Vallejo City Council candidates discuss issues at forum – Times-Herald

If elected, candidates for Vallejo City Council will eventually need to be successful in discussing important community issues with other public officials.

Eleven council candidates got a taste of that this week.

The African American Alliance, in partnership with the Vallejo branch of the NAACP and the Community Democratic Club, hosted the Forum of 22 candidates for the Vallejo City Council election at the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday evening . The event dedicated one hour each to Districts 2, 5 and 4.

Instead of answering questions from an audience of about 50 people, contestants were given a series of topics to discuss among themselves, with the help of two moderators. Topics ranged from P-measure to policing, from participatory budgeting to youth budgeting.

The first hour featured District 2 candidates Cassandra James, Don Jordan, Diosdado Matulac and Garrett Toles. For the first few minutes, the group discussed the P measure. Of the three groups, this one seemed to use the discussion model the best to its advantage.

Jordan said he had heard too much why Benicia could do something but Vallejo couldn’t.

“If you want Measure P to pass, it needs to be dedicated to the police oversight model and the streets,” Jordan said. “You would then get 65%. But they don’t do that. They said go into the general fund and you better have oversight. Ninety percent of the people in this room right now don’t trust the city government. »

Vallejo City Council District 2 candidates Cassandra James and Diosdado Matulac (right) speak at a community forum in Vallejo on Tuesday evening. (Thomas Gase—Times-Herald)

James then said: ‘I think that’s why we’re running for office, because we’re trying to change that. I support Measure P because I want to level the playing field for my children.

Toles said the big question is accountability.

“I think it’s a regressive tax sale increase for the most unfortunate members of the community,” Toles said. “This has more impact on Districts 2 and 6 than on Districts 1 or 4 which are better equipped financially for a measure of this type. We would benefit from $18 million a year as long as we know where it is really going. Accountability is what concerns me the most.

The group also discussed the police department and what they think should go into a police oversight model. While Toles said he thinks the role of council members is to “provide direction to city staff,” Jordan said the current role is to play politics and the council needs input. a structure with a more powerful mayor with more control over the city manager.

Toles said he wanted a police oversight model as long as it wasn’t led by an experienced police officer.

“I don’t want favoritism and I want an independent auditor and an independent inspector. It is necessary and I would even ask to be a liaison if elected,” Toles said. “I’m a hundred – not a thousand – percent behind this.”

Jordan agreed.

“With the police, it’s a cultural issue. Chef Williams was hired to change the culture,” Jordan said. “We need to have a come-to-Jesus moment with the rest of the department to change the culture. One thing that really touched me at the last city council meeting was when (Michelle Monterrosa) said “if we had police surveillance 10 years ago, my brother would still be alive”. It touched me. This is all happening because of the murder of George Floyd. It’s not happening because of the city of Vallejo, it’s happening because the nation asked for it. »

James disagreed, saying Vallejo had been asking for a police oversight model for years. Matulac said “interactions between the police and the community need to be better.”

“It won’t happen overnight,” Matulac said. “You pick it up piece by piece. There are good things happening in the city, but the locals’ view is that nothing is happening. We need to find a way to get this information to them.

Jordan added that “citizens want people to do better.”

“Look, everyone here at this table can do the job and is dedicated to making Vallejo better,” Jordan said. “But I’ll be that bulldog trying to make a change for the better.”

Toles said he “is an advocate for the community and has been in the trenches”, but added that he was tired of hearing about “Vallejo’s potential”, saying he wanted to instead “go forward”.

James said she was “deeply passionate but also invested in the community”. She added that she has worked in various communities and asked tough questions.

Matulac added that all the candidates have passion, but “where I stand above it was my ‘institutional knowledge’ that got him twice elected to the Planning Commission.

At 7 p.m., attention turned to District 5 and contestants Tara Beasley-Stansberry, Melissa Bowman, Tanya Hall and Dwight Monroe Jr.

Hall said she was a big fan of giving people incentives in order to keep them in Vallejo.

“We give incentives to these small businesses, but to do well, we need big businesses and organizations as well,” Hall said. “And we need them to stay. We do this by giving them something that makes them want to stay. Hall would later bring up inducements again when discussing the police: “We can give the police something, but then you have to give us something back.”

Beasley-Stansberry said a lack of leadership is costing city workers.

“What I hear a lot is people don’t quit their jobs, they quit the people they work for,” Stansberry said. “How are our leaders accountable? As a leader, it is our responsibility to make sure people don’t leave.

Vallejo City Council District 5 candidates Tanya Hall and Dwight Monroe Jr. participate in a community forum on Tuesday.  (Thomas Gase -- Times Herald)
Vallejo City Council District 5 candidates Tanya Hall and Dwight Monroe Jr. participate in a community forum on Tuesday. (Thomas Gase—Times-Herald)

Monroe said the Vallejo Police Department is doing a great job with Williams on the helm, saying the chief has “been more open in the community.” He pointed to the absence of police shootings in the past 27 months.

“I don’t want to denigrate the police because we’re going to need them at some point,” Monroe said. “But I think our leadership on the city council needs to be better. Sometimes I feel like people are talking at board meetings and the members are not listening.

Bowman insisted on safety, saying she wanted a “good walk” in Vallejo.

“We need our streets,” Bowman said. “Public transport should pick up people where they are and drop them off where they want to go.”

Monroe agreed.

“Whenever I go to other booming cities, I see public transportation taking people to parks and around big new buildings,” Monroe said. “We need to stop saying no to things in council and start trying to make the city bigger.”

Hall said she had deep roots in Vallejo and was “tenacious.”

“I’ve been a public servant for over four decades and I’ve seen the city before and how it is now,” Hall said. “I want to see him go back to where he was before.”

Monroe, describing herself as a candidate with “her boots on the ground,” didn’t mince words.

“You look to the future with me,” Monroe said. “I’m going to come here and work hard because I want people to feel like I’m always giving them 100 per cent and if they need me they can always reach out to me with open arms. “

Vallejo District 4 candidates Ravi Shankar (left) and Ruscal Cayangyang participate in a community forum Tuesday in Vallejo.  (Thomas Gase -- Times Herald)
Vallejo District 4 candidates Ravi Shankar (left) and Ruscal Cayangyang participate in a community forum Tuesday in Vallejo. (Thomas Gase—Times-Herald)

District 4 candidates – Ruscal Cayangyang, Ravi Shankar and Chris Platzer – closed the evening. They seemed to be the least prepared of the groups, especially on the topic of helping the youth in the community. Several times the answers went off topic, but the three candidates agreed to bring back some sort of youth commission.

Platzer said a younger voice was needed on the council, while Cayangyang suggested the possibility of a youth council member.

Cayangyang said he opposes Measure P, adding, “It’s hard to shop in Vallejo and we can’t drive Vallejo people out. We can’t afford that, especially the various businesses we have. Instead, we need to cut executive pay raises and reallocate funds to the police department. We have to make sure the money is spent perfectly.

Cayangyang would later add that he knows where the money is and how to get it, and he knows how to put things on the agenda.

Shankar was also against Measure P, saying, “No more new taxes. The pandemic has created enough hardship for people.

Cayangyang said, “We can’t wait any longer” about the police surveillance. “If we had police surveillance 10 or 15 years ago, we wouldn’t be in this problem now.”

Melvin B. Baillie