2016 Emeryville City Council Candidate Questionnaire: Ally Medina
This 2016 Emeryville City Council election will see six candidates vying for three available seats in what could see a shift in city priorities. The E’ville Eye distributed twenty questions covering a gamut of relevant topics in our city to each candidate. Our hope is to help our readers better understand the priorities of each candidate and see where they align with your own. Candidate Questionnaires will be published daily over the next week in the order they will appear on the ballot which is determined randomly by our Secretary of State (John Van Geffen, Louise Engel, Christian Patz, Brynnda Collins, Ally Medina & John Bauters). Candidates have been instructed to provide answers no longer than 250 words.
Next up in our questionnaire is recently appointed Parks & Recreation Committee member Ally Medina. Medina may be a newcomer to the Emeryville political scene, but has been immersed in politics for some time as a former Executive Director of the San Francisco Democratic Party and current SEIU organizer. Amongst Medina’s priorities for the city is improving bikeability and revitalization along San Pablo Avenue. “It is a massive project that I believe my experience in community outreach and transportation policy would help make successful.”
Ally Medina: Healthcare Worker Organizer
1). Please state your party affiliation (i.e. Democratic, Green Party, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, etc.) and please list any campaign donations you’ve received or have been pledged by PACs.
Democratic Party / Declined to state PAC donations
2). How long have you lived in Emeryville, what has your involvement been with the city thus far and what compelled you to run for council?
I have lived in Emeryville for nearly 4 years. I serve on the Parks and Recreation Committee, and would like to see an increased focus on green spaces for families and residents to enjoy. I believe that my background in transportation policy and community outreach will effectively serve a small community with a significant renter population. I’d like to encourage renters to become more involved and help them stay in Emeryville, as well as advocate for safe transportation options for bicyclists and pedestrians in our increasingly dense city.
3). What is your professional background and explain how this is applicable to local government.
I am currently a Regional Political Organizer for SEIU-UHW. I focus on issues that affect the healthcare workers in our union and seek to help make their voices heard on matters in the Bay Area and statewide. Most recently, I served as the Executive Director of the San Francisco Democratic Party where I managed a budget of over a half million annually and reduced overhead costs while increasing our fundraising so that we could augment our voter registration and outreach capacity by 40%. My background in fiscal oversight, community outreach and program management will help me engage our council in reaching out to citizens and deliver services in the most effective manner possible. I have also served as a consultant for the California Bicycle Coalition and feel strongly that we could do better to provide more safe transit options on our streets.
4). List your top-5 priorities in order, explain why and list one specific thing you intend to accomplish in your four year term should you be elected.
- Increase parks and open space
- Improve bike and pedestrian transit options
- Build more affordable housing
- Pass fair work week protections
- Ensure Emeryville meets the goals of the General Plan
I specifically would like to get Measure BB funding to put contiguous protected bike lanes and crosswalk improvements on San Pablo. With two schools directly across from each other, the current speed of traffic is unsafe. We could make it easier for residents to travel in and out of Emeryville without having to use a car and increase foot traffic to small businesses if we invested in improving bike and pedestrian mobility on that road. San Pablo revitalization could improve the safety, walkability and economic success of small businesses in our city. It is a massive project that I believe my experience in community outreach and transportation policy would help make successful.
5). You hear people’s desires for a “vibrant community” thrown out a lot in political discussions. What does a vibrant community mean to you?
Well, to me it means that you read my website! I used that phrase because Emeryville is very dynamic we have a growing population and just went through a redevelopment period that dramatically changed our city. That’s part of what makes living here exciting it is changing quickly but there is limited space, so the amount of new building is naturally going to slow down. I feel that this is a great time to get more involved in local politics and make sure that this burst of growth is done in the best possible way for residents.
6). Will you gather community input outside of the dais and if so, how (social media, your own blog, guest posts on The E’ville Eye)? Would you be supportive of a neighborhood council to better understand the perspectives of the different neighborhoods and demographics of our city that don’t always have time to attend council meetings?
