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Editorial: Alameda County supervisors should not appoint another carpet-bagger

We find out Thursday whether Alameda County Supervisors will once again make a mockery of the process for filling a vacancy on their own board.

Following the death last month of Richard Valle, the supervisors could appoint one of three current officeholders already representing residents of District 2: Hayward Councilmember Elisa Marquez, Fremont Councilmember Teresa King or Harris Majadedi, a new trustee for the Chabot-Los Positas Community College District.

Of the three, Marquez is the standout and, by far, most experienced. A lifelong resident of District 2, Marquez has been a hardworking member of her city’s Planning Commission from 2008-14 and the City Council since then. She brings strong government and elected-office experience and decades of involvement in the district that should make her an excellent supervisor.

Or supervisors could make a tragic mistake by choosing a fourth applicant, Ariana Casanova, who has no elected office experience, has lived in the district just over a month and has worked for the past 14 years as a paid organizer for a labor union that represents more than 40% of county government workers — a union that is currently locked in contentious contract negotiations with the county.

A Casanova appointment would force on District 2 residents a representative who, when it comes to contract negotiations, belongs on labor’s side of the table, not representing the county and the taxpayers.

And then there’s the residency issue, which supervisors ignored in November 2021 when they filled the seat of Wilma Chan, fatally struck by a car near her home in Alameda. Less than two weeks after her death, the remaining supervisors, without interviewing other candidates, appointed Chan’s chief of staff, David Brown, to serve the remainder of her term.

Brown had lived in the district and the county for just four days. But the county’s one-year residency requirement for elected supervisor candidates did not apply to appointments. While Brown could not run in the 2022 election, he could legally fill the remainder of Chan’s term. That didn’t make it right.

Brown had been living in a Walnut Creek house he and his wife had owned since 2010 and where they were raising their two daughters. Nine days after Chan’s death, he rented a one-bedroom apartment in Oakland.

Brown’s lease conveniently expired on Jan. 9 of this year, seven days after he left office. On March 2, he reregistered to vote at his old Walnut Creek address, exposing the residency charade for what it was. Whether he was living in Oakland while serving as a county supervisor remains the subject of ongoing litigation.

Meanwhile, Valle’s Feb. 8 death created a vacancy for District 2, which includes Hayward, Newark and Union City, the northern portion of Fremont, and part of Sunol. Unfortunately, voters won’t make this selection at the ballot box; the choice falls to supervisors from the county’s four other supervisorial districts who are unaccountable to residents of District 2.

Once again, a carpetbagger is seeking the post. Casanova moved to the district 11 days after Valle died. Like Brown claimed backing of the Chan family and vowed to carry on her traditions, Casanova claims backing of Valle’s family and seeks “to continue the legacy.”

Let’s be clear: This should not be an appointment to fulfill the wishes of the family. It should be a selection of the best-qualified candidate to serve the remainder of Valle’s term and the interests of District 2 residents.

And the notion that Casanova is a standard bearer for Valle’s legacy is hogwash. Having served on the City Council for Union City from 1997-2010, Valle was deeply connected to his district and community before his appointment and subsequent elections to the Board of Supervisors. The only thing Casanova seems connected to is the Service Employees International Union, where she has worked as political coordinator and field representative since 2009 and which represents 4,200 of Alameda County government’s 9,900 employees.

During her public interview on Tuesday, Casanova seemed to struggle to describe characteristics of the community she’s seeking to represent and organizations in the district she has worked with. She said she moved into District 2 last month because she saw “an opportunity to serve.” Put another way, it was pure political opportunism, not a commitment to District 2.

On Thursday, we’ll find out if supervisors really have the district’s and the county’s best interests in mind.

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Editorial: Alameda County supervisors should not appoint another carpet-bagger

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