Livermore voters will be selecting two new City Council members and a new mayor come Nov. 8. Our recommendations for the next mayor is John Marchand and for the two open council seats, Evan Branning and Mel Chiong.
The new council members will tackle a number of crucial projects and challenges over the course of their terms, including moving the downtown revitalization plans forward, meeting the city's new regional housing need allotment, strengthening the wine industry, combatting homelessness, maintaining fiscal sustainability and so many more.
With so many critical plans in store for the city of Livermore, our endorsement decisions came down to two major factors: knowledge and experience.
We believe former mayor John Marchand has the in-depth knowledge and background to take the reins once again and lead the city of Livermore.
Previously serving for eight years as the city's mayor and several years on the council before that, Marchand has a proven track record of effective leadership and successfully bringing projects to fruition.
His professional background as a water chemist and his previous experience serving on the Zone 7 Water Agency Board of Directors will also lend itself well to the current need to ensure water supply efficiency and sustainability in Livermore, particularly with more housing on the horizon.
While we believe that the city of Livermore could benefit from fresh ideas and perspectives at the helm of the City Council, Marchand's opponent -- Realtor and former city police officer Mony Nop -- has not proven himself prepared to take on the role as his grasp of key city issues is not quite as strong.
Nop also has not specified feasible plans or solutions for several of the most pressing issues facing the city, including the Eden Housing development planned for downtown. He is advocating the project be moved to another location but has not identified specific other locations to place the 130-unit affordable housing complex and public park.
This is Nop's second run for mayor, as he competed against current Mayor Bob Woerner in the 2020 election. At that time, we encouraged Nop to get direct city governance experience by serving on a city committee or commission, but it does not seem that he took the advice. His community involvement and leadership background in the real estate industry and nonprofit world are notable, but he has not shown the knowledge of public governance that we would like to see.
District 1 City Council candidate Evan Branning would bring a renewed vitality to the dais. He's demonstrated a strong understanding of city governance and the issues currently facing Livermore. He's also shown a level of passion and vigor for moving the city forward that is refreshing to see.
As a city planning commissioner, Branning has the background in understanding the city's decision-making process for considering new development, which will be key for the ongoing revitalization of downtown as well as forthcoming projects such as the Isabel Neighborhood Specific Plan.
Carol Wahrer's love for Livermore as a community is evident; however, she has not shown a strong understanding of city governance. Like Nop, she has also advocated to move the Eden Housing project to a different location without identifying specifically where to move it.
However, she has expressed that regardless of its location, her main concern is making sure the project benefits the community and that Livermore residents are prioritized for the low-income housing, which is a notable stance that indicates her willingness to be a team player and consider the overall bigger picture regarding issues that she may not agree with.
We would like to see Wahrer join a city commission or committee and return as a council candidate in the future.
Mel Chiong has earned our endorsement to represent District 2 on the City Council. As a member of the General Plan Advisory Committee, she's already gaining firsthand knowledge and providing input on the city's goals and priorities over the next 10 to 20 years related to housing, transportation, land use, jobs, open space preservation and more.
Additionally, as a small business owner, Chiong can help the city identify and execute effective ways to further engage local businesses, which City Manager Marianna Marysheva identified as a current goal of the city in a recent interview. As a community organizer, Chiong also has the experience uniting a group of people to achieve a common goal. Chiong's community involvement also demonstrates her ability to work with others as a team with different ideas and opinions.
Lions Club president Ben Barrientos, who is facing off against Chiong for the District 2 seat, has missed several opportunities to hone in on his campaign priorities and provide specific strategies for how to achieve them. Not only did he not participate in our candidate forum, he was also unresponsive to our requests for statements to be read on his behalf at the forum and for consideration in our endorsement process.
On his campaign website, he makes reference to improvements he wants to make in various areas without indicating why he thinks they are needed. For example, he expresses a desire to "fix our poor functioning administration," but does not specify in what areas the city organization is lacking.
Additionally, like Nop and Wahrer, Barrientos' campaign website expresses a desire to relocate the Eden Housing development in favor of a public park being built on the project site instead but he also does not indicate where or how the project could be moved.
While there are many citywide issues to consider beyond downtown and Eden Housing in this upcoming election, it is important to recognize that three of the candidates vying for seats on the council are promoting an unrealistic goal in their campaigns with no feasible strategies to accomplish it, which is not a promising sign for how they would handle other contentious matters that arise during their terms should they be elected.
Vote John Marchand for mayor of Livermore, Evan Branning for City Council District 1 and Mel Chiong for City Council District 2.
Editor's note: The Livermore Vine editorial board reached its decisions based on the candidates' performances at the Weekly's forum, email interviews on endorsements, and our review of past reporting and research.