May 9, 2006 > Interview with Richard Valle
Interview with Richard Valle
Union City councilmember, Richard Valle, will ask voters in June to elect him to the seat of Alameda County Supervisor of District 2. TCV visited with Mr. Valle to ask about his qualifications and plans for his role as supervisor, if elected.
Valle: While campaigning, I have found that many people are not aware of what the county supervisor does and who is in that role. There has been very little contact with the people of the district.
TCV: What does the county supervisor do?
There are five districts in Alameda County. We live in District 2 which is Hayward, Union City, Newark, North Fremont and a portion of Sunol. There are approximately 365,000 people in the district. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors is the highest elected public policy-making board in the county. Consequently, the supervisors have governance over the county health care system including the county medical center in Oakland, Highland Hospital, several community clinics primarily for those who cannot afford health care insurance.
They also help govern the operation of the Santa Rita County Jail, Glenn Dyer Jail in Oakland and another facility in San Leandro. The board of supervisors controls and governs the juvenile justice system and the probation department. Safety of courts is also the responsibility of the county as well as county attorneys, public defenders, the registrar of voters and tax assessor. Alameda County manages a budget of about 1.8 billion dollars.
The county is also in charge of and partly responsible for negotiating franchise agreements for sports teams - Oakland Raiders, Golden State Warriors, Oakland A's - along with the board of the coliseum and the city of Oakland. There is also responsibility for public safety, medical services, etc. in unincorporated areas of the county such as Castro Valley, Cherrywood, Fairview, Livermore Valley and Sunol.
TCV: What is the relationship between county operations and cities within Alameda County?
Valle: This depends in large part on the collaboration between the county representative and local representatives. For a long time, those of us who have been active in social services, for example have said that a lot of the resources have gone to north county facilities which have special needs. Now, there has been a dramatic shift in population to the south, and we are at a point in growth that we need our fair share of resources. It is time for us to have a strong advocate and leader who can partner with our cities to draw some of those resources to our district.
By creating effective partnerships with elected officials of our district, we can leverage federal and state funds for social services and draw resources for transportation and infrastructure. There must be a good rapport with elected officials of the area to make this work. I have received the endorsement of almost every elected official in the Tri-Cities.
We have not had effective representation from our supervisor and, in particular, there has been a noticeable absence of our supervisor at local council meetings. In the seven years I have been on the Union City city council, I have never seen our representative at a council meeting. The same can be said for the cities of Newark and Fremont. The incumbent responded by saying that she has never been asked.
TCV: What are the significant issues facing the county board of supervisors?
Valle: There are several but I will focus on three: The Alameda County Medical Center, the sports franchise for the Oakland A's and Oakland Raiders and the Alameda County Jail system; how to reintegrate people from the criminal justice system back into our communities.
A couple of years ago, voters were asked to approve Measure A, a measure to help fix a deficit spending cycle of the medical system. There was a lot of effort throughout the county to bail the system out and create an adequate cash flow with adequate oversight. In 2004, East Bay Area chapters of the League of Women Voters sent a letter to the president of the board of supervisors, who, at that time was the incumbent, making recommendations in conjunction with Measure A.
Suggestions included the creation of a citizen's oversight committee and making responsible appointments to the board of trustees using people who know medicine and fiscal accountability to protect and manage taxpayer funds. Many recommendations were not implemented and consequently, in 2005, the Grand Jury analysis indicated the funds were being mismanaged and the Alameda County Medical Center Board had broken faith with Alameda County voters and supporters of Measure A. They noted that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors should be held accountable. This is from the Grand Jury report dated May 25, 2005.
Another issue is that of the sports franchises. We know that the Oakland A's are thinking of moving to Fremont. I fully support that and the efforts of the city of Fremont. That would be a huge economic boon for the Tri-Cities in general. The board of supervisors can help influence that process if you have people who understand business and create a partnership with local elected bodies. The Oakland Raiders contract was a poorly negotiated franchise agreement that left a lot of people "holding the bag." The Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs) that never sold were a boondoggle. The incumbent was one of the chief negotiators for that agreement. More negotiations with these sports franchises are on the horizon.