Yes, I would in particular work to encourage renters or other underrepresented resident groups to have input on city matters. I will do so by attending community meetings, making time to meet with concerned residents, and actively recruiting residents to attend meetings and sit on committees. I believe neighborhood councils are a great way to encourage people to get personally involved in issues and decisions made at the city level.
7). What do you think the most important outcome of the Sherwin Williams project is for our city (i.e., the inclusion of ownership housing, maximizing the percentage of “affordable” units, Parking & Traffic Mitigation, etc.)?
It is imperative that projects include community input and go through a fully transparent public process. Each of those project elements will benefit different segments of our population and have undergone vigorous public discussion. I don’t think that one benefit necessarily takes precedence, but rather how the project will address the varied needs of the community is most important.
8). The ECCL finally opened its doors after being in the works for more than a decade. Would you (theoretically) have any reservations sending your children to a K-12 school? Will you fight to retain Anna Yates Elementary as part of the EUSD?
I think the ECCL is a really unique opportunity for the community to combine education with extracurricular programs for students, as well as offering services that are valuable to parents of children in the school and other community members. To afford living in the Bay Area, the majority of parents both have to work full-time, and the ECCL will allow them to drop their children off at the same school, regardless of age/grade, and are given the opportunity for their kids to be able to participate in afterschool programs, recreation and other activities at the same site. This sounds ideal for working parents who may not be able to leave work early to shuttle their kids between different activities or rely on paying a nanny or babysitter to play that role. I think anything we can do to make it easier for parents to be able to raise their families in Emeryville will increase our retention rates, increase homeownership and deepen families’ ties to this community. As for Annie Yates, I’m not a candidate for school board so that wouldn’t be my jurisdiction if elected.
9). Can you reference any conversations you’ve had with the owners of any non-publicly subsidized businesses in our city and do you get the sense that they’re thriving or struggling and what their sentiment toward operating in our city is?
I have watched the debates over the minimum wage and fair work week with interest, and have heard strong concerns from small businesses. I look forward to the one year report on the minimum wage so that we as a city can make fact-based policy decisions on how to best support our small businesses.
10). Is retaining and in fact growing our base of small businesses important to you and what will you commit to doing to help small businesses thrive in our city if elected?
Yes, I commit to increasing patronage of small business by using proven policy methods. In New York, Los Angeles and Fort Worth, small businesses have seen significant gains after the implementation of improved bike lanes and parking. I also believe that continuing a proliferation of chain stores is the surest way to starve small business. Prioritizing community character and the preservation of existing small business is necessary when considering future development, and will factor heavily into my decision-making.
11). Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a $15 minimum wage into state law that includes gradual increases and “off-ramps” in the event of economic consequences. If the impacts of our local MWO are proven to have the negative impacts that were predicted by business, would you be willing to “pause” ours and defer to the state model? Do you see the advantage of a regional approach to passing economic policies?
I believe the Department of Labor has some expertise on this subject matter and find this section to be helpful: https://www.dol.gov/featured/minimum-wage/mythbuster
The minimum wage has been increased 22 times nationwide, at no point has that triggered an economic downturn. It’s also shown to increase employee retention, which saves small businesses additional hiring and training costs. 60% of small business owners nationwide support increasing the minimum wage, which they believe helps to stimulate the local economy. Unless completely new data comes out about the effect of the minimum wage, no.
Yes, I do see the benefits of a regional approach since our cost of living here is significantly higher than in other areas of the state.
12). Our current council is looking to implement a scheduling & employment ordinance being referred to as “Fair Work Week”. Do you support this ordinance? Do you foresee any unintended consequences that could come from this?
Yes. I think unintended consequences can be prevented by proper outreach to the business community to make sure the ordinance is written in a thoughtful manner that takes their interests into account.
13). Do you feel being the “model city” for new legislation by labor groups puts our businesses at a competitive disadvantage? Do you have any concerns that businesses will choose neighboring cities instead of settling in Emeryville or of our city developing the stigma of being labeled “Anti-Business”?
I believe that the number of large and small businesses in Emeryville show that we are business friendly and that if we address the issues of affordability, safer and more bike/pedestrian friendly streets, we will help small businesses to thrive and encourage new businesses to open up shop.
