), Dick Folger (former owner of The Leader newspaper), Myrla and Ray Raymundo (Union City Historical Museum) and Bill Fournell (Mission Peak District Boy Scouts and Lions Club).

Representatives for State Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) and Congressman Pete Stark (D-California) presented Certificates of Commendation.

City Manager Cheeves narrated "Union City Incorporation History and the First Council Meeting" which described the history leading up to the City's incorporation and provided details of the first council meeting which was held at 2 p.m. on January 26, 1959. Forty residents and sixteen students attended. The Agenda included seventeen resolutions and ten ordinances. Business was completed in an hour and the meeting adjourned at 3 p.m.

Deputy City Manager Acosta reviewed "Fifty Years of Progress in Union City." Landmark events that shaped the City's fabric and sense of community were related by decade.

"In the late 1970's, something as basic as annexation enabled us to include land for later development," remarked Mayor Mark Green. "It has been the cornerstone of progress and set the tone for the City. That tone has lasted. Dick Oliver, Delaine Eastin and Jean Westguard were all instrumental in bringing upscale housing to Union City. The annexation process has brought Ponderosa homes, Windermere homes, Citation homes, [William] Lyon homes and Pioneer Elementary School.

"The same thing happened in the 1990's where Delaine Eastin Elementary School and Fire Station No.4 are located. Many don't realize that Seven Hills became part of Union City in 1962 and that Tamarack and Whipple joined in1978-79. Union City, as it is today, has evolved, one step at a time, building on what our predecessors have entrusted to us," he added.

"I was privileged to be elected twice to the City Council," said Delaine Eastin. "I ran on the slogan 'This is a Very Special Little City.' I believed it then. I believe it now.

"This community is spectacular because of the people who have done so much for us. We had our differences, yet we are friends. There is a sense in this town that we belong to each other. I am honored and privileged to have been part of this community for as long as I was. I served on the Planning Commission for four years. Doing so is a great way to learn about the community. I was proud to serve for six-and-a-half years on the City Council.

"The greatest honor of my life is to have Delaine Eastin Elementary School named. My friends, my neighbors, thank you all so much for your wonderful support over the years. I am the first constitutional officer to come out of Union City but I shan't be the last," concluded Ms Eastin.

The contents of the 25th Anniversary Time Capsule were examined. The guests were able to shed light on some of the contents and to answer questions about how the City celebrated in 1984.

Keys to the City were presented to UC50 Platinum Sponsors Abaxis and Fremont Bank and Helen Kennedy, Chair of the UC50 Committee, presented the audio-visual show "50 Ways to Love Union City."

This was the first time in many years that so many of the names, past and present, who have played such important roles in the City's and community's development, gathered in the same place.

Don't miss the crossword puzzle on page 26, which contains 28 words pertaining to Union City's past and present.

For more information about the year's celebrations, visit To submit suggestions for items that might be included in the 50th Anniversary Time Capsule, click on the "Contact Us" link at

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