Public Comment

Why I’ll Vote for Lieber, Panian, and Toomey

By Nan Wishner
Thursday October 23, 2008 - 10:05:00 AM

Robert Lieber has a solid list of environmental and progressive accomplishments from his four-year term, including leading both the Albany City Council and the mayors of Alameda County to take a strong stand opposing aerial pesticide spraying of the Bay Area for the light brown apple moth (LBAM).  

If not for Lieber’s courage and vocal leadership on this issue, we would already have been enduring airplanes spraying pesticides over our homes for as long as eight months. As chair of the City’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Task Force, I worked closely with Lieber on this issue and saw firsthand his ability to speak out effectively, persuade those who disagreed, communicate to the media the urgency of the threat, and get results.  

The LBAM spray is only one of Lieber’s accomplishments to improve the quality of life for residents of Albany and the region. Others include: 

• staunchly opposing a shopping mall on the Albany waterfront 

• initiating formation of the city Social and Economic Justice Commission 

• unwaveringly supporting the city’s new IPM and public art ordinances 

• supporting banning environmentally damaging Styrofoam containers in Albany 

• pushing the city to develop a climate change action plan 

• supporting a waterfront planning process that for the first time will bring Albany residents together 

• working to stop expansion of urban gambling in San Pablo and Richmond, and introducing resolutions on numerous issues of state and national importance including ending the war in Iraq, supporting universal health care for Californians, supporting the rights of gay and lesbian Californians to marry, and creating a federal Department of Peace. 

I have lived in Albany for 16 years, and I have never seen a mayor or council accomplish so much for the social good in such a short time.  

These accomplishments have earned Lieber endorsements from Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Assemblymember Loni Hancock, Assembly candidate Nancy Skinner, and all the members of the Albany Board of Education.  

Some criticize Robert Lieber for his strong leadership. Launching personal attacks rather than focusing on the issues and Lieber’s positive accomplishments does a disservice not only to Lieber, who deserves respect for his outstanding record, but to all of us who are trying to understand and vote for the best policies and ideas. Many people talk about what they propose to accomplish. Robert Lieber doesn’t just talk; he gets things done, and we all benefit, in the short and long term.  

Leo Panian has served as a Planning and Zoning Commissioner for the past 4 years and has demonstrated over and over his strong analytical mind and ability to grasp the full import of an issue and vote for what is right despite pressure from special interest groups. He stood up to the wireless industry to vote and apply the provisions of the city’s cell antenna ordinance, which protects homes and schools from exposure to dangerous RF radiation on a 24-hour basis. He supported Brightstar Montessori school’s new location in the face of unreasonable but vocal opposition. He has consistently supported and inclusive, community based waterfront planning process to allow Albany residents to craft our vision for our waterfront rather than be forced to continue responding to proposals by outside developers. He understands and votes for pedestrian- and bicycle- friendly city planning.  

Along with candidate Ellen Toomey, Panian also understands the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we currently have at the Gill Tract—that the university’s desire for development at UC Village is a negotiating point to obtain commitments for the open space and organic farming that Albany residents want to see at the Gill Tract. This vision along with the new community garden at Ocean View Park will provide community food security.  

Ellen Toomey has a long record of working for the good of the community: to preserve the Gill Tract, founding SchoolCare and working to get pesticides out of our schools. As a small business owner and for many years a Girls Softball League parent, she understands the needs of businesses and sports field users. She is able to both listen and take strong stands, and her skills, varied community connections, and the values by which she lives as a yoga teacher will serve her well in facilitating consensus and problemsolving on the council.  

I have heard an objection that electing Lieber, Panian, and Toomey will create an all-progressive council. I don’t have a problem with a council committed to  

the progressive values of environmental  

stewardship and social justice that I believe most Albany residents share. And I have no illusion that these candidates will agree on everything. These candidates are independent thinkers and will disagree as thinking people do, just as Lieber and the other two current progressive councilmembers, Marge Atkinson and Joanne Wile, have disagreed on many issues, from the Pierce Street bike path to funding of the city’s IPM program to the City Hall remodel.  

All three of these candidates have been endorsed by the Sierra Club, Democratic Party, and Green Party of Alameda County. I hope you will join me in supporting their progressive policies on election day.  

Nan Wishner is a member of the Albany Arts Committee and served as Chair of the Albany Integrated Pest Management Task Force.