Albany City Council Candidate Statements: Francesco Papalia

By Francesco Papalia
Friday October 27, 2006


My motto is Albany First, which is the foundation for all of my ideas about how to handle the myriad issues facing Albany today. Our 1.7-square-mile city—the Biggest Little City in the East Bay—must grapple with finding the money to maintain its high quality of life without taxing its homeowners to the point of extinction!  

We must expand the flow of commercial taxes—our largest tax revenue contributor is Golden Gate Fields at about $1.6 million annually—so that we can keep pace with our city’s many needs. This is but one instance of putting Albany First. We cannot afford to allow an international organization like the Sierra Club, which pays no taxes here nor will feel any service cuts, to dictate how we set up our waterfront. This is a decision that belongs to the Albany voters—no representation without taxation!  

In an attempt to determine how best to use its waterfront, Albany has committed to an open planning process, overseen by the City, that gives everyone a voice. This is an important step to finding our way to a waterfront plan that we can all live with. Clearly, open space is important to everyone, as is a Bay Trails connection, the Gilman ball fields and some way to gain revenue from the waterfront. Albany voters deserve to be heard and to vote on a realistic proposal by someone who is prepared to invest the millions required by a CEQA review and an EIR. Any subsequent plan will go before voters as Measure C ensures. Albany’s right to vote on such a plan is another example of Albany First—of Albany voters insisting they want to take care of themselves, that they want to determine how they live. 

Another outside interest that is at odds with Albany is Proposition 90. This boondoggle of a plan, created by a wealthy East Coast developer, would severely restrict Albany’s ability to manage our own city. It would pre-empt the power of Measure C, passed in 1990. Too often initiatives are written by outside interests whose actual agenda is hidden in the initiative’s details.  

Albany residents deserve more than this. We are a community of thoughtful people who moved here because they wanted to live in Albany, or were born here. One of Albany’s big draws is our schools, which, as costs rise in all sectors, need increasing amounts of money to maintain their high quality. Outsiders like the Sierra Club, or their proxies, disregard the potential effects of their plans on our schools. Or that their goals won’t keep funds flowing to our police and fire departments. Or maintain our streets and sewers. Many of our streets are deteriorating and storm drains need repair. Again, the issue is Albany First; we must find the money to take care of these problems. The City has had to ask us for additional taxes to handle such issues. I am determined to find and maintain new tax bases so that there is more money to draw from, so homeowners aren’t bearing the cost yet again. As things stand, we will probably face deficits in the coming years. I want to work to avoid, or at best, minimize, such deficits so that we don’t have to make painful decisions to cut programs and services. Putting Albany First means that we create whatever opportunities possible so that we don’t have to settle for a smaller police force or fewer sports teams at the high school. 

One way to generate new sources of commercial income would be to appoint an Economic Development Officer at City Hall. This person would work with the Chamber of Commerce, local business leaders and experts from UC Berkeley Planning and Land Use Departments to develop a comprehensive program to revitalize Solano and San Pablo avenues, the I-80 corridor and the waterfront. Again, the mandate of such an officer would be to put Albany First. This would mean bringing the Albany shopper back to Albany. As a community, we can make an active decision to support local businesses. The City Council could work with the staff and local business owners to develop effective policies that stimulate economic development.  

In my 19 years here, I have found that because Albany is a small community, people have the means of talking to each other easily. During this campaign I have been walking through Albany neighborhoods to meet constituents and find out what people are concerned about. It’s been a wonderful experience, and as a council member, I intend to keep listening to our voters. Communication keeps our city going. People communicate over fences, in organizations, as volunteers, in our many fantastic restaurants and on playing fields. There is a huge community of people of all ages and backgrounds who use playing fields shared by Albany and Berkeley. Their interplay is a wonderful example of people enjoying where they live. 

Being elected to the City Council would be a privilege and an honor. I will not let outsiders, who do not have to pay a teacher’s salary or pick up the tab to repair streets, control our city. Albany will be first.