Meet Your City Council Candidates: Teacher & Artist Scott Donahue
We’ve covered candidates John Bauters & Dianne Martinez, next up is longtime resident and creator of some of our areas most distinct public art pieces, Scott Donahue. Scott’s passion and commitment to our town cannot be matched. A co-founder of the Artist Co-Op where he lives with his wife Secret News Editor Tracy Schroth, Scott also helped found the R.U.L.E. citizen advocacy group. An avid biker himself, he’s been a longtime proponent of bikeability in our town through his involvement with Emeryville’s BPAC.
Scott would bring a unique and needed skill set to the council: Creativity. Scott’s approach to problem-solving draws from this creative background as well as his extensive history of our town and he does it with a calmness about him that reflects his gentle demeanor. Nearly a lifetime in E’ville, Scott, along with his wife & brother Brian Donahue may be the closest thing that Emeryville has to a “royal family” (or at least E’ville’s version of Camelot?). Scott is running alongside fellow R.U.L.E. endorsed candidate Dianne Martinez as a “slate“.
Additional resources about Scott can be found at the bottom of the questionnaire including his Green Party Questionnaire, links to his personal site and a gateway to make a contribution to his campaign.
We reached out to our four City Council candidates and they all graciously agreed to an exclusive interview with The E’ville Eye. We established 15 questions that we hope will help you better understand who they are, what they stand for, what their priorities are, and help you make the best decision for your family and our city. All Candidates provided their questionnaire’s at the same time.
1). So where are you from originally and what brought you to Emeryville?
I’m originally from the East Coast. I rode my bicycle from New Jersey to San Francisco when I was 16. I remember the refreshing blast of cool air when I hit Niles Canyon outside of what is now Fremont, after the intense heat of the Central Valley. What I loved then is what I love now – the wonderful mix of city, bay front, and rolling hills.
Ten years after graduating from art school in Philadelphia and working in Los Angeles, I came back to the Bay Area in search of a studio space. Emeryville was inexpensive, centrally located, and had an abundance of empty warehouse space. That was 1977, and I have been living and working in what is now the Emeryville Artists Cooperative on 45th Street ever since – a total of 37 years.
2). What compelled you to run for Emeryville City Council? Can you refer us to a specific moment that helped reaffirm your commitment?
I have always been active in the community, as a co-founder of the Emeryville Artists’ Cooperative, and long-time member of the City’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC). As a BPAC member, I helped establish the Emeryville Greenway and shape the city’s award-winning regional bike boulevard system. I decided to run for City Council because I would be in an even better position to improve bike and pedestrian safety and access. I am a strong supporter of the proposed bike and pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks to the Bay Street Mall, and safely connecting pedestrians and cyclists from the Watergate community to the rest of Emeryville.
I am also committed to improving public transit, including preserving and expanding the Emery Go-Round to serve the city’s growing number of residents.
Finally, as a City Council member, I will work to maintain public safety, and create more affordable housing, better schools, and sustainable development.
3). Being an effective Councilmember can require upwards of 20 hours per week of your personal time. How do you intend to balance this with your career, family-life and do you think the relatively low-wages that Councilmembers receive are a barrier to attracting more qualified candidates?
I am an artist. I have flexible hours. My child has graduated from college and is living on her own. Both my wife and I have stable income. It is the perfect time for me to devote more time to improving my community.
Yes, the relatively low stipend paid to City Council Members, compared to neighboring cities, has been an issue and may deter some qualified people from running. I think it acts as a deterrent to some prospective candidates and should be re-evaluated.
4). How do you intend to finance your campaign and will you be employing a campaign manager? Are there any major contributors that you can disclose ($1000+)? What Political party are you aligned with?
My campaign so far has been financed with donations from friends, relatives, and city voters and businesses. My running mate, Dianne Martinez, and I have hired Kathleen Russell Consulting as our campaign manager.
Donations to my campaign include:
$2,000 – Parker Barnum of Berkeley, CA, a college friend.
$1,500 – Jeremy Hamm, former Emeryville resident and planning commissioner.
$1,000 – William Reuter and Ruth Major, residents of Watergate in Emeryville.
I am a registered Democrat.
5). Community engagement in Emeryville has historically been abysmal. Any ideas on how we can further engage Emeryville residents and even increase civic participation and voter turnout?
I think the way to improve community engagement is to improve community – by building public amenities, like parks, affordable, family friendly housing, cultural centers and other places where people can gather and interact.Community events, like the recent Love Our Neighborhood day, are also important.