The Alameda County Sheriff's Department is overwhelmed in terms of overtime; deputies are understaffed and working forced overtime at the jails and that is not good. The safety of the deputies, inmates and families of the inmates who visit is at stake. Working that many hours is a drain on the morale of the officers as well. The Sheriff's officers are a reserve for the California Highway Patrol in the event of a crisis and whether they are prepared to respond is in question. We need to solve this problem so the system can concentrate on rehabilitation issues.
TCV: What is your position on the proposed Sunol compost facility?
Valle: I have met with several of the residents of the affected area, staff of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and Alameda County Water District as well. As proposed, this facility will be a disaster. The technology that is being proposed for the Sunol Valley worked many, many years ago in open areas with plenty of air and open space, removed from populations - not in urban settings.
To put this open and outdated technology in the microclimate of Sunol Valley surrounded by hills will be a real problem beginning with the infrastructure, the load on roads, trucks of 50,000 pounds or more and the staging of trucks and access off I-680. The seagull population will find the organic waste and so will rodents and flies. Standing water and contamination of soil and well water is an issue.
There are better ways to do what is proposed. The system proposed by the county would make sense if we were in Kansas or Oklahoma where there was plenty of open space but doesn't make sense in Sunol.
TCV: What skills will you bring from your experience on city council to the county supervisor job?
Valle: My abilities exhibited in public office including implementing public policy to get things done and work with a team. We have created wonderful economic development opportunities in Union City including Union Landing, the future Intermodal Station and resolving the Pacific States Steel situation. In the last seven years, we have come 180 degrees in image, economic viability, creating a budget surplus, police department staffing, a fire department with new engines and a new firehouse to be built in the next 18 months, solid public safety programs, and CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training.
We have a good relationship with our school district including a joint committee that meets on a quarterly basis and cooperation with social services within our city and neighboring cities. In terms of housing for seniors and low income residents, Union City was the first city in California to be approved by the state for its affordable housing requirement. Union City has a development of 120 units for families at Mission Gateway and is working on a second project with retail services along the Mission corridor. Forming good working relationships with Congregations Organizing for Renewal (COR) and another housing program in San Jose created the inclusionary housing ordinance.
Another working relationship with the Police Athletic League (PAL) created the Union City Science Festival, a 10 year opportunity for the community to celebrate Science, Earth and Health in one setting. We also collaborated with PAL to form a boxing club, baseball and football opportunities. You can build these types of collaborations if you know how to listen, work with people and ask the community to be a partner in strategic planning and public policy.
I am an optimist, realist and a pragmatist. I understand business as a result of what we (Tri-CED) have created for our community, our employees and their families. We have 70 full-time, good paying jobs here and will create another 20 in the next 18 months through our computer recycling model. In collaboration with Chabot College, we will build a 10,000 square foot science and education center on our site. Our staff will have the opportunity for further education here and the community will benefit from a convenient learning center. We hope to break ground in 2007 to create a community center that will include the collaboration between Tri-CED and Chabot College and 14 community organizations including the Chamber of Commerce.
These are examples of the progress I have made over the past years and now I would like to move forward at the county level to create new opportunities. I am anxious to put the drive, talent and commitment of a new administration to work for District 2.
TCV: Any further thoughts?
Valle: This involves a promise I made to a veteran's group. I received the endorsement of former Senator Max Clellan, a Vietnam veteran like myself. He has seen a movement of not just Iraq and Gulf War veterans but also Vietnam veterans who are stepping into service, running for office and showing leadership. Our life experiences help us to focus on trying to stay away from war and conflict. Coming back from those experiences, we have a commitment not only to the flag, but to help the communities we live in.