Three candidates are on the ballot for Dublin Mayor — Vice Mayor Arun Goel, Councilmember and former Vice Mayor Melissa Hernandez, and Regina Pangelinan.
The Independent reached out to all three candidates via email and phone calls to make contact. Pangelinan did not respond. Candidates are listed alphabetically. Their statements have been edited for length.
The candidates were asked the following questions:
- How does your background and experience make you a good fit for the job? Please describe your priorities and how you would accomplish them.
- As a councilmember, what achievements are you most proud of, and what were your greatest challenges?
- What have you done already and will do in the future to tackle the challenges of COVID- 19 in terms of the health and unemployment of vulnerable residents, the economic effect on local businesses, and the City of Dublin’s financial strength and programs?
- Should Dublin slow down residential growth, or is it too late to do that? What has been the impact on schools? Is there a need to change the residential growth rate?
- Is Dublin doing enough to create housing for low and very low-income people?
- What are your views of past and future business growth?
- What policies have you supported to help shape development in Dublin? What, if any, concessions were you able to extract from developers when making discretionary approvals?
- How do you ensure equity in providing services to the east and west sides of Dublin, including traffic management?
- Have you ever received contributions or been endorsed by developers, businesses, unions or other persons or organizations doing business with the city? If so when?
- Dublin contracts out its police services to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. What, if anything, should the city do to review or change policing policies?
- Should Dublin do more to build or encourage solar panels within the city, in parking lots and private homes?
Goel holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degrees in civil engineering, and worked on infrastructure projects across Alameda County and the Bay Area.
“I began my career in public service as a neighborhood volunteer,” he said. “I eventually became the president of my local homeowner association, where I worked hard to provide great services, keep fees low, and balance budgets with accountability and transparency.”
Goel said he voted on the council to “push for better housing, smoother transit and transportation and a strong business sector that has helped promote economic development and support entrepreneurs.”
Goel’s goal is to be a strong independent, unbiased leader, focused on prioritizing Dublin residents and their needs.
Goel said that his top accomplishments as a councilmember have been “attracting local businesses, helping business drive innovation (especially during COVID, e.g. like on restaurants using underutilized kitchen space) addressing a much-needed healthy food choice for seniors, and creating a new business, Great Meals Delivered.”
“I personally feel I helped improve the quality of projects regarding transportation and aesthetics, while pausing the explosive housing growth Dublin experienced over the past two decades,” he said.
He noted his key challenges were getting councilmembers to understand and appreciate the long-term impacts of council decisions on rapid growth relative to impacts on the city’s infrastructure — such as transportation and schools.
In tackling the future challenges of COVID-19, including its health and economic impact, Goel said COVID recovery depends on electing a mayor who will bring the city together and has a proven track record of delivering real results to ensure that families, local businesses and the city budget are prepared for the future.
During the COVID-19 crisis, he said, “I have helped procure grants for a few organizations to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) for seniors, helped be an advisor to a new nonprofit (Break the Outbreak) led by a Dublin High School student, providing PPE for restaurants and grocery stores.”
On whether to slow growth, its impact on schools, or changing the growth rate, Goel said, “As I have been saying to residents for four years (on the council), developers have had too much influence in our city for too long. They’re the reason why we have not been able to calm our chaotic traffic, or why we’ve seen an increase in traffic and an uptick in our number of crowded classrooms before the pandemic.”
“Over-development has interfered with addressing the homeless and affordable housing crisis, or helping seniors age in place, and young people to afford a home,” Goel said. “Pausing market-rate housing would allow Dublin to refocus and bring affordable housing to the city.”
He noted that development has outpaced infrastructure, which makes the quality of life worse.
“There is absolutely a need to change the rate of residential growth,” said Goel.
On low-cost housing
“Dublin is not doing enough to create low and very low-income housing,” Goel said. “Just driving down Dublin Boulevard shows the city has built too much, and too fast. Ironically enough, we are not even addressing the affordability component of our housing crisis at all. I believe there is a place in Dublin for everyone.”
