Castro Valley, one of our sister UnCities in Alameda County, was the scene of an ugly display of bullying by the Chair of the Castro Valley MAC (Municipal Advisory Committee, analogous to our own Community Planning Advisory Committee, the Arden Arcade CPAC). The East Bay Citizen published a story today about last night’s chest-thumping by the Chair of the MAC. Marc Crawford, a developer East Bay Citizen says is connected with the local California Apartment Association’s leadership and a large contributor to Supervisor Nate Miley’s political campaigns, was re-elected to hold the chairperson’s seat for the 3rd year in a row - even though Supervisor Miley, seeking to placate community concerns that a controversial member was consolidating power, had made a rule change to rotate the chair of his all-appointee MAC. Mr. Crawford told the East Bay Express reporter, “We won’t go by what Kusiak wants, okay?” he said. “That’s the only reason that those rules even got changed because he’s been bitching over and over, year after year. And he’s not getting what he wants, and this is his way to get what he wants.” Crawford was referring to Michael Kusiak, a local community activist who has spearheaded efforts by Castro Valley Matters to make unincorporated Castro Valley a better, more democratic, place. It is obvious that Crawford has very little regard for residents who want good things for their unincorporated community. It is apparent that his loyalty is, first, to himself, secondly to the Supervisor to whom he donates money, and most certainly, NOT to the residents of Castro Valley. At the meeting, the Castro Valley MAC also re-elected as Vice Chair one Ted Riche, who, thanks to his openly anti-LGBT stance in a community that generally supports diversity, has developed a reputation as some kind of bigot.
So why should we care about this here in Arden Arcade? Frankly, because the very same thing goes on here. Oh sure, our CPAC isn’t as openly arrogant as Mr. Crawford. In fact, over the years, while we can’t say the same about our (also appointed) County Planning Commissioners, our all-appointee CPAC members have been reasonably polite to the citizenry most of the time. But the fact remains that they are not beholden to the community. They owe their position of power, such as it may be, to our one Supervisor, don’t they? That doesn’t translate to real listening behavior. Ultimately, it’s just a way to fool people into thinking their opinions matter. And, if anyone dares to figure out that voicing an opinion at the CPAC is pointless and therefore stays away from CPAC meetings, the CPAC is free to not report on what the community actually wants. That’s how the game works. And Sacramento County plays it at least as well as Alameda County, perhaps better.
MACs and CPACs exist because they are authorized under state law. Of the places around the state that have them, about 1/3 are - wait for it - ELECTED! Members of those MACs owe their allegiance to the electorate, not to a Supervisor. Sure, MACs only “advise” the Board of Supervisors. But in the case of an elected MAC, the advice flows from the people. In the case of an appointed MAC, the advice just treats impacted people like troublemakers who “bitch” a lot. Can our community learn anything from this? Should we have an elected CPAC or is it OK for the CPAC to be appointed by our Supervisor?