Editorial: Reject Pittsburg’s ugly previous, reelect Killings and Banales – The Mercury Information
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Pittsburg voters over the past two elections have turned control of the City Council over to a new generation. After decades of questionable and illegal council behavior, it was long overdue.
Now two of those new leaders, Jelani Killings and Juan Antonio Banales, face re-election for the first time. For Pittsburg residents who want well-functioning government, this should be an easy decision. Voters should support Killings and Banales, two of the smartest and most-promising young leaders in the East Bay.
And they should reject the comeback bid of Frank Aiello, who was booted from office in a 2002 election drubbing by voters tired of his and another council member’s ties to prominent developer Albert Seeno Jr.
Aiello’s entry into the race makes this election a choice between bright new leaders for the future and a resurgence of the ugly old-guard politics of the past.
The fourth candidate in the race this year for two council seats is Natisa Dill, an adjunct professor of nursing for the University of San Francisco and a patient-safety leader for Kaiser Permanente. While she has a strong professional resume, she lacks a working knowledge of the city’s finances and has yet to form clear positions on other issues.
The incumbents, Killings and Banales, have lived up to the promises they made when we enthusiastically endorsed them in 2016. They have prudently managed and mastered the details of the city’s finances, which helped position Pittsburg to weather the current recession better than many municipalities.
Killings, who holds a master’s degree in public administration, is a staff member for Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission. Banales, a mechanical engineer, is a maintenance group leader at Corteva Agriscience in Pittsburg.
They are focused on maintaining public safety and police staffing while raising sensitivity to racially equitable practices. And, with a massive housing project proposed by the Seeno family development empire soon to come to the council, Killings and Banales promise to be even-handed. Seeno family companies, or any development firm, deserve a fair review before the City Council that also considers visual, environmental and traffic concerns of residents.
That wasn’t the way it was when Aiello was on the council. During his tenure, from 1998-2002, Aiello cast key votes with multimillion-dollar consequences for Seeno development projects. Aiello joined a three-member City Council majority to support relaxing proposed hillside development restrictions, keep developer fees down and change the general plan designation for prime property near the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART station that Seeno sought to buy.
Meanwhile, with help from Seeno and one of his business associates, and despite two bankruptcy filings in the previous six years, Aiello obtained a favorable home mortgage in 1999 to buy a new five-bedroom house from Seeno.
And Aiello accepted from Seeno free hotel lodging, a luxury suite ticket to a Raiders AFC championship game, and a flight from Concord to Reno, Nev., on the developer’s private jet. The state Fair Political Practices Commission fined Aiello $20,000 for failing to report the three gifts and exceeding the state gift limit for the ticket and flight.
Aiello wasn’t the only member of the council at the time who accepted favors from Seeno. Councilman Frank Quesada’s personal debt to Seeno mounted to $370,000 as he was voting on the developer’s controversial projects. Quesada was sentenced in 2003 to 300 hours of community service after pleading no contest to three misdemeanor charges. He died in 2011.
Voters should reject the politics of decades past. They should stick with two incumbents, Jelani Killings and Juan Antonio Banales, who represent a new generation of Pittsburg leaders and have proven through their actions that they deserve reelection.