Candidates competing for the Dublin mayoral seat squared off in an online forum last Thursday, debating the finer points of civic governance and discussing the most pressing issues facing their community.
The hourlong mayoral forum saw Arun Goel and Melissa Hernandez debate a range of topics with particular focus being given to the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, social justice reform and housing in Dublin. The third mayoral candidate, political newcomer Regina Pangelinan, lost connection early in the Zoom session and was unable to rejoin due to the technical difficulties.
Presented by the Pleasanton Weekly in partnership with the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and Dublin/San Ramon Women's Club, the forum was broadcast live online (with a videorecording available afterward) and moderated by Weekly publisher Gina Channell and editor Jeremy Walsh.
The three-hour livestream event also featured a separate debate for the nine City Council candidates after the mayor portion.
Goel and Hernandez -- both sitting council members looking to elevate to the mayor's chair to succeed David Haubert -- agreed on a number of the issues facing the community while trying to set themselves apart on some of the possible solutions going forward.
Addressing the economic impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, for example, both candidates praised the council's decision to approve micro-loans as a way to help local businesses get over the initial economic blows the owners and employees have felt.
"I truly feel that the city of Dublin has been trying to do the best job that we possibly can," said Hernandez, who is wrapping up her first four-year term on the council but is seeking the mayor's seat instead of re-election to another regular council term. She ran for Alameda County Board of Supervisors District 1 in March but finished third in the primary.
Hernandez said she was particularly proud of "the micro-loan program that I am very proud to say I spearheaded." She added that she thought hair salons and barbershops should have been allowed to open sooner than they were, but acknowledged that "health and safety are our priority."
Goel concurred that some local businesses could have possibly opened sooner, but added that collaborating with local businesses is a prime way to stimulate economic recovery.
"As a business owner, I understand the challenges of businesses," said Goel, who is also at the end of his first term on the City Council -- he previously ran for mayor from a safe council seat two years ago but lost to Haubert.
"(Businesses) need to be at the forefront of a lot of dialogue because us as policy makers can only make an inclination of what can solve the problem ... they are the ones on the ground actually having the impact," he added.
When asked about social justice reform in Dublin, neither candidate gave a hard answer to reallocating local police funds; however, both acknowledged that Dublin Police Services can always be improved.
"We always feel like we should have more room for improvement. That being said, we have recently created a task force to more or less have an open dialogue about our police force," Hernandez said, further adding that staffing police with a "medical clinician" could help with issues related to mental health and police interactions.
Goel said that the city should be open to looking at its budget and considering if funds could be better allocated in different areas such as homeless services.
Touching on another crisis affecting the region, tackling the housing and more specifically California's upcoming regional housing needs allocation (RHNA) obligations cycle was another top priority for candidates, with both agreeing that more needed to be done to provide affordable housing options in Dublin.
Goel also decried the state's revocation of local control over certain housing issues, and highlighted his own efforts to lobby state officials to preserve local powers.
"At a time where we are seeing a lot of Senate bills and Assembly bills taking away local control, distributing the way our due process as a local government should happen," Goel said. "We have done very well as a city to deliver housing; however, we have failed on the lower end of the spectrum delivering to affordable housing requirements."
Hernandez highlighted some recent accomplishments achieved by the council in providing housing, but also acknowledged that more could be done.
"I understand that none of the surrounding cities have fulfilled their RHNA numbers, especially the low-income RHNA number, but we are trying. It's important for us to look at the projects one at a time," Hernandez said. "We have had some historic projects though (such as Emerald Vista and Valor Crossing) ... We are very proud of the affordable housing that we have. Can we do better? Absolutely."
Other topics discussed during Thursday's forum included the creation of a true downtown for Dublin, transportation and infrastructure projects, the At Dublin proposal, navigating the city's east-west divide, how candidates would lead a new council and candidates' thoughts on the city's partnership with local schools.
A full recording of Thursday's forum is available online here.
The Dublin mayoral election is on Nov. 3, with the three candidates on the ballot seeking to succeed outgoing Mayor Haubert, who is competing in the runoff election for Alameda County supervisor this fall.
While Pangelinan was unable to reconnect and participate in the mayoral forum itself after her unspecified technical difficulties disconnected her one minute into her opening statement, she did send a brief comment to the Weekly afterward about her priorities for Dublin.
"I’m 47 years young, very grassroots and believer in Humanitarianism -- a small business owner, retired and served most of my adult professional career serving in government; federal government; U.S. military; Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security. Public servant and patriot to our glorious country," she told the Weekly.
"I’m passionate about our mission to make Dublin the best city to live in. I’m dedicated to help our residents in any which way I can, especially with the aftermath of COVID-19 recovery. I go above and beyond my scope of duties; I’m a results type of person. I have no political affiliation nor do I have any special interest whatsoever," she added.