With City Council member Kenneth Leary retiring and member Mark Joseph mounting a spirited challenge to longtime Mayor Leon Garcia, American Canyon is guaranteed to have at least one new face on the council, and possibly as many as three, after this election.
Such a rare opportunity tends to bring out a large and diverse field of candidates, and this year did not disappoint.
Five candidates are seeking the two available seats on Nov. 3, including incumbent Mariam Aboudamous, and two familiar faces from previous elections, Pierre Washington and Jason Kishineff. Two others are making their first runs at elective office, business owner Joey Palma and longtime city planning commissioner Eric Altman.
All five have something to recommend them.
Aboudamous is wrapping up her first term on the council. She has impressed us with her work ethic, intelligence and relentless good cheer. She has shown herself willing to buck the system and take political risks, mounting a credible challenge to incumbent Supervisor Belia Ramos in the March primary and backing Joseph’s challenge to Garcia.
In our meeting with her last week, she demonstrated a passion for continuing the work from her first term, including seeing through the Watson Ranch project and completing the two connector roads planned east and west of Highway 29 to alleviate traffic congestion.
She also shared that she has a deeply personal connection with a problem that vexes many city residents: how to find appropriate and affordable housing. She and her fiancée are trying to buy a house, but the lack of starter-sized homes in town has forced them to compete for larger houses than they need, and they find themselves consistently outbid for what few houses are on the market.
We believe Aboudamous’ work and experience in her first term, and her personal understanding of the issues confronting her constituents, make her an excellent candidate for a second term. We strongly recommend a vote for Aboudamous.
The second choice is a little more complicated, if only because of the strong field.
Altman is clearly the most experienced of the four, having served 10 years on the planning commission. He understands city government, land use and the issues confronting the city as well as anyone not currently on the council. We were struck, however, to the extent he seems to be running strictly as a technocrat. He is explicitly positioning himself as a “candidate of ideas,” and in our meeting, he implied scorn for the traditional “shake hands and kiss babies” style of retail politics that characterizes small town campaigns. We were concerned he might be more fixated on the mechanics of government than on the equally important relationship-based aspect of being a council member.
Palma has a compelling and inspiring immigrant story. Having arrived in the U.S. 20 years ago with his family with just a few hundred dollars, he has built a successful in-home care company. He also is the pastor of a local church. We were impressed with Palma’s enthusiasm and his boundless entrepreneurial ideas. We were concerned, however, about his lack of local government experience. We recommend he join a city commission or board to learn more about the mechanics of government and come back for a future election.
It would be easy to dismiss Kishineff as one of the gadflies who wage quixotic runs for office in every city. Indeed, there is a certain element of that in him. But in our meetings with him over the years, he has consistently surprised us with the wisdom of his observations. In our meeting with him last week, he articulated a very perceptive focus on creating civic spaces and events to bind together a city that often lacks a cohesive identity or geographic focus. We are concerned, however, at his lack of specific policy ideas, and also worry that he might have difficulty building alliances on the council to get things done.
Which brings us to Washington. After a lengthy career in the military and law enforcement, he is now the head of security for a Genentech facility in the area. He ran for council in 2018 and fell a few hundred votes short of winning a seat. Instead of being discouraged, he chose to dive in and learn more, serving on the city’s Open Space Advisory Committee, a wise move that showed his genuine interest in pursuing a council seat.
In our meeting with him, Washington was a little thin on policy ideas, but he came across as warm, wise and genuinely interested in giving back to a community that has treated him so well over the years. He spoke movingly of how a police officer guided him off the wrong track in his native Philadelphia, and how that shaped his desire to mentor and serve others. He was particularly strong when discussing the need to embrace the diversity of American Canyon and bring under-represented minorities into the city workforce and bind them into the community.
We, therefore, recommend your second vote go to Washington.
The other candidates, however, would all serve American Canyon well in some way. Should Joseph succeed in beating Garcia to become mayor, we recommend that the city council give genuine consideration to any of the three who might apply for an appointment to the vacancy that move would create.
The Napa Valley Register Editorial Board consists of NVR President Davis Taylor, Editor Sean Scully, and public members Cindy Webber, Ed Shenk, Mary Jean Mclaughlin and Chris Hammaker.
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