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POLITICS: What Now, 24/680?


After one of the most contentious national political races since the Civil War and our share of shenanigans at the local level, constituents from Lamorinda to Alamo want to know: “We voted. Now where are we headed in 2013?”

The answer, of course, remains to be seen as newly elected council members take their seats and enjoy the traditional “honeymoon period” of handshakes and popping camera flashes. Ahead looms a political landscape littered with land mines and controversy. One person’s carefully planned transit village is another man’s carefully orchestrated government plot. Downtown development? Sure, but don’t forget the parking. Open space? Got to have it, but those mega-homes still seem to pop up where you least expect them. Vibrant downtowns? I want one, but does it have to blot out my view of the surrounding hills?

We won’t even get into full-fledged border skirmishes over local dog parks, religious compounds, the transfer of mayoral powers and attempts at traffic calming.

Moragans are wondering who’ll be tapped to serve as the town’s next mayor after a break in the traditional “rotating mayor” chain. Council member Dave Trotter was poised to accept the role when, for reasons much debated, then-Mayor Karen Mendonca threw the cards up in the air and tapped fellow council member Howard Harpham to serve as vice-mayor. Things got even more confusing when Harpham, who would have rotated into the mayoral slot, chose not to run again and Mendonca, stung by criticism over her handling of the debate surrounding Rancho Laguna Park, failed to win re-election.

Oddsmakers in Moraga are laying bets that Trotter will be named mayor with council member Ken Chew sliding into the vice-mayoral role.

Fledgling council members Phil Arth and Roger Wykle are likely to want to get their feet under them and get a better feel for the lay of the land before the make their leanings known. Veteran council member Mike Metcalf rounds out the field.

Over in Orinda they have the mayor thing already hammered out with city council veteran Amy Worth stepping into the role for the third time, taking the gavel from political veterano Steve Glazer. The city has a senior housing project slated to begin construction in their downtown, and some potholes to fill… and then there are those pesky leaf-blower people. We’ll have to see what happens there.

And as happened in other towns with Association of Bay Area Governments and Metropolitan Transportation Commission mandates foisted on them, Orinda is attempting to address transformation of its highway-straddling crossroads as a transit village, with very vocal supporters and naysayers making their opinions known on both sides of the issue. The city is waiting for revenue from Measure L, a half-cent sales tax increase passed by the voters in November, to land in its coffers, the first phase of their plan to fix the city’s deteriorating roads.

Sue Severson has been sworn in as vice mayor in the coming year.

Over in Lafayette, the city council is carefully watching several new construction projects targeting “empty nesters” who may want to give up larger homes for smaller housing within walking distance of downtown, along with Police Chief Eric Christensen’s enforcement effort directed against massage parlors offering more than just a good Shiatsu. There’s also the matter of finding adequate parking for a proposed new Fentons Creamery backers want to put into the now-dormant but still prominent Park Theatre in the town center. Rookie council members Traci Reilly and Mark Mitchell joined incumbent Mike Anderson in the winner’s circle on election night, and it will be interesting to see how they tackle the city’s growth – much maligned by some old-timers and even some not-so-old timers.

Walnut Creek is also dealing with growing pains of its own, with someone going to live in those 1,400 new downtown housing units either already approved or on the way, talk of expanding the Locust Street corridor into a citified shopping district, and a very robust nocturnal bar scene which has local police wondering where the troops are going to come from when it’s time to call for the cavalry. Incumbent Mayor Bob Simmons and challengers Loella Haskew and Justin Wedel came out on top on election day, and each has talked of areas of concern they say prompted their candidacy, with the city’s budget, planning, and police services leading the chatter.

Council member Cindy Silva was recently named mayor.

In Danville, Renee Morgan, who served on the town’s Planning Commission for eight years, has been sworn in, with the council unanimously voting to make Newell Arnerich its mayor and Robert Storer its vice-mayor for 2013.

On the horizon? A storm cloud, with residents stirred up about the proposed rezoning of 10 downtown acres to accommodate ABAG and MTC requirements for higher density, low-income residences. That, as you might imagine, has gone over with the locals like the much-cited lead balloon, with promise of more spirited resistance in 2013.

So there you have it. Plenty for everyone in the 24/680, and a little left to go around. Now, let’s talk about those speed bumps, again.


NOTE: If you have an issue on your own personal radar screen you plan to bring before your respective council in 2013, do let us know. We like to hear what’s on your mind.

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