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Bottom line is Smith’s big concern

By Judith Scherr Daily Planet Staff
Wednesday September 06, 2000

Challenger Norine Smith, 58, is running for the District 6 seat as an independent. 

Her campaign will be run by herself and her supporters. “No one is officially running it,” she said. Olds spent $30,000 in 1992 to defeat independent Alan Goldfarb, she said, asserting “I will spend whatever it takes.” 

The mostly-retired software consultant says she never wanted to go into politics, but her concern for the original draft of the General Plan tugged her in that direction. 

In the first iteration of the plan, build ings could have been skyscrapers, Smith said. Now planners have the buildings down to 10-12 stories. “I want it down to five stories downtown and four stories along other commercial corridors.” 

There are still some empty lots, Smith said. They should be “contextually sensitive attractive infill,” she said. 

The city’s growth needs to be addressed. “How many more people should we be expected to absorb?” There is still room for growth in Hayward and Castro Valley, she said. 

Smith criticizes the city’s bond-fund expenditures.  

“No one dreamed that Measure S meant building bulb-outs and clear cutting trees,” she said of the measure that is paying for downtown improvements, which includes cutting down replacing trees and building sidewalk bulges at the corners.  

Bicyclists say these bulb-outs are dangerous to them. 

Overruns on capital projects anger Smith. She says the Civic Center Building retrofit that was to have cost $15 million, has shot up to more than $38 million. 

“Someone needs to watch the cost of capital outlays,” Smith said, pointing to another bond – Measure G. $2 million of its funds were spend on “the ill-conceived notion of a saltwater distribution system,” Smith said. The city finally turned down the idea “after wasting seven years.” 

Smith said she supports building a new fire station or retrofitting the current one, but she said she wants to poll the people in her district to see where they want a new one placed. 

And she said she wants to know the real costs of building a new station. “They say it will only cost $5-6 million,” she said. “With capital overruns, it could cost $12 million.” 

Public participation is important to Smith. “We can’t only listen to the most vocal people,” she said.  

“They do no represent the majority who do not have the time (to participate).” Polling people in her district would give Smith a good sense of their priorities. 

Smith said there’s a simple solution to getting the council’s work finished: it’s increasing the number of meetings. 

The council should meet four times each month, instead of three times and it should meet for 46 weeks a year instead of 33. 

She’d reorder the agenda so that items such as rent control and the budget are discussed early in the evening and “fences and chimneys at the end.” 

Meetings would be more efficient if the city installed a system of lap-top computers at the council desks. “The motions would be spelled out,” she said. 

Smith said part of the problem at council meetings is the sniping between the two council factions.  

As an independent, Smith said she would not be engaged in the dual. Her independent decisions would be “based on facts.” 

Rent control is the law, she said.  

“It needs to be administered fairly. It’s not fair to make one element of society bear the burden for equality.” 

The solution is providing more low-cost housing and housing for the disabled. 

But the funding for low-cost housing should be well spent, Smith said.  

Smith said she supports Measure Y, the restrictions against owner move-in evictions. “We can’t be kicking out the old and disabled,” she said. 

As for the health disparities between the hills and the flats and African Americans and whites, “We have to enhance the public health facilities at Sixth (Street) and University (Avenue),” Smith said, underscoring that abortions should be performed there. 

As for traffic problems, much of the problem is UC Berkeley commuters, Smith said.  

A solution would be satellite parking at Golden Gate Field and at the California Shakespeare lot situated in Orinda near the Caldecott Tunnel. 

Smith also wants the 25-mile-per-hour speed limit enforced and for the city to replace its worn vehicles with electric ones. 

Education is important, Smith said. Drivers should learn to yield to cyclists and pedestrians and bicyclists should learn to yield to pedestrians. 

“I will come to meetings informed and ready to listen,” Smith said.