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By Simon Wong
-- Union City’s Mark Green has stepped down as Mayor after 19 years. He might not be a household name but was regarded in political circles as one of the most effective elected officials in the Bay Area and in California. Staff members of the various agencies, on whose boards he served until recently, value his grasp and understanding of the business of government to translate policy into reality. His fellow board members also recognized his depth and breadth of experience which enabled Green to make bold decisions that lay the foundations for the future well-being of the East Bay and beyond.
Green filed papers in March 2012 to run for the 20th Assembly District seat in the June 2012 Presidential Primary but was edged into third place by former Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk and Dr. Jennifer Ong who proceeded to the November 2012 run-off. In April 2012, Nadia Lockyer resigned as Alameda County Supervisor District 2 (Hayward, Union City, Newark, Sunol and parts of Fremont). Green applied to fill the seat temporarily until November 6, 2012 when voters elected a permanent replacement for the remaining two years of Lockyer’s four-year term. According to sources close to the selection process, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors bowed to union pressure when considering Lockyer’s temporary replacement and, consequently, did not appoint Green.
Originally from Peoria, Illinois, Green moved to Hayward with his parents in 1971, having just graduated from high school. He attended Chabot College and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1975 with a B.A. in Political Science.
“In June 1976, I took an apartment at Medallion Green, Union City. My first contact with politics involved the sale of a mattress for my mother, during the 1978 election, to a neighbor who was running against Union City Mayor Tom Kitayama,” Green recalled with a smile.
“My education and comprehension of the governmental process began in 1982 when Cable TV arrived in Union City. I happened upon some Planning Commission meetings on TV and was unhappy with some of the decisions. Participation in the process is the most effective way of doing something. My application to join the Planning Commission in 1985 was unsuccessful. I was appointed in 1986 to the Citizens Advisory Committee for Redevelopment, a precursor to redevelopment, and to the Landscape Enhancement Committee and, in 1987, to the Parks and Recreation Commission then, four months later, applied successfully for the Planning Commission,” recounted Green who was elected Mayor in 1991.
Green is pragmatic. As a city commissioner, he learned there is real work to be done to assure the quality of public services. He agrees every candidate experiences joy at winning an election but if s/he has run for the right reasons, the euphoria is short-lived as the serious business of government needs immediate application. He does not rest on his laurels.
His political career entails service as the Past President (2010 and 2011) of the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG); a Metropolitan Transportation Commissioner (representing ABAG); Chair of the Alameda County Transportation Commission; an East Bay Economic Development Alliance (EDA) Board Member; former President of the Alameda County Council of Mayors; a Board Member and former Chair of the Waste Management Authority of Alameda County; and former Chair of the Alameda County Housing Authority.
While in office, Green was also Vice Chair of the Joint Policy Committee, which coordinates the regional planning efforts of ABAG, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). Current initiatives focus on growth, climate protection and development of sustainable communities.
Under his leadership, Green has delivered much to the residents of Union City, Alameda County and the Bay Area. This would not have been possible without his experience of local, county and regional government and his ability to cultivate the support, or political will, of other elected officials within the San Francisco Bay region and beyond.
While known within Union City, much of Green’s work was unnoticed by the public. He had the most punishing meeting schedule of any elected official in the East Bay but the time and effort he devoted to his public duties paid dividends, perhaps most tangibly in the form of transportation. He regularly visited Washington DC where he advocated for allocation of federal dollars for the Bay Area’s benefit, including Alameda County and its 14 cities. His efforts secured funding for major transportation projects and programs that will provide the traveling public with more choice and greater efficiency.
They include the start of construction, in 2011, of both the BART Warm Springs Extension and BART Oakland Airport Connector. Northern California’s first toll lane, the I-680 Sunol Express Lane (southbound), is in its second year of operation. Union City’s Intermodal Station, and its immediate vicinity, is the nation’s poster child for redevelopment. Improvements to the I-80, I-238, I-580, I-680, I-880 and Route 92 corridors in Alameda County have been completed.
The California Transportation Foundation named Green “Elected Official of the Year,” recognizing his role in delivering excellent public service for transportation in California in 2011.
