Candidates for the City Council are keenly focused on quality of life issues, perhaps fitting for a city recently named the happiest spot in the country.

Concord to elect 3 council members and treasurer

Concord to elect 3 council members and treasurer
Candidates on the November ballot for Concord City Council, District 1 are: Quinne Anderson, Incumbent Laura Hoffmeister, and Robert Ring.

CONCORD, CA (Sept. 16, 2022) — Candidates for the City Council are keenly focused on quality of life issues, perhaps fitting for a city recently named the happiest spot in the country.

This November, council seats are up for election in Districts 1, 3 and 5. Whoever is elected will work with sitting Councilmembers Carlyn Obringer and Edi Birsan to move Concord forward, keep residents safe and secure, and meet the growth and infrastructure needs of all residents – all with budgetary restrictions, inflation and a looming recession.

Mayor Dominic Aliano, who represents much of the Monument Corridor area in District 3, is running unopposed. Here is a rundown of the other two council races, as well as the city treasurer.

For full, unedited questionnaires on the candidates’ positions, visit The Pioneer local elections page.

District 1

Businessman Robert Ring and tech professional Quinne Anderson, two new faces to local politics, are challenging Laura Hoffmeister – the powerhouse incumbent with 25 years of experience on the council.

To a T, all three believe that the unhoused population is one of the top three issues facing Concord. To that, Hoffmeister and Ring add public safety, while Ring notes sustainable development. Hoffmeister and Anderson point to the city’s roads and infrastructure as another key concern. Anderson also lists “disentangling” the issues with the Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS) to allow it to progress.

The homelessness issue is the most complicated, and one that each candidate believes can’t be solved by the city or police department alone.

“We need to help the homeless by offering transitional (temporary) sober-contingent living, mental health services and drug and alcohol rehabilitation,” Ring says.

He adds that it is not just a Concord issue, so the city should work with surrounding communities to help with those priorities.

Hoffmeister agrees. “I voted to fund outreach teams and mental health evaluation teams, and a new dedicated coordinator to address these issues. I am currently working on new federal grants to provide for comprehensive outreach, housing and wrap-around services, such as mental health and addiction counseling, in partnership with regional and nonprofit service providers.”

Unlike Hoffmeister and Ring, Anderson would consider allowing some camping or campers on public property. “No one should have to live without safety, shelter and other basic human needs,” she says. “I would rather try something and fail, than keep the status quo and try nothing. I would be willing to explore piloting a program that requires dedicated land. Where that would be, and how it would be managed, are questions I can’t answer without consultation and cooperation from the community.”

Public safety debate

As for public safety, neither Hoffmeister nor Ring – who has support from the Concord Police Officers Association – support defunding police.

“Public safety is top importance,” Hoffmeister says. “The police department is the only department that operates 24/7, 365 days a year and includes a dispatch operation. Therefore, it will have the highest amount of the budget. I have worked to bring technology to enhance police operations with license plate readers, cameras and drones, which improve public safety while minimizing costs.”

Ring looks at it from a more financial point of view. “Many people don’t know this but … Concord police officers (have) to pay into Social Security on top of their state retirement fund, CalPERS,” he says. “Surrounding cities don’t have this requirement. On top of that, we don’t pay as much as some surrounding cities do for starting wage, so we lose police officers to these cities. We need excellent men and women protecting us and cannot afford to have the vacancy we currently have, which is around 20% including those out on injury.”

Anderson expresses the public’s general confusion over the phrase “defunding.”

“I find that phrase to be a misnomer, and it’s often misunderstood to mean ‘abolish the police.’ To me, it’s a plea to make more thoughtful investments of taxpayer money into delivering more effective public safety services,” she says.

Civic involvement

While many of the candidates’ opinions overlap, the major difference is their longevity in the city. Ring, 31, has lived here for seven years, and Anderson, 44, has been a resident for six years. Hoffmeister, 61, was born and raised in the city and has lived in Concord for 60 years.

Besides her experience as a council member for 25 years – which includes serving on scores of local and regional committees – she has been active in non-political activities including the Concord Chamber of Commerce, the Concord Historical Society and local branch of the American Association of University Women.

The only blemish on her record is a DUI arrest last spring.

“It was a terrible mistake, and I own it,” she says. “As I’ve said, I accept the consequences.”

Ring has been active in business organizations, both locally and regionally, and regularly attends Concord City Council meetings, as well as meeting with local officials and residents to understand the nuances of city issues and the role of a council members, he says.

“I can bring a fresh perspective to the city and the council,” he notes.

Anderson says her major involvement in civic affairs has historically been through donations to nonprofits focused on promoting social justice and volunteering for Vote Forward.

Building a better city

When asked what they would do to make Concord a better place, the candidates’ answers vary as much as the city itself.

“Sadly, I don’t think the Bay Area holds Concord in the highest esteem,” Anderson says, comparing it to neighboring cities that have bustling downtown business areas.

Ring thinks people should be more concerned with how Concord residents feel about their own town. “If we bring back Concord to what it once was, and make it even better, we will be a center that everyone wants to visit,” he says. “But that starts by acknowledging the needs and concerns of residents here in our city – not by asking surrounding cities how they feel about us.”

He says he is “all for progress,” and that making public safety a top priority, developing the CNWS and other abandoned properties, and addressing the homelessness crisis would be three great ways to start making Concord better.

