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Posted by xaviervir on September 5, 2010


San Pablo council race pits eminent domain foe against two incumbents

By Tom Lochner
Contra Costa Times

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A scheduled San Pablo City Council candidates’ round table at the Contra Costa Television studios in Martinez never came off, as one candidate sent her regrets and another said the schedule conflicted with a long-standing appointment.

Three candidates are vying for two council seats in the Nov. 2 election.

Mayor Genoveva Garcia Calloway said yes to the invitation by the sponsor, the League of Women Voters; the debate was part of a series of local candidate debates taped in late August that was co-sponsored by Bay Area News Group.

Councilman Paul Morris, who recently had hip-replacement surgery, said he had a doctor’s appointment on the day of the taping.

Challenger Annabel Peterson said she thought about taking part, but decided that a week’s notice was not sufficient to prepare for someone unfamiliar with the debate format and process.

Calloway, a program manager for Contra Costa County’s mental health services, and Morris, a property manager, were first elected to the council in 2002 and were re-elected in 2006. Peterson, who has an architecture degree and currently is unemployed, has not run for the council before.

The council saw a surge in public participation earlier this year as it contemplated reinstating its eminent domain authority, which had lapsed in 2009. Peterson was among a vocal and organized group of opponents, backed


by the Virginia-based Institute for Justice and its advocacy arm, the Castle Coalition.The opponents feared the city would invoke eminent domain to toss residents out of their homes, notwithstanding an amendment to the state constitution that bars agencies from acquiring owner-occupied homes by eminent domain and transferring them to private entities.

City officials said they needed eminent domain as a last-resort tool to assemble sites for commercial and residential development, and offered to sign contracts with individual homeowners promising to abide by the constitutional prohibition.

But in May, the council, bending to the groundswell of opposition, voted down a package of amendments to the city’s redevelopment plans, including an ordinance that would have reinstated eminent domain; the council also gave City Manager Matt Rodriguez the green light for a “civic engagement process” to educate residents about the San Pablo Redevelopment Agency. Calloway and Morris, who previously had defended eminent domain and the city’s past use of it, joined in the 4-0 vote; Councilman Arturo Cruz abstained.

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760.

*Look for up-coming article by Annabel Peterson.


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