I do not stay up at night worrying about Ikea and Target being at a competitive disadvantage, nor do I think our tax system and the large number of businesses in residence here lend any credence to the concept of Emeryville being ‘anti-business’.
14). I think a lot of us would like some form of “Rent Control” but achieving this in actuality is complicated and limited. How can we maintain affordability in our city and protect existing residents from getting priced out?
I believe strong tenant protection laws will help keep residents here, in addition to a focus on negotiating more affordable units in any future developments.
15). Which intersections do you think deserve the most attention in regards to Traffic Mitigation and Bike/Ped safety?
I believe every intersection on San Pablo is an issue, and there have been 2 serious accidents on the Bay Trail crossing on Powell that draws attention to the need for increased safety precautions there.
16). Emeryville is consistently listed as one of the statistically most violent cities in the Bay Area and crime in our city is on the rise (Much of this crime is petty theft attributed to our shopping centers and auto burglaries because of this and our base of hotels). In terms of public safety, what resources or legislation will you be supportive of to allow the EPD to do their best job keeping our residents safe?
I believe the hiring of additional officers to increase the EPD’s ability to engage in community policing reflects a great use of our public resources and I am eager to see the outcome of that investment.
17). Homelessness is a regional and very complex issue. Encampments continue to pit neighbors against the unhoused and create quality of life issues for residents. We know “kicking them out” doesn’t solve anything … but neither does the status quo. What solutions are you most supportive of and can you commit to working regionally with neighboring cities to help alleviate this humanitarian crisis?
I can commit to working regionally because this is an issue that transcends city boundaries. I believe in taking a fact based policy approach that respects the dignity of all parties. For instance, I support public toilet facilities to resolve hygiene issues as long as they are well-maintained.
In terms of more long-term solutions, Project Homeless Connect in San Francisco is useful in that it gives the homeless population access to services that are critically needed and can help point people in the right direction to get the help they need. But in order to move toward a solution to ending the homelessness cycle, there needs to be stronger coordination between government agencies and service providers so that when people run into obstacles (whether those are housing, health job-related or otherwise), they don’t fall back into the cycle. Mental health services are crucial and better coordination between mental health services and programs designed to help people get back on their feet through supportive housing and job assistance, needs to be a priority.
18). We’ve often advocated for a “resident first” approach to policymaking meaning resident considerations should come before outside special interest groups (such as Oakland-based labor organizations) or at least negative impacts on residents should be divulged and communicated. Do you agree or disagree with this and why?
In a city with massive corporations, I am surprised to see that worker’s organizations is what comes up as an example of a ‘special interest group’. Of course I believe negative impacts on residents should be communicated, I just can’t think of an example where that hasn’t happened. While large corporations provide benefit to Emeryville in terms of tax revenue and job creation, they come with their own set of special interests. Protecting workers’ rights is vital to ensuring large companies create safe work environments and provide fair wages for employees to be able to live in the Bay Area and raise their families. I believe that labor organizations operating within Emeryville are communicative with the council and local agencies so that their work does not come into conflict with the needs and rights of our residents.
19). Civic participation and community spirit in Emeryville is sadly lacking. Do you have any ideas to further community building in our town? Do you think resident retention and ownership opportunities are important components to this equation?
Yes, I’ve spent 10 years working on community outreach and advocacy campaigns. The trick is to do the hard stuff going door to door and talking to as many people as possible to invite them to meetings that address their interests. I believe those things are vital, and that increasing involvement in the community is an important way to improve retention. The way cities are structured has social impact; increasing gathering spaces in local parks and walkability of our neighborhoods will do a lot to foster community interaction.
20). A huge focus of our site is civic transparency and oversight. We’re in a unique position to facilitate communication with our residents as Emeryville’s largest media outlet with an estimated quarter of the population visiting our site regularly (and growing every year). Can we get your guarantee that you’ll be responsive to our inquiries even in the event we disagree on something?
Absolutely, I look forward to continuing the conversation about the concerns and needs of all of Emeryville’s residents.