Goel: “Dublin has done well for past and future business growth. However, more needs to be done. Many of our 2,300 businesses are facing an uncertain future, as the coronavirus continues to challenge the future of retail, dining, and work. Whether the business is a large company or a small business, we need to address the issues driving our vacancy rates — some of which stem from rental rates and connection fees that are significantly higher than adjacent cities. These investments will improve our overall tax base, help bring jobs to Dublin, while helping relieve Greenhouse Gas Emissions and reduce traffic. We also need to work on diversifying the business portfolio, creating a sustainable workforce and revenue base for Dublin, i.e. biotechnology, med-tech, light industrial, for instance.”
“Everything we do as a council is related to shaping our development,” Goel continued. “For me, I have helped provide necessary feedback to drive long-term visions for areas of Dublin, like Fallon East and Downtown Dublin. In addition, I have met with developers to assist them in understanding the values of Dubliners to improve the projects. During these tough conversations, I was able to help drive a pedestrian-friendly retail facility, minimize visible above-ground parking, and enhance the external aesthetics of the projects, for instance on Ikea.
“I think we have to change the narrative in our city, and firmly establish our values. Our small, close-knit community is being challenged by these strong influences. I’m prepared to be our next mayor and challenge our developers to do more on their part in building a city that is consistent with our city’s ideas.
Goel said that West Siders are already seeing the installation of the most modern, “smart” traffic signals that can respond to traffic conditions ahead at intersections. The city has helped East Siders obtain money and sites in deals that saw agreements that swapped land with developers with a net outcome of flexibility in making better terms for the school district in acquiring the land. There also has been park development and road upgrades on both sides of town.
Campaign Donation Influence
Goel said he has not received contributions or been endorsed by entities doing business with the city. He said developers have influenced the development in Dublin.
“As your mayor, I want to make an independent decision on the merits of each project that comes my way, with confidence,” he said. “I want Dubliners to also share that confidence in me in knowing that my decision on development is not tied to any financial contributions or obligations from those in labor organizations or the developer community.”
Public Safety Priorities
Public safety is good in Dublin, and the Sheriff’s Department has already adopted seven of the eight suggested “8 Can’t Wait” policies aimed at improved police procedures in confronting suspects.
“I think it really is about time though that we learn to diversify and reflect on how we can incorporate social services into the services that our public safety officers already provide,” he said. “The next generation of public safety must include a team of people that can collaborate and be better skilled to assess a specific problem and offer a specific solution. Accountability and transparency are important, and should be a standard we hold ourselves to in any department. I hope to bring thoughtful solutions that help bring our public safety into its new chapter. Dublin is at its best, when diverse communities come together and live and thrive together in harmony.”
A Call for Local Solar
“Dublin absolutely needs to help incentivize and encourage the increase of solar panel installation on parking lots and private homes,” Goel said. “In my neighborhood, our local homeowner association was able to install solar panels at our community pool. The city should be much more engaged in helping us find win-win solutions that allow us to meet the objectives of our Climate Action Plan 2030.”
Background of Experience
“Since joining the Dublin City Council in 2016, I have put in the hard and meaningful work required to prepare me to become mayor,” Hernandez said. “I have been engaged in committees at the local, county and state levels on issues of vital interest to Dubliners, including transportation and human services. My vast and diverse list of local, regional and federal endorsements demonstrates the support I have to ensure that Dublin has a seat at the table in critical conversations.
“My work as a small business finance manager for over 18 years enables me to understand the needs of small businesses. My education in political science and public administration has prepared me with the required and relevant skills needed to lead the city's public service needs.”
Addressing Top Priorities
Hernandez said she would work to retain and support Dublin’s businesses.
“We must continue to support our beloved local businesses as we reopen together,” she said. “I was proud to spearhead a micro-loan program for existing businesses in Dublin that provided critical funding, and I continue to work to attract new neighborhood-serving businesses that revitalize and stabilize our community.
“Since my first day on council I have led the effort for the Downtown Preferred Vision Plan. This plan, when fully realized, will add much needed infrastructure to downtown. This was a campaign promise of mine when I first ran for Council in 2016 that I am very proud to say is moving forward.
“Improve Neighborhood Safety and Emergency Medical Response Capacity: I am honored to be supported by Dublin’s First Responders and Alameda County Firefighters for my work to maintain our safety and strengthen our 911 medical response time. I will work to ensure that Dublin is prepared with life-saving emergency medical response and fire prevention to keep our residents safe.”
She named reducing traffic and protecting Dublin’s open space to be her priorities as well.
