The Concord Clayton Pioneer newspaper presented a list of questions to the candidates running for Concord City Council in the 2020 election. Edi Birsan is running unopposed in District 4. Here are his answers. To read answers to our questionnaire from candidates running in the District 2 election, click here. For our story on all the candidates running for Concord City Council, click here.
Current occupation: Small business (one person small) surveyor in the maritime intermodal equipment field/Concord City Council member.
How long have you lived in Concord? 37 years.
Personal information: Married to my high school sweetheart for 47 years. Two kids, a boy and a girl, both raised in Concord. Two grandsons. In my spare time (ha!), I am a gamer. Diplomacy is my game. I am in Wikipedia with a page at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edi_Birsan. I am active on Facebook, where I share civic goings on and even, on occasion, some civil discussions. Favorite color is blue. Except when annoyed, then red. I do not like long walks on beaches at sunset or sunrise. I am a morning person. Prefer tea (English Breakfast) over coffee. Diabetic Type 2. Do not drink. Loved “Game of Thrones.” Enjoy sci-fi and fantasy. Played and designed games. Average chess player. Above average Texas hold ’em player. Horrible at crosswords and spelling. Scrabble is torture. Right-handed, left-thinking. I believe that government is either listening to you or to someone else, so talk and act.
Why do you want to serve on the Concord City Council? Found it easier to get things done than to stand at the podium and complain.
What experience or training do you have that qualifies you to make decisions for the city? Aside from doing it for the past eight years? Decades of decision making in business and life.
What engagement have you had in civic affairs? Do you regularly attend city council meetings? I have perfect attendance at City Council meetings for the last 12 years. Yes, I have been on for only eight but attended all meetings for the four years before, and some before that but not in a direct, unbroken sequence.
What do you see as the three most important issues immediately facing Concord and how do you plan to address those issues?
Budget, Measure V (the Measure Q extension) to increase sales tax, dispensaries, reducing expenses, homeless impacts, increase Coordinated Outreach, Referral, Engagement (CORE) services, redirect police dispatch, find cooperative actionable and funded non-profits, economic recovery from COVID. We need rental protection, creative financing for those in trouble, including all sides. I have worked on a five-year loan payback plan with city guarantees.
What are your priorities in making public policy? Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
How much would you say the city’s budget deficit is? How would you close the gap? $10-$17 million. See above.
A measure on the November ballot would extend Concord’s Measure Q until ended by voters – raising it to a one cent rate instead of the current half cent. What is your position? We need it extended from a half cent to one cent. This means that instead of paying 50 cents on a $100 purchase, you pay $1 – which while twice as much is still what we need.
What does “defunding the police” mean to you? The police budget is 57 percent of the city’s General Fund budget. Would you change this allocation? How? Defund the police should mean and be restated as: Can we reasonably redirect some of the police resources elsewhere?
The 57 percent, or any percent, is a poor metric as the real metric is: Are people safe? Is the job being done? Can we do it better? I can easily drive that percentage down by adding $20 million in income, or more. Richmond has a 41 percent budget for police, and they spend millions more than we do and have 20 percent less population.
The nature of policing is also a matter of service availability at an instant in time, with 87 percent of its budget being people. Think of it as a transportation system in which the number of calls are the riders that jump on and off. Even though the numbers may go up or down a bit, the vehicles still have to be there and run by people.
Should the city dedicate land for homeless encampments? If so, how much land and where? We do not have land for this, however, we do have the ability to authorize nonprofits who are willing to provide their land and provide the necessary oversight and security, etc. that goes with this.
Do you support just cause clauses to prevent evictions? Do you support a rent freeze? If so, for how long? If not, why? My record shows this, and I support a rent freeze at least through Dec. 31 and then we should look at what is reasonable beyond that.
What role should the city play in closing the housing gap? We zone the land. We have some housing money but not enough. We push for affordable housing percentages.
What is your vision for the Concord Naval Weapons Station? The northern waterfront? For CNWS, we have an approved plan. While I would like it done in phases, we need a balance of housing, jobs and open space. The northern waterfront vision has not been well-actioned, in my view. My vision for it would be: How does it help Concord?
What would you do to differentiate Concord from surrounding communities in attracting new business and retaining current businesses? We are already differentiating by having central transportation, cheaper office rents and cheaper housing costs. What I would like to see is that we get more support in improving the schools and uplifting the success in dealing with those in our community that need help.