Hoffmeister says that the city already portrays a positive impression as more people want to stay here and move here for home or business. “We are reasonably affordable and have BART accessibility with two stations,” says Hoffmeister. “The focal point of downtown Concord is Todos Santos Plaza and is known for its farmers market and free summer concerts.”

She is proud that during her time on the council, Concord has been recognized as the best place in California to raise a family, awarded Best Music Scene by the Livability website, named one of the 10 best places in the world to retire by Condé Nast Traveler and recently called the “Happiest City in the United States” in an Instagram-based study.

Hoffmeister, who had a career as an environmental and city planner, says she will work to provide more resources to decrease crime and ensure that that Concord has housing for all segments of the community “now and into the future.”

District 5

Concord to elect 3 council members and treasurer
For Concord City Council, District 5, voters will choose between current Mayor Tim McGallian and challenger, Laura Nakamura.

The two candidates running for the District 5 seat, representing areas such as Turtle Creek, Walnut Country and the Crossings, seem similar.

Councilmember Tim McGallian is affable and approachable and will give you all the time you need to discuss an issue. The 18-year Concord resident and local insurance agent has a long history of civic service, both elected and volunteer.

McGallian, 41, has been on the council since 2016. Before that, he was city treasurer – another elected position – and a planning commissioner for five years.

As a volunteer, he was past-president and founder of the Todos Santos Business Association Arts Foundation, ran the city’s 4th of July celebrations, was on the Concord Chamber of Commerce board, a member of the Kiwanis Club, a Little League and high school track coach and ran a Boy Scout troop. “I’ve been busy, but I love my community,” McGallian says.

The same can be said for his opponent, Laura Nakamura, a friendly pediatric sonographer who has called Concord home for 30 years. Although she doesn’t have the extensive government experience of McGallian, she has been an active civic volunteer.

She co-founded Concord Communities Alliance, an organization “working toward just and equitable conditions for all residents.” In 2018, she participated in the Concord Community Institute, a program that offers a deep introduction to city government and services. She is also a member of Urban Habitat’s 2021 Boards, Commissions and Leadership Institute, which focuses on equitable policy work in land use, transportation and housing.

She’s been a participant in Concord council meetings since 2016, when she began advocating for public safety – focusing on roadways and infrastructure for pedestrians and bikers. She’s an active member of Bike Concord and has participated in the city’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee meetings, as well as helping out with bike rodeos at National Night Out events.

Nakamura contributed to the city’s adoption of voting districts in 2018 and the redistricting in 2022. She was appointed to the city’s Community Services Commission in 2021.

Long-term strategies

Echoing a couple of the District 1 candidates, McGallian says that the three main issues facing Concord are housing and homelessness with the implementation of a new outreach team and creating a homeless strategic plan; public safety in maintaining staffing levels and using technology such as license plate reader cameras; and improving infrastructure and traffic with the most robust Capital Improvement Program laid out over the next five years.

“As a council member, I know that issues like homelessness, housing, public safety and capital improvements can’t be done overnight,” McGallian says. “It takes coordinating with other cities and working with a council that wants the same thing. I think we have that and are poised to make great strides in the next few years.”

Housing affordability, homelessness and beginning a transformation of the transportation infrastructure top Nakamura’s agenda. She says these three areas offer the greatest opportunities for improving residents’ lives.

“The quality of life in my district, in all of Concord, is what is important to me and what drives me,” she says. “Behind these issues loom the realities of the Naval Weapons Station development, the city’s budget, and Concord’s zoning structures.”

Agreement on police funding

As for slashing the police budget, both candidates agree it’s not a good idea.

“‘Defunding police’ is a poor phrasing for reforming the criminal justice system,” McGallian says. “We need more resources directed at mental health services and proper response to a mental health call. This includes ongoing training for police in deescalation tactics and anti-bias training.”

“‘Defund’ is a poor choice of words and a poor policy framework,” Nakamura says. “When it comes to policing, the budget and the needs of Concord residents, what is needed is not sound-bite sticks to beat each other with, but rather a good partnership between the police and residents.”

She advocates data and dialogue – and a “real willingness to listen and learn from each other, and a willingness to be open, transparent and accountable to each other.”

City treasurer race

Challenger D’Marco Anthony faces incumbent Patti Barsotti in the race for Concord City Treasurer.

Two very different candidates are running for city treasurer: one an experienced incumbent and the other a young, enthusiastic newcomer to politics who says he represents the changing, diverse population of Concord.

Five-year incumbent Patti Barsotti says that the treasurer provides an important service to the city. “I want to continue in this job to make sure the right things keep happening for Concord.”

Barsotti believes it’s incredibly important to have a financially knowledgeable and experienced person with investment management expertise acting in a neutral position for the city. As the “conduit” between the city staff and the people of Concord, she says she has enjoyed examining what is going on with the city’s financial portfolio. Barsotti says her 40-plus years in financial services “prove my ability to continue in this position for our city.”

Challenger D’Marco Anthony says he has the experience to effectively communicate the treasurer’s report since he is familiar with how the council and finances work. He is currently a support/records clerk and has spent time in accounting payroll and as a voter data coordinator. He also participated in the city’s redistricting process.

Anthony says he represents the diversity of the city. He identifies with the city’s queer community and is a person of color, with Black descent.

“I don’t think any other elected official in Concord represents the diversity we have in the city,” he notes.

Peggy Spear
Peggy Spear

Peggy Spear is a journalist and frequent contributor to the Pioneer.