“A frequent concern I hear from my community is: traffic, traffic, traffic,” she said. “Clogged roads and jammed freeways affect our quality of life and clean air – and Dublin must be prepared to address these challenges into the future. I commit to preserving Dublin’s beautiful open spaces for future generations — and will fight in Sacramento to ensure that we maintain Dublin’s local control over our own housing and growth decisions.”
Response to COVID-19
“Early on during the pandemic I was involved in mask distribution, food bank distribution and COVID-19 testing of our most vulnerable residents,” Hernandez continued. “Being responsive to our local residents and their needs has also been critical and the micro-loan program I spearheaded through our economic development committee has been a significant help to our business owners. I am also in frequent contact with the Alameda County Public Health Department on a regular basis to provide a voice for a reopening in a healthy and safe manner of our local businesses. I have been engaged with Alameda County the entire time to make sure Dublin is represented.”
Thoughts on Growth, Impact on Schools
“I feel it's critical for our residents to understand the history of development in Dublin. The growth Dublin has seen over the last two decades was voted on and approved between 2000 and 2015,” she said. “Rather than ask ‘Is it too late to slow growth?’ we should ask how we complete Dublin’s build-out using smart growth policy and only approve projects that complement our city. Affordable housing, transit-oriented housing, work/live units are just a few ways we can complement our city while adding much needed walkable retail.”
Difficulties of Creating Low-Cost Housing
“All cities, not just Dublin, are short in meeting the very low and low housing goals required by the state. That said, we have created approximately 1,400 affordable housing units throughout Dublin. We created an affordable and workforce project named Emerald Vista that involved redevelopment of a public housing site into a vibrant, mixed use, mixed-income community. Dublin received an Excellence in Affordable & Workforce Housing Award for this project. In the last four years, the council has approved two apartment projects in our transit-oriented district, in which one of the projects provided Dublin with land for affordable housing projects in the future and also provided money for Downtown Dublin.”
Past and Future Business Growth
“Dublin’s economic development has slowly grown over the years, but since I have been on council, I can say we have strived to attract more businesses, particularly in the tech industries,” Hernandez continued. “A great example of recent and future growth that Dublin has seen is the Carl Zeiss Meditec corporate office, Amazon distribution center and TriNet, which will complement Dublin’s ever-growing diverse grouping of businesses.”
Policy Support for Shaping Development
“Since joining the council in 2016, I have stated I am supportive of smart growth development that provides values and complements Dublin’s housing market. Since 2016, I have not approved any market-rate single-family detached residential tract projects. What we have done as a council is to approve two apartment developments near BART in the walkable transit-oriented areas of Dublin.
“One of those projects was St. Patrick's Way and the approval of that project brought us approximately two acres of land provided to the City of Dublin for use with our next affordable housing project.”
“I do not look at any of our city issues with an east-west lens,” she stated. “During my time as vice mayor and as a councilmember, I look at issues from the perspective of what is best for all of Dublin.
“Projects such as the Dublin Boulevard and Dougherty Boulevard road expansions are examples of funding distribution that benefits all of Dublin. As councilmembers, we should not operate with an east/west mindset, but what is in the best interest of our entire city and what benefits our residents.”
Contributions: Doing business with Dublin
“I am proud to say that I have a wide range of endorsements from our community members, essential workers such as police and local firefighters who both have unions that negotiate with the city,” said Hernandez. “I have not been endorsed by developers. The form 460 has always been a public record, and I’m proud of my supporters. These endorsements show I have a diverse and broad scope of support. It is important that our residents’ voices are heard and my broad coalition of supporters allows me to be that voice for our residents.”
Policing in Dublin
“The partnership between the Alameda County Sheriff's office and the City of Dublin is a strong partnership. Our city is safe and our residents have had a good relationship with our police officers. We have recently created a task force that will engage the community along with our police department. This task force will give the council recommendations.”
Encouraging Solar Power in Dublin
“Currently the Library/City Hall parking complex as well as Shannon Community Center have solar panels installed, providing significant energy generation to the city. We have also added a full set of solar panels to the parking complex at the new police services building, but we are constantly striving to do more,” Hernandez concluded.
“We are currently offering financing programs and a reduced permit fee along with over the counter service to encourage solar panels in the community for our businesses and residents. We are also working on a current energy efficiency project that would include more solar at Emerald Glen Park.”