Why Am I Running?

Campaigning at Trader Joe’s

I’ve always been interested in current affairs and politics, but I never saw myself running for public office.

I moved to Fremont in 1993 while I was still pursuing my Masters degrees in City Planning and Transportation Engineering at UC Berkeley. At Cal, I learned what makes a well-planned city. Sadly, I quickly learned that Fremont didn’t have many of the attributes of a well-planned city.

I noticed that new development in Fremont seemed to consist of open lots being converted individually to housing developments. There seemed to be no coordinated plan to it all, just new housing development after new housing development.

I saw the original retail area at the heart of Glenmoor neglected and ultimately converted to nothing but housing. Meanwhile, the Hub continued to lose relevance as big box retail grew to the west of the freeway. Today, the central area of the Hub is like a graveyard. There was talk of creating a downtown retail area as seen in Pleasanton, Mountain View, Hayward and elsewhere, but still, we don’t have such a pleasant retail area save for Niles.

I’ve always been a strong environmentalist, something I got from my father who was an environmental engineer before that term was widely used. I majored in Zoology as an undergrad with an emphasis on ecology. I got involved in the local Sierra Club chapter soon after moving to Fremont.

My father not only taught me about the environment. He taught me about integrity. He was hired to run the Chicago Sanitary District when I was young. The District was well-known for its corruption, leading the Chicago Tribune to call it ‘the retirement home for mobsters’. My father was hired to clean the place up. There was so much resistance to his efforts that there was an attempt on his life. Despite this, he didn’t quit. He was also a top notch engineer being considered the father of the deep tunnel project.

Inspired by my love and nature and my father’s example, I served in many leadership positions within the Sierra Club. One of these was the Political Committee. It was there that I learned the importance of getting environmentalists elected.

My Father Reads the Headline

“Bacon’s 3 Day Ride With Bomb”

Coyote Hills Regional Park

The most revealing issue for me was Patterson Ranch. A number of environmentalist groups were concerned about the proposed 2,000 unit housing development being considered right next to Coyote Hills Regional Park. This was especially concerning to me as I loved it as a place to practice amateur nature photography.

We organized, gathered signatures, and ultimately put a proposition on the 2006 ballot to reduce the amount of development that could happen there. Our proposition lost as we were outspent by a 16 to 1 margin.

We realized that if we were to have any chance of better development decisions being made in Fremont, we were going to have to get people elected who shared our values of preserving open space and being more discerning about the types of development that could happen in our community. We talked to the people who would make the best candidates, and none were interested.

In an odd coincidence, at this time I was helping my sister clean out my parents’ house. We found a box of campaign buttons from when my father ran for City Council in Mill Creek, a small suburb of Seattle.

The thought of being able to continue my father’s legacy of public service with integrity, and to contribute in citywide planning decisions was compelling. So, I decided to run.

I thought winning a campaign would be easy as long as you had the right set of values. I was most mistaken. There are very powerful, wealthy forces that prefer the status quo and don’t want outsiders getting elected. But I did well enough the first time I ran that I knew I could win if I kept at it.

I was finally elected on my third attempt in 2012. As a City councilmember, I fought against poorly planned, unattractive, and environmentally unsustainable housing developments.

My campaigns and time in office increased awareness of the issue of development in Fremont and the fact that developers play a major role in local politics. We had huge gains on the City Council, getting a majority of members that didn’t accept campaign contributions. However, we lost that majority and our City Council has taken a very pro-developer turn.

I want to serve as Mayor of Fremont so that once again I can work hard for the values that I believe are shared by most residents:

  1. No influence by developers and real estate interests on City Council decisions
  2. No housing developments that burden our infrastructure and services and degrade our environment without any positive benefits for our community
  3. Protection of open space and promotion of environmental sustainability.