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Skinner for East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors
October 5, 2006
East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors

There are two excellent candidates running for the Ward 1 position, which includes Richmond, on the East Bay Regional Parks District Board of Directors.

The board administers more than 95,000 acres of parkland, including 65 regional parks and recreation, wilderness, shoreline, preserve and land bank areas in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Their 2005-2006 fiscal budget totals $159 million. Park staff includes 596 full-time and up to 80 seasonal and temporary employees.

The two candidates are:

·         Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Jean Siri in January of 2006.

·         E.J. Shalaby of Richmond, who is district manager of the West County Wastewater District.

This is a tough call, because I have known Shalaby personally since he moved to Richmond several years ago, and there is a compelling incentive to have a Richmond resident representing Ward 1, which also includes Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Kensington, a portion of Oakland, a small part of Pinole and San Pablo. Parks in Ward 1 include Brooks Island, Eastshore State Park, Kennedy Grove, Miller/Knox, Point Isabel, Point Pinole, Sobrante Ridge, Tilden, and Wildcat Canyon. Incidentally, Shalaby is also a member of my Rotary club.

However, I am recommending and endorsing Nancy Skinner because of her long history and proven reputation as a passionate environmentalist and her extensive background in local government and environmental policy. I just don’t have a clear perception of the level of commitment that Shalaby will have for open space and the environment when there are clashes with development pressures. I have more confidence with Skinner, who has a proven history in that regard. Shalaby supports the “compromise,” which I opposed, that the Richmond City Council negotiated to leave 20 acres of the Breuner property reserved for industrial development

Unfortunately, neither candidate has posted information at http://www.smartvoter.org/2006/11/07/ca/cc/race/3346/, so here is what I know about the two candidates:

E,J. Shalaby

E.J. Shalaby came to Richmond a few years ago with Veolia (formerly U.S. Filter) to manage the City of Richmond Wastewater Treatment Plant. Shalaby did an outstanding job of turning the plant around and was soon hired by the West County Wastewater District as its general manager, where he has continued an impressive performance. While running the Richmond plant, Shalaby set new standards for community involvement and technical proficiency. He is a member of the Richmond Recreation and Parks Commission and says that his community involvement and understanding of local park issues and demonstrated leadership skills will contribute to better policies on a regional level.


As a District Manager, Shalaby has successfully worked with decision makers to deliver fiscally responsible policies; providing quality services and lower fees for residents. Shalaby told me that he brings over 24 years of demonstrated leadership and a wealth of dedicated public service experience.


He notes that his professional career is focused on protecting the environment by improving water quality, and that he would bring the same focused protection as an East Bay Regional Park District Director by ensuring a balanced program for preserving open space, improving our parks and expanding and completing our trails system.


“As an involved Richmond resident, wrote Shalaby, “I will ensure that the interests of Richmond are represented fully on the EBRPD Board. Many important issues affecting Richmond will be considered by the EBRPD and I believe my presence and commitment involving and keeping the public informed will benefit Richmond if I am elected”

Nancy Skinner

Earlier this year, the East Bay Regional Park District Board voted 6-0 vote to elect Skinner to fill the term vacated by the death of Jean Siri, who represented Ward 1. Siri, a San Pablo resident and a long-time environmental activist, died Jan. 20 at the age of 85 in the final year of a four-year term.

As one of six finalists from an initial field of 13 applicants, Skinner and the other five were interviewed for the post by a committee of three board members: Ted Radke, Beverly Lane and Carol Severin, who also serves as board president. Other finalists included former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, Richmond environmental activist Whitney Dotson, Sierra Club attorney/activist Norman La Force, Oakland Deputy City Attorney Richard Illgen and former Berkeley school board member Carroll Williams, who had served as Ward 1 representative before he was defeated by Siri in 1992.

Skinner was the youngest person ever elected to the Berkeley City Council when she ran in 1984 while a student at UC Berkeley. She served on the council through 1994. In that race she had the strong backing of then-Assemblyman and now Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. She also served as coordinator of the successful 2002 run of Bates’ spouse, Loni Hancock, to replace him in the Assembly after he was forced out by term limits.

An internationally known environmentalist, Nancy Skinner has worked on urban energy and environmental policy for over 25 years. One of the founders of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), Nancy helped lead the organization’s growth from its initial office in Toronto, Canada to an organization with over 180 staff and 10 offices worldwide. She served as the International Director of the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign and the Executive Director of ICLEI’s U.S. Office.

