September 21, 2010 > Editorial: Housekeeping
City council sessions have now resumed and it is interesting to look back prior to the summer break and examine loose ends still remaining. With November elections and requests for additional funds from voters looming, incumbents will tout their experience and accomplishments while challengers focus on shortcomings. In Fremont, for instance, Niles has a new plaza and is busy using it while Centerville's gaze still lingers on the vacant "unified" parcel, saddled with a developer intent on retaining control while pitching a second rate product.
Meanwhile, the Center Theater remains dormant, waiting for the right combination of citizen revolt, city initiative and an owner who will finally come to grips with economic reality. Development of Fremont Boulevard in this district is in the balance. A landowner who wants monopolistic control of one side of the street by purchasing the old fire station claims this will be the impetus to visionary development. The current state of storefronts under his ownership and his lease of a "gateway" location at Fremont Boulevard and Mowry Avenue to a thrift store tells a different story.
Irvington pins its hopes on renovating Bay Street and the construction of a BART station. Mission San Jose struggles with the impact of heavy traffic along Mission Boulevard, The Warm Springs district is searching for an identity and the Patterson Ranch development is problematic, open to questions relating to increased housing and an impact on schools and the environment. Along with the historic districts, the grand plan for a central district continues to slumber as lighting and parking alternatives are tested. The biggest project on the drawing boards is the "NUMMI" parcel adjacent to the future Warm Springs BART station. Here, one of the largest parcels open to development waits for direction.
Fremont's new General Plan, long on concepts and short on specifics, will emerge soon accompanied by a "coffee table book" of graphics to illustrate the vision. With so many opportunities, it is almost unimaginable that the City of Fremont will remain two dimensional in scope. Emergence of specific and defined outcomes is necessary to create a vibrant vision attuned to the future. Leadership that can shake off the malaise of business as usual and face the challenges of Fremont's future is required.
This year's elections will have a large impact on the direction of Fremont's growth. Dogmatic party loyalties, political posturing and nonsensical verbal wanderings of the past are not suitable for the rapidly changing environment. Voters have an opportunity in November to determine whether current councilmembers Natarajan and Harrison will represent them in an embrace of a vibrant future. It is a fair question to ask these candidates if and how they are prepared for a dynamic period of growth or... are they simply occupying council seats to maintain the status quo.
While two incumbents ask for voter support, another prepares to leave. Bob Wieckowski's anticipated departure for statehouse verbosity, pseudo-intellectual glory and dearth of action may provide a welcome opening for new ideas in Fremont. The appointment to that vacant seat depends heavily on election results of the two incumbents seeking reelection. Party politics are already in play to select Weickowski's successor. Previous political manipulations have led to the present council composition and results have been mixed. With some notable exceptions, much council business has been reduced to "me-too" decisions lacking in incisive review of staff presentations and direction. Handpicked party faithful are not always the best choice for a healthy future.
Although councilmembers are poorly compensated, not even equivalent to entry level part-time staff (another editorial for another time), they still have the responsibility to act as the governing body of a large city. Voter decisions will have great bearing on the near future direction of Fremont. It is time to pay close attention to the demeanor, attitude and ideas of the candidates. Decisions at the polls this November will be critical.