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  El Cerrito   Schools   Regional   History   Lifestyle   Opinion   [Election]  

Voters trickle in, give variety of reasons for their choices in council election

From left, Letitia Moore, Gina Brusatori, Mark Friedman, and Tony Wise

By Jennifer Kho

The Harding Elementary School auditorium, with its pink walls,
scratched wooden trim and avocado-colored drapes, was nearly empty at 11
a.m. Nov. 6.

In the entrance hallway, a sign leaning against a wall read, “Carnival today
10-3” in pink and blue letters, while other signs marked the auditorium as
the polling place for Precinct 127.

Voting stalls were set up in front of a stage adorned with gold stars and
orange and yellow curtains. A table with ballots, voting information and
red, white and blue “I voted” stickers stood facing the stalls. Three women
chatted at the table, with their backs to rows of folding chairs and the
auditorium balcony.

“It’s been like this all morning,” said Lotta Vevoda, inspector for the
precinct. “It’s just the city council election, so you don’t usually get
many people. Albany, I think, is probably more exciting. And Richmond, too.”
Only 44 people had voted at Harding Elementary School between 7 and 11 a.m., and
1,277 voters are registered to the precinct, Vevoda said. But 125 precinct
voters took out absentee ballots, she said.

Officials at other precincts said the trickle of voters at Harding Elementary School has been typical throughout the city.

By 2 p.m. at the Eskaton Hazel Shirley Manor, 100 people out of 1,023 registered had voted in person and 111 people had used absentee ballots. By 2:30 p.m. at Trinity Evangelical Free Church, 165 out of about 1,000 registered voters had voted in person, and 135 had used absentee ballots. By 3:15 p.m., Mira Vista United Church of Christ, in a precinct of 1,100 registered voters, counted 177 regular ballots and at least 150 absentee ballots.

In El Cerrito, Planning Commissioner Letitia Moore, Economic Development
Board member Tony Wise and incumbents Gina Brusatori and Mark Friedman are
vying for three city council seats.

Councilwoman Janet Abelson said this election has been “really low key,” with not many hot issues, but the candidates did discuss economic development and low-income housing during their campaigns.

All the candidates said economic development would continue to be a city council priority, if they are elected.

But they disagree as to whether El Cerrito should increase its low-income housing.
Friedman and Moore said they think El Cerrito should do as much as it can to construct low-income housing, even if it exceeds the state housing minimums, because there still isn’t enough in the Bay Area as a whole.

“I think if Letitia and I are elected, we’ll have critical mass on the
council to get low-income housing,” said Friedman, who is also supporting Brusatori. “It’s an important

Wise, who is against increasing low-income housing beyond the state
requirement, said he thinks the city needs to concentrate on adding businesses, not houses, and improving the schools.

Wise said that if he and Brusatori are elected, he thinks the balance on the
council will tip against adding more low-income housing than required.
“If I am elected, I think I will be able to push the vote 3-2 in that
direction,” he said. “If I’m not elected, I think it will go 3-2 the other

But early voters said they didn’t vote based on the low-income housing

Elmer Jensen, who voted at St. Jerome Church, said he voted for the
incumbents because they are “the ones in practice.” Jensen said he also
voted for Wise because he thinks Wise, owner of Granter Jewelry & Loan Co., is
the best candidate for businesses.

“I picked him strictly because of his business, because business is
important in El Cerrito,” he said.

Virginia Creed, who voted at Harding Elementary, said she voted for the
incumbents, because “it takes more than a term for them to really get in there” and “I want to see things go smoothly again.” Creed said she also voted for Moore, “even though she’s an environmentalist and I’m not for environmentalists, because I read and heard a lot about her.”

Vena Flint, who voted at Mira Mar United Church of Christ, said she voted for Moore because she thinks Moore will bring more cooperation to the council than Wise, while Gloria Young, who voted at Harding Elementary School, said she picked Wise for no particular reason except his name.

With only the City Council election on the ballot, several voters complained that they thought the city was wasting tax money by having an election at all.

“As a paying taxpayer, you think, why did we have an election for three City Council members when we could have combined it with the general election in March?” said Florence Brown, a clerk and one of the first voters of the day at Mira Vista United Church of Christ. “Then we would have gotten more people. And it costs money to do this because they're paying us and they're paying for the places. But who listens?”

Run dates: 2001-11-06 - 2001-11-05

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