On the Berkeley City Council, she was responsible for the measures that made Berkeley the first city in the US to enact a 50% recycling goal. Nancy has been a keynote speaker at many national and international forums including the Local Government Session at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, 2003. She is also widely published and was on the team of writers that produced the 1990 best seller series titled 50 Things You Can Do To Save The Earth (1990 EarthWorks Press). Nancy has a Bachelors of Science and a Masters from the University of California at Berkeley.

I was a little disappointed that Skinner has apparently bought into the EBRPD party line about public access and open space in the current Point Molate plan described in the Upstream development plan. I plan to provide a little tutoring should she be elected.

Richmond Issues

I asked both Shalaby and Skinner to respond to some questions I had about Richmond-specific issues involving the EBRPD:

1.            What is your position on the current City of Richmond plan for Point Molate?

Skinner: I would support City of Richmond's plans for Point Molate as articulated in the city's existing general plan, which describes goal for the area as industrial, park and historic district. I am not in favor of the current development plans for a casino and condos which do not as I understand it set aside any significant portions of the point as park or open space. Hopefully with the re-establishment of the City and District liaison committee we can work together on a plan that would provide some appropriate development for the City and establish parklands on Point Molate.


Shalaby: The plan in its current form brings a balance of development, open space and trail construction. Going forward I would expect to see an open process for Point Molate’s future with involvement from Richmond citizens, environmental groups, EBRPD and City leaders and staff.

2.            What is your position on the EBRPD acquisition of the Bruener property? If you support acquisition, do you support acquisition of the entire property?

Skinner: EBRPD has moved to acquire 218 acres of Breuner Marsh and I am in support of that acquisition. The only portion the district did not move to acquire is 20 acres in the SE corner next to Rheem Creek which the City's plan had set aside for possible light industrial development. I would be open to full acquisition of the uplands area.


Shalaby: I support the EBRPD acquisition of the property to retain our Richmond shoreline, this acquisition was agreed to between the property owner, the City of Richmond and the District. The City of Richmond’s General Plan has a portion of this property zoned for development, approximately 20 acres along with an easement right-away; I feel this was a fair compromise between the City and the District not to acquire this section of property and allow the City to maintain the current zoning designation.

3.            What is your position on re-establishment of the trail at Miller Knox Regional Shoreline that runs for the “notch” east of Nicholl Knob down to Canal Boulevard, part of which is on City of Richmond property?

Skinner: That portion of the trail as you indicate is on City of Richmond land and not Park District Land. I have asked staff to work with East Bay Conservation Corps to clean up that portion of the trail and staff has expressed willingness. In the long term if City of Richmond were to give EBRPD right of way to the trail portion I would support the Park District reestablishing and maintaining the trail.


Shalaby: Trail at M-KRS: I would support the reestablishment of the trail at Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline running to Canal Boulevard; it would compliment our current trail system. I will work with our City leaders and TRAC to build a consensus for reestablishing the trail.

4.            What is your position on control of invasive exotic plants in EBRPD units, such as broom and pampas grass?

Skinner: These invasive plants impact the re-establishment of native species and I am in favor of more work to eliminate and control broom, pampas grass, star thistle and other invasive species. As operating funds are tight, I would work to help the District acquire grant funds to add to our ability to control these invasives.


Shalaby: We should take every opportunity to reestablish native vegetation in all EBRPD areas and work towards responsible management of invasive vegetation.

5.            What is your position toward the acquisition of Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor, possibly with City of Richmond collaboration, to keep it from falling in the hands of Chevron?

Skinner: I would prefer that the San Pablo Yacht Harbor not fall in the hands of Chevron. Acquisition by the Parks District alone would be difficult at this time as our acquisition funds are primarily voter approved and specify the land we are to acquire. But perhaps if we are creative a consortium could be put together to acquire. 

Shalaby: I would support a partnership/collaboration between EBRPD and the City of Richmond to acquire Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor. I can envision various recreational uses for the property, for example, developing a sailing or canoeing program to expand recreational activities for the EBRPD and the City. These programs in Richmond could attract and provide the City’s youth with outdoor water activities. This could compliment programs with Contra Costa College (similar to the programs offered in the Berkeley Marina).

6.            What is your position toward the acquisition of the Belt Line Railroad right of way on the point San Pablo peninsula for a trail?

Skinner: I completely support the acquisition of the Belt Line right of way as an essential component of our effort to connect the Bay Trail, Board has directed staff to move on this and I will continue to push for this acquisition.

Shalaby: The Belt Line Railroad right-of-way: I walked the Belt Line Railroad right-away when a trail walk was organized by Bruce Beyaert of TRAC; the trail expansion along this right way would compliment our current trail system as well as provide access to Richmond’s shoreline. As an EBRPD Board member I will work with stakeholders in an open process in establishing this trail extension.