Candidates vying to become Livermore's next mayor, Mony Nop and John Marchand, discussed key issues and shared campaign goals during a public forum Thursday. Homelessness, downtown development and the wine industry were among major topics debated.
The two candidates appeared in person at the Robert Livermore Community Center to participate in the event which was hosted by LivermoreVine.com and the Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Livermore Vine publisher Gina Channell Wilcox and editor Cierra Bailey.
With current Mayor Bob Woerner not seeking re-election for health reasons, the mayor's seat is a wide open contest.
The first question of the night asked whether the candidates supported the location at the southeast corner of Railroad Avenue and L Street for the contentious Eden Housing project, to which the two candidates responded with opposing viewpoints.
Nop, a Realtor and former city police officer, said that he supports affordable housing but is not in favor of the location of the city-approved Eden Housing development that would bring 130 affordable units to the downtown area. Nop noted in his argument that the project does not account for adequate parking and said that he would like to consider alternative locations.
"You will be calling the city about how congested downtown traffic is," Nop said. "Affordable housing is a need, it's a must. It's great in theory, but you have to put it in practice. Parking is going to be an issue."
Marchand, who is the city's former mayor and was part of the project planning over a number of years, rebutted, "We looked at the plan, we worked with the community, we talked with thousands of people, we held public hearings."
When asked how he would go about getting the land back now that it has been sold to the developer Eden Housing, Inc., Nop said he didn't think the land had been sold as the city is still in litigation with community groups Move Eden Housing and Save Livermore Downtown.
However, Marchand confirmed in his rebuttal that the deal was complete.
"Escrow has closed, this is a done deal," he said. "Eminent domain is the only option to take the property back at this point."
With housing among top concerns, candidates were asked to address the estimated $20-30 million shortfall for needed infrastructure in Livermore. Marchand drew attention to an asset management fund that has managed to reserve $12 million for future and ongoing projects, he said. The fund is intended to keep up items such as buildings, traffic signals and roads.
"The revenue is increasing in the city, this is going into our reserve fund," Marchand said.
Nop stated that if elected as mayor he intends to create a local business committee composed of owners from small, medium and large shops.
"What I would like to do is ask members of the business community to come together and take a look at how we help the pockets of business owners," Nop said. "(They will) take a look at how we generate more revenue."
Candidates were then asked how they view the city's current plans and resources for the unhoused community, and how they would move forward.
"Homelessness is a huge issue," Nop said. His plan focuses on expanding city talks and adapting a more regional approach to serving the unhoused. Nop explained, "We can have a conversation with all mayors (of the Tri-Valley) to take a look at how we can make this become a shared responsibility versus just a Livermore issue."
Nop also clarified that his plan also includes affordable housing and wrap-around services.
In response to the same question, Marchand expressed approval of the city's current plans addressing homelessness.
"Our strategies are working here because we have taken the lead and worked with our unhoused," Marchand said. He noted that unhoused counts had gone up in the county yet continued to drop in Livermore.
Another main topic touched on during the candidate forum was the revitalization and maintenance of the city's wine region. As well as each candidate's stance on Measure P, which is the South Livermore Sewer Extension Project and amendments to the county's Measure D, which would allow for expanded wine country uses, among other changes.
"We are the oldest commercial wine region in California, whether or not we remain a wine region is dependent on if we can maintain the infrastructure needed to ensure this is a viable wine region," Marchand said. Marchand shared he is in support of Measures P and D to ensure the viability of medium winery operations.
Nop shared that he is also in support of both measures, he said lightheartedly, "This is the only time I'll agree with my opponent." Nop continued emphasizing how branding and tourism will bring more buzz to local wineries.
"We have so much potential," Nop said. "I'd like to look at the PR marketing stance and how we can improve that. It's always about marketing."
In closing statements each forum participant presented final thoughts and arguments as to why voters should select them as the next mayor of Livermore.
Marchand, whose slogan is "elect success," shared goals of improving quality of life, housing security and downtown development for the city of Livermore. In his final statement, Nop listed affordable housing, public safety and homelessness as his top campaign issues he would address as mayor.
A complete recording of the forum is available on Livermore Vine's YouTube channel.