Saturday, May 24, 2008

Five vie to represent District 5

Has Federal Glover delivered?

The incumbent and his campaign signs say yes. The four opponents vying for his District 5 seat in the June 3 election say no — emphatically.

"I think he's been mediocre. He's done a lot of show, with summits and a lot of nongovernmental policymaking work," says Gary Agopian, an Antioch school board trustee.

"The joke is he still thinks of himself as the mayor of Pittsburg. Everything goes there and stops," Brentwood business owner Don Parscal said.

Some candidates questioned whether Glover's undiagnosed, serious illness last year affected his judgment.

"I don't know if it was his illness, if it caught up with him, but he made a few mistakes. I don't know if he's on top of it. ... He's ignored the city of Antioch," said Mary Rocha, a 69-year-old former mayor of the East Contra Costa city.

Criticism should be expected as the incumbent, but Glover, a 52-year-old Pittsburg resident, said he's proud of his eight years on the board and his representation of East County.

"It's unfortunate people view it that way. At the end of the day, my responsibility is to the region as a whole, not one individual city," Glover said. "We've tried to work with all of them."

Glover received a heap of criticism for his initial support of a prison facility in Antioch. After voting to study the proposal Feb. 12, Glover changed his mind the next day.

"He showed how out of touch he really is," Advertisementwrote Erik Nunn in an e-mail. The Oakley planning commissioner is running for Glover's seat again, after losing four years ago with 44 percent of the vote.

Glover says his experience is critical in guiding Contra Costa out of its budget crisis. The board voted for nearly $52 million in cuts last month.

"The board is working on our No. 1 issue, which will be our budget and fiscal stability," said Glover in a telephone interview during a trip to Sacramento to gauge state budget cuts. "We need to make sure services are always available for the most vulnerable people."

High on the list of fiscal issues is the county's $1.74 billion unfunded liability for employee health care. Supervisors have approved a plan to cover 40 percent of the figure over 30 years. They voted to prefund $20 million this year and adjust unrepresented employees' health care benefits.

"We can't keep kicking the can down the road and keep saying universal health care will pick up the tab," said Agopian, a 51-year-old real estate agent.

Parscal, 50, said the board's decision is a first step but union negotiations will be the true test.

"I think we've sold out, over and over and over, and I think unions have total control over county, and you've seen what happened in Vallejo. It could happen here," Parscal said.

Most of the county's 39 union contracts expire in September. Rocha says the supervisors' decision to boost their pay by 60 percent last year smacks of hypocrisy in light of the budget crisis.

"I would go and roll back the supervisors' pay. You can't tell your employees to get cuts when you, yourself, get a hike," the 69-year-old Antioch resident said.

Nunn said cutting public safety and health services will hurt the county in the end.

"Crime and violence will increase. People will be injured, maimed or killed, and this will directly lead to higher health care costs in the millions of dollars that could be prevented with proactive law enforcement and firefighting," the 37-year-old wrote by e-mail.

To win the five-person race in the June 3 primary, a candidate must receive 50 percent plus one vote. Without that threshold, the top two candidates will compete in a runoff election in November.

District 5 covers Antioch, Bay Point, Bethel Island, Oakley and Pittsburg.

In the District 3 race, incumbent Mary Piepho faces Guy Houston; incumbent Gayle Uilkema of Lafayette is running unopposed for District 2.

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