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April 3, 2018 > Editorial: Spring - bird songs or bee stings?

Editorial: Spring - bird songs or bee stings?

Fremont is entering a new era? district elections. As with most changes, there are positive and negative aspects to this transformation. However, it was probably inevitable that district representation would come to the city of Fremont. Although less populous cities have been able to retain a basic General Law status and at-large elections within a one-size fits all approach, larger cities have typically chosen district representation and instituted charters. These are political changes that allow municipal governments to tailor operations to suit their specific needs. Even though this structural change of Fremont is of great importance, much of the debate will take place when primary elections are complete in June.

Fremont has passed the quarter million resident mark and that number will soon escalate as large housing projects are completed and occupied. Pressure for more housing has prompted state mandates that can stifle the particular needs of municipalities. By the same token, district elections allow distinctive representation for each section of a city. Does this separate and divide or simply facilitate less expensive and more representative government. Currently Fremont?s council, although elected (with one appointee) by the at-large electorate, does not represent an even geographic distribution. Council gerrymandering of district formation in order to allow incumbents to reside in different districts and avoid facing head-to-head competition is telling. Whether districts will lead to better representation or an additional layer of bickering and geographic obstruction is unknown, but we will find out at the end of this year.

As the cost of elections escalates, the quest for a council seat becomes more financially attainable when candidates for office can focus their appeals to a smaller audience; that can be a plus factor. The effect of more councilmembers is also an unknown factor at this time. Will council meetings drone on until the midnight hour as each representative decides to weigh in with lengthy discourse or will the mayor moderate this tendency through persuasion or time limits? Since Mayor Mei has been able to contain excessive public comment by enforcing time limits, it may be appropriate to evaluate the possibility of doing the same for her colleagues on the council.

We are at the beginning of this electoral season and so far, appeals and oratory has been largely limited to councilmember speeches to convince those who watch council meetings of their sincerity, focus and serious attention to matters before them. As the June 5, 2018 primary election nears, few county positions are up for grabs; many will not even appear on the ballot due to lack of contestants to incumbents. The race for Alameda County Assessor, however, will be one to watch as local candidates John Weed and Phong La challenge others imbedded within the county bureaucracy. There is even a rare contest for a judgeship on the ballot. A few hotspots may erupt in the meantime including an effort to recall School Board members in Newark and controversy at Fremont Unified School District. It remains to be seen whether these issues will percolate or erupt.

With a slim June ballot, most political fireworks will likely wait for post-summer months prior to the General Election in November. It should be an interesting year with U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate elections serving as a national referendum on the Trump administration, state contests and significant challenges in local contests. Will June elections be a harbinger of things to come or simply the calm before the storm?

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