6). One of the major agendas that the city has been trying to solve is getting families to root in Emeryville by incentivizing developers to include family-friendly housing in new projects (Generally, units larger than 2 bedroom). Do you think this is important to the maturation of our city and the right approach?
I feel very strongly that affordable, family friendly housing is integral to any community, and the city needs to do more to ensure that Emeryville provides such housing. For example, any new developments in town, such as the Sherwin-Williams development, should be required to provide an adequate percentage of affordable housing for families. Also, Emeryville should explore other models for affordable housing, such as the Emeryville Artists’ Cooperative, where I have lived for the past 37 years.
7). Many existing Emeryville residents, lower AND middle-incomes, are getting pushed out by rising rent costs with absolutely no course of retribution. How can we help solve this? Is pursuing any rent-stabilization measures or alternatives even viable?
This is a sad reality for our city. Two of my personal friends are moving to Oregon because they can longer afford the exorbitant rents at the Icon Building, where they now live. Some Anna Yates Elementary School students whose families were forced to move due to rising rents now commute from Richmond. I think we need to develop rent stabilization for seniors, families, and others who really need it. As of Jan. 1, developers will be required to pay a fee of $20,000 per market rate unit to go into a fund to pay for affordable housing in Emeryville.
8). Do you think we need to incentivize developers to build more for-sale, affordable units while discouraging all-rental units? If so, how can we do this?
I think we should require developers to include a certain percentage of affordable and for-sale housing in any residential development. In fact, California law requires that any developer seeking to build more units than the zoning allows (a “density bonus”) is required to provide 20 percent affordable housing. More residents in Emeryville should be able to own their homes.
9). Traffic, Parking, Bike-ability & Public Transportation are becoming a greater issue in our city. Tell us one thing we can do to make the biggest impact on these.
I’ll tell you three ways we can have a significant impact on traffic, parking, bike-ability and pubic transportation:
- Parking needs to be managed in all parts of our city. Presently, much of the city’s on-street parking is free and has no time limit. This actually hurts local business because it reduces turnover. In addition, it provides no incentive for people to find alternate modes of transportation, thus increasing traffic and emissions.
- Safe bike routes and bike parking and storage will increase commerce and reduce traffic.
- Improved public transportation, like expanding the Emery Go-Round to include West Oakland BART, will further reduce auto trips to and from our city.
10). Homelessness is a regional issue and pushing them across our borders isn’t helping solve the problem. What should the city do and what approach should we take with “Camp CalTrans” (The homeless camp next to Target)?
With our limited space and resources, Emeryville needs to partner with the county and other local cities to address homelessness on a regional scale. Temporary installments such as “Camp CalTrans” are not long-term solutions, and often put the homeless at greater risk of health and safety hazards.
11). In regards to the ECCL, tell us one thing that could have been done better to make the project more beneficial to students, parents and the community. If you had school-age children, would you have any reservations about sending them to the ECCL?
ECCL should have created more space for students, programming, and services. As currently designed, I don’t think the space is adequate to accommodate the expected number of students, recreational programming, and the myriad of services ECCL is expected to provide.
If I had a school-age child, I would have reservations about sending them to 7th through 12th grades, as I think the quality of the education in the higher grades is still lacking.
12). We’ve observed how creating Pet-friendly resources like dog-parks and trails can create interaction amongst residents and further engagement. Do you think this should be a higher priority in the city?
Absolutely. It is such an obvious need in Emeryville, where there are so many dog owners, including a large percentage of my neighbors at the Emeryville Artists Cooperative. Creating more pet-friendly amenities would improve the character and charm of our city and should be a priority.
13). The E’ville Eye is committed to promoting civic transparency and engagement through technology & social media including accessible city videos, Crime-statistics & the status of Public Works projects. Do you support this and will you commit to working to improve this for the media and our city?
For years, I have pushed for more transparency in our city government and our police department. I think transparency is necessary to create good government. Digital technology and social media play an important role in keeping citizens engaged and aware of what’s happening. Digital recordings of all meetings could and should be posted on the city website. If elected, I will work to ensure this happens.
14). One of the agendas we’ve been promoting on The E’ville Eye is getting a pilot Emery Go-Round route to West Oakland BART as we’ve found roughly 3/4 of ridership is commuting to/from SF and would offer time-savings of an estimated 30-45 minutes roundtrip. Will you advocate for this or do you think this is a bad idea?
Yes! I have been trying to convince the City Council to do this for the past 4 years.
15). Can you commit to accomplishing just one thing over the next four years that we can hold you to should you be elected?
Greater bike and pedestrian connectivity throughout our city.