Published October 19th, 2016
East Bay Park District Candidates Make a Play in Lamorinda
By Nick Marnell
Four candidates look to succeed retiring East Bay Regional Park District board member John Sutter of Ward 2, which includes all of Lamorinda. The candidates, listed alphabetically, present their case to Lamorinda voters.

Kent Fickett

Fickett has lived in the Lamorinda area for over 25 years with his wife Beckee Beemer and his two children, Daniel and Ellena. "Our family loves all of our regional parks and trails. We have biked, hiked, and walked our dogs in most of the 65 regional parks and numerous connecting trails," he said.

Fickett plans to work with Moraga officials and local land owners to connect the trail from Moraga Commons to Country Club Road along the creek north of School Street and the Ranch House. He would install electric car charging stations at all regional park parking lots where power is available. Fickett proposes to pursue existing funds from Sacramento for a BART to Parks program, offering reduced Bay Area Rapid Transit system weekend family round trip fares to the new Concord Hills Regional Park. He would institute a pilot program from the Ward 2 stations in the Oakland and Lamorinda areas, and then expand the program to other East Bay BART stations.

Fickett said he will continue current conservative budget practices to make sure taxpayer funds are properly balanced between parks, trails and park employees. "I do not want to see a BART-labor type problem at our Regional Park District," he said.

Audree Jones-Taylor

The former superintendent for the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, Jones-Taylