The fall election season is shaping up to be an interesting one locally, particularly in Dublin where Dubliners United can be expected to mount a serious challenge to existing city policies.
Incumbent Councilman Arun Goel, who has a safe seat, already has announced he plans to challenge Mayor David Haubert, who has been elected mayor three times and will be seeking his fourth and final two-year term. For Goel, it's a perfect time to challenge him from a safe seat.
There will be one open seat on the council because appointed Councilwoman Janine Thalblum has pledged not to seek re-election. She was appointed in April to replace longtime Councilman Don Biddle after he passed away from cancer last winter.
Councilman Abe Gupta has announced his plans to seek re-election, and the leader of Dubliners United, Bobby Khullar, announced his candidacy for council recently.
This Saturday, Shawn Kumagai will formally open his campaign for council with a kickoff at Alamo Creek Park. He's a master chief petty officer in the Navy Reserve, the highest rank for an enlisted man. He is a design consultant for a Bay Area utility company as well as a founding member of the Lambda Democratic Club of Contra Costa County and secretary of the API Caucus of the California Democratic Party.
The press release announcing his candidacy noted that, if elected, he would be the first openly gay council member in Dublin. His kickoff will include remarks from Democrat activists including State Controller Betty Yee, El Cerrito Mayor Gabe Quinto and former Pleasanton Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio.
That makes three candidates for two seats on the council, with plenty of time for others to enter the race before filing closes next month.
Khullar set up this council run by leading the recall campaigns against Biddle (who was termed out in November), Gupta and school trustee Dan Cunningham. Since the petitions were not submitted to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office until early July and that office has 30 days to verify the signatures, it's possible that the deadline for the November ballot will pass before any action can be taken.
The recalls of Gupta and Biddle obviously are moot, but Cunningham will have two years remaining on his term in November. It would be sadly ironic if the signature verifications take enough time that the recall vote cannot make the November ballot. That would require the school district to foot the bill for a special election to decide the recall question as well as select a replacement if Cunningham is recalled.
The seats of trustees Megan Rouse and Dan Cherrier are already on the November ballot.
Much of the angst driving the unhappiness and frustration that Dubliners United tapped into stems from overcrowded schools and then is focused on the City Council as it continues to implement plans for East Dublin that were approved more than a decade ago. That's why the council settled the suit filed by developer UDR after the council rejected its plans for its 220-unit Ashton development next to the East Dublin BART station.
UDR had invested more than $1 million to maintain the original development agreement and then was stunned when the council rejected the project. The firm filed the lawsuit shortly thereafter, and the parties reached a settlement that requires the city to approve the 220-unit project with a five-year development agreement. In exchange, the city will receive $600,000 in a community benefit fee that will go to Don Biddle Community Park.
As he announced his candidacy for council, Khullar resigned as the head of the recall movement. Gupta criticizes Khullar for using the recall to organize a group of supporters for his November run. It took a long time from the December recall announcement, after Dublin Citizens became a formal political action group, for the process to unwind. The group stretched out gathering signatures over months, so any election would be November or later.
So, stay tuned this fall -- it promises to be a hot election in Dublin. That will be unusual in a city that generally has followed a consistent policy path since it incorporated in 1981.