by BAR Editorial Board | Wednesday February 7, 2024
We've been waiting a long time to have a member of the LGBTQ community elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Over the years out candidates have come up short, which has been frustrating given the large queer community in the East Bay. In the March 5 primary, there are two out candidates on the ballot. Gay Black nurse Jennifer Esteen is running in District 4 against incumbent Nate Miley. Meanwhile, the scramble is on in District 5, which became an open race when longtime Supervisor Keith Carson decided in December not to seek reelection. That race includes gay candidate and Emeryville City Councilmember John Bauters.
We're recommending Esteen and Bauters in their respective contests.
Esteen will bring energy and ideas to the Board of Supervisors. She ran unsuccessfully for state Assembly two years ago but since then has remained committed to her East Bay community. She's a public health nurse and psychiatric registered nurse who stated in her questionnaire that community-based behavioral health care services should be expanded. Esteen is also a mom, and that informs many of her policy ideas.
To create more affordable housing, Esteen stated that she'd work to build more mixed-income, deeply affordable, mixed generation, transit-rich, green housing. "We need transit-dense housing connected to community services where people of all ages and income levels co-exist," she stated. One source for some of that affordable housing would be on or near BART property. (The transit agency has been involved in projects with community and development partners on its property that has seen 4,140 housing units built at 16 stations, with some being affordable. More projects are in the pipeline.) She would also like to increase rental subsidies and a robust first-time homebuyer program to support workers that reside in the county with preferences for equity measures including LGBTQ+ identity, she stated.
Esteen would also like to see what she called "inflated investments in jails and prisons" be shifted back into community-based care, particularly for mental health services.
If elected, Esteen would be the first gay Black county supervisor not only in Alameda County, but in California, she noted. "Values and representation matter," she stated, adding that she would take that into account for various appointments the supervisors make.
District 4 includes portions of Oakland; portions of Pleasanton; the unincorporated communities of Ashland, Castro Valley, Cherryland, El Portal Ridge, Fairmont Terrace, Fairview, Hill Crest Knolls; and a portion of Sunol. Since the race is only between two candidates, the winner will be decided in March.
We think Esteen has many good ideas that would improve the lives of Alameda County residents.
Bauters is in a crowded race for the open District 5 seat. He has served on the Emeryville City Council since 2016, including stints as mayor (the position is rotated among the councilmembers). He noted in his endorsement questionnaire that he has done extensive work to address housing needs of all incomes in Emeryville, including championing a $50 million affordable housing bond that voters approved in 2018. Combined with other funds, the city has taken remaining city and redevelopment successor agency properties and has been developing them into low-income housing, he stated. This includes housing for everyone, from moderate income households to permanent supportive housing with wrap-around services for people who are homeless, he explained. "Affordable housing production is possible with leadership," he stated. He, too, is supportive of BART's housing program.
On law enforcement reform, Bauters stated that additional work is needed with how some law enforcement officers engage with members of the transgender community. "Use of a deadname, misgendering people, or not providing access to gender-affirming facilities for people in custody denies members of the LGBTQ community human dignity and personal safety," he stated.
Bauters would work to increase representation by Black, Brown, and LGBTQ people on boards and commissions, and he readily acknowledged his privilege as a white man. He said he has worked to mentor, support, elevate, and create space for Black, Indigenous, people of color, and LGBTQ voices on Emeryville bodies, as well as regional boards and agencies where he serves. That would continue at the county level, he stated.
District 5 includes Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Piedmont, and a portion of Oakland including West Oakland, North Oakland, and the North Hills areas.
Bauters has the experience to hit the ground running on the Board of Supervisors.