Albany City Council Candidate Statements: Marge Atkinson

By Marge Atkinson
Friday October 27, 2006

The main issue in Albany is what will be the future of the waterfront. I want to preserve as much of the waterfront as possible as park and open space and complete the vision of access to the waterfront and bay that has been a goal of many groups. I would like to see the completion of the East Shore State Park in Albany between Berkeley, El Cerrito and Richmond. Since this land is zoned recreational and for the race track, I would see no reason for the city to change the zoning without a study of possibilities. I would hold the city accountable to a fair and transparent method of soliciting citizen input about ideas for the waterfront. This does not assume that I want or encourage Golden Gate Fields to leave. It is their property and they have been active community members for many years. However, I think that Magna Entertainment Corp. needs to recognize that Albany residents do not favor a large development next to the waterfront and I would hope that the city and Magna could initiate communications as to what would be a win-win situation for both them and Albany.  

Albany may be a small town and in some ways feels insulated, but we are impacted by the urban area, which surrounds us. Our survival in many ways will be a combination of continuing to value, promote and protect the small town character, which has attracted so many of us here, and at the same time find ways to cooperate and enhance our relationships with the surrounding communities. As I have talked to residents I have become aware of many neighborhood issues and problems that concern people. As a councilmember I would look forward to working with the various communities to solicit ideas of how they can work with the council and be part of the solution to our common concerns.  

I am running for the Albany City Council because I believe that the citizens that support me need a seat at the table to have a voice in Albany politics. These are the more than 2,500 Albany citizens that signed the Citizens for the Albany Shoreline Initiative and who want me to speak up for park and open space on the waterfront, environmental and sustainable concerns, and that any development on the waterfront does not compromise the shoreline, suck the vitality out of our Solano Ave. and San Pablo and compromise the small town ambiance that Albany represents. And lastly, it is important to understand that for Magna, the racetrack owner, a mall represents an opportunity to create and enhance gambling on the waterfront, an effort that has seen success at other racetracks that Magna owns. I will fight any efforts to try to increase gambling on the waterfront or at the racetrack. 

It seems that Albany taxpayers have been asked over and over in recent years to tax themselves for various measures. Most citizens vote for these measures because they want to support city services and they care about keeping Albany a great place to live. Having enough money is one side of the equation. Albany’s budget is balanced every year, there will be 1 million every year for repairing the storm drains, and, realistically, there is never enough in anyone’s or any city’s budget to do everything desired at once. I would want to reexamine budget be sure the money is spent wisely and as intended. I support a fiscally sound plan with clear priorities so that the city does not have to go to the voters unless absolutely necessary. The next time there is a request for more taxes, it is incumbent on the council to make sure the citizens are clear about what is needed and why. 

I think the city does need to foster more economic development, and I think they have been working at doing this, particularly along the San Pablo corridor. I think many things can be done to enhance the vitality of Solano and San Pablo to encourage more of a variety of businesses. Shoppers and visitors come here from many other cities and I think there are ways to encourage them to stay longer on Solano. I think Albany residents need to be encouraged to come to Solano instead of heading over to El Cerrito or Berkeley. Also, sources of revenue don’t necessarily come from one big source but from several smaller ideas that can add up to significant resources for the city. I would definitely talk to other cities about ways that have worked for them to increase revenue. Cities like Pleasanton, Walnut Creek and Grass Valley come to mind as examples of creating a downtown ambiance that encourages folks to come and shop and use the services. I would also encourage Albany to look at how green businesses can be encouraged to come to our city and the ways that they might improve our local economy. 

I am in a unique position as a teacher to foster a good working relationship between the city and the school district that can enhance our community and support our youth and families. My experience over the last almost 25 years of working in the school district and my precinct work as co-chair for the United Democratic Campaign in the East Bay has meant that I have met and worked with thousands of Albany residents, a great honor and pleasure that I look forward to maintaining. 

A vote for Marge Atkinson is a vote for preserving open space on the waterfront, having a seat at the Albany political table for those who do not see a mall as a panacea for whatever ails Albany, for environmentalists and those that see sustainability as a quality of life, a voice for open, transparent government, a voice against increased gambling at the racetrack, and a candidate that listens to the concerns of Albany residents. 

I have been endorsed by Barbara Lee, Loni Hancock, the Alameda Democratic Council, the California Democratic Party, Keith Carson, Alameda County Supervisor, Albany Council Members Robert Good and Robert Lieber, the Sierra Club, Citizens for the Albany Shoreline, Albany Teachers Assn., Sylvia McLaughlin, League of Conservation Voters, Ron Rosenbaum, Principal of Albany High School and hundreds of Albany citizens.