Categorized | Politics, Election 08, Local

Council-Endorsed Candidates Win City Council Seats

BY MATT DURNING //

Residents of El Cerrito voted to support the current direction of their local city government Tuesday, electing council-endorsed newcomers Ann Cheng and Greg Lyman while also reelecting incumbent Mayor Bill Jones.

Cheng, the only woman running and the youngest candidate at 30 years old, won the election with 4,852 votes, or 25.8 percent. Jones received 4,553 votes, or 24.2 percent, and Lyman had 4,364 votes, or 23.2 percent.

In winning, Cheng becomes the first Asian American councilmember in the 90-year history of El Cerrito.

“Those who have the ability and resources to widen the boundaries of inclusion should be encouraged to step up,” said Cheng, reflecting on her victory. “I am very proud to fill this role and definitely hope to cultivate an interest in local government by all ages.”

The two newcomers bring years of professional experience in city planning and infrastructure projects. Both advocate a vision of mixed-use, transit-oriented, sustainable community development in El Cerrito.

Cheng, an urban planner, said her top priority would be making sure there is sufficient community input and involvement in developing the San Pablo Avenue Specific Plan.

Lyman, a civil and environmental engineer and the former chair of El Cerrito’s Park & Recreation Committee, said one of his first orders of business would be to get more trees planted in Canyon Trail Park and around the city.

Both agreed the controversy surrounding the closing of Portola Middle School is a primary concern that requires serious attention.

“The City Council really needs to be active in healing the city’s divide on this issue,” Lyman said. “We need to make sure the [WCCUSD] school board reaches a decision that is in the best interest of our residents.”

Mayor Jones said he was very happy with the election outcome and pleased that all of the candidates ran positive campaigns.

“I think anytime a person gets reelected for a second term it makes them feel good,” he said.  “It’s a confirmation that people think you’re doing a good job, or at least can be trusted moving forward.”

Jones said he expected the next four years to be more difficult than the previous four, citing the desperate financial climate facing California and the country as a whole.

The Mayor said he intends to complete those ongoing projects already with dedicated funding – such as the second phase of redevelopment on San Pablo Avenue and improvements to the recycling center – before taking on anything new.

All three candidates expressed excitement over the outcome of the US presidential election and said they look forward to working in an environment of new ideas and new energy at the federal level.

“Government that is good for Main Street,” said Jones. “Governing rather than ruling.”

The two other candidates in the race, Andrew Ting and David Boisvert, finished well behind the winners with 2,514 votes and 2,477 votes respectively. This was the second unsuccessful city council campaign for both men, who also ran in 2004.

Boisvert congratulated the winners on running a well-orchestrated campaign and said he thought the endorsements they received from the current city council had a major impact.

“I think the voters of El Cerrito perceive that the way the city is being run is good and there is no real need for change,” he said.

Cheng and Lyman will replace sitting councilwomen Jan Bridges and Leticia Moore, both of whom chose not to run for reelection.

Mayor Jones praised Bridges and Moore and said they would be missed.

“Jan and Leticia were always well prepared,” he said. “They put in the extra work to understand the issues and brought some levelheadedness to the process. Although I’m sorry to see them go, I think Ann and Greg will be great additions.”

The new city council will be sworn in during a special council meeting on December 2, the deadline by which Contra Costa Registrar Stephen Weir must certify the election results.  The public is invited to attend.

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