Union City has been transformed during his tenure as Mayor by his focus on balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility, public safety, open space, City amenities, housing, youth, library services, the value of education, economic development and collaboration with all who bring benefit to the City, its residents, visitors and businesses.
“I consider my biggest accomplishments from two perspectives. First, improvement of Union City across the board. Over the past 20 years - protection of the hillside; strong Climate Action Plan; stringent tree ordinance, met recycling goals; the best levels of public safety, fire service and paramedic response for citizens to date; a Youth Violence Prevention & Intervention program; a resource center on the west side of town; introduced important measures (UU Public Safety Parcel Tax and AA Sales Tax) to maintain essential public services. I’m proud of my efforts and others’ to help those measures pass and gratified voters agreed with our goals at the polls,” Green explained.
“We’ve increased the housing stock across the socio-economic spectrum, from senior housing and affordable housing to upscale housing, with our Inclusionary Housing Ordinance and have been a model in California for our use of housing set-aside funds through our redevelopment agency. We stabilized rents in the Tropics Mobile Home Park.
“In the late 1990s, the City’s commercial base improved with the development of Union Landing Shopping Center; previously, few restaurant and shopping opportunities existed. Healthcare has grown with the Nakamura Clinic and the University of the Pacific Dental Care Center. We added the Ruggieri Senior Center. Our park system and facilities within the parks have expanded and improved. Union City Sports Center is a venue for recreation, day-care and the community.
“Everything has been delivered alongside Public Works’ on-going maintenance of the City; the state of our streets ranks ninth in the MTC’s Pavement Condition Index for the Bay Area’s 110 jurisdictions. Further improvements on the east side of the BART/Intermodal station are planned and the East-West Connector must be completed. Additionally, the City has improved staff relations by transferring negotiation with the unions to a third-party negotiator,” Green reflected.
“Second, while Mayor of Union City, I’ve served with other agencies. My biggest contribution to Alameda County residents is the consolidation of the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency and the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA) to create the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) and save the taxpayer millions of dollars over the past two years. I chaired ACTIA’s 20-year Measure B [half-cent sales tax] transportation expenditure plan which voters approved in 2000; it will derive almost $320M in sales tax revenue to leverage $1.4 billion for transportation projects and programs within Alameda County. In 2010, voters also approved Measure F (Alameda County Vehicle Registration Fee) which will generate approximately $10M annually for transportation. We have also expanded the Dumbarton bus service, which has seen ridership increase by 25 percent, pending a rail connection,” he added.
“I wish to thank the voters who elected me to office six times. Without them, I would not have had these opportunities. The generosity of all who donated their time and funding over the years is greatly appreciated. Union City has a lean, efficient and effective staff whose performance rivals that of any city of any size. Regional agencies are an invisible area of government for most citizens; it’s unfortunate, given these agencies’ local impact and level of activity; ACTC has the finest transportation staff in the state; ABAG works with limited resources but has an excellent planning and financial team; the Waste Management Authority is a cutting-edge agency, admired by ABAG; the East Bay EDA’s prominence has increased throughout the Bay Area and in Silicon Valley. Regional staff regards the MTC’s personnel as the most professional in the Bay Area.”
During his service as a councilman and as Mayor, Green worked with 11 other elected officials in Union City. At times, it was exasperating, at others, exhilarating, but always exciting. The main thing is that people are involved. With hindsight, some ideas were ahead of their time. He credits former Councilwoman Alice Arce for her support of paid parking at the BART station a decade before its introduction. The skateboard park, a safe haven for kids, was also her idea. Not only is progress a combination of who is serving and the use of zoning but external factors play a role, such as the opportunities the economy presents. According to Green, Union City began moving forward around 1997 but perhaps the most cooperative and productive period on Council was from 2004 to 2010. Land was also annexed from Fremont. The last two years have been quiet because of the economy; if he regrets anything, it is the missed opportunity for an aquatic facility for the City, possibly the most frustrating vote in the past 12 years.
“I am extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to serve in so many capacities to be able to make a real difference to people’s quality of life. Longevity and hard work are the bases for experience. Being engaged and involved with the issues and understanding them are essential pre-requisites for serious consideration by others,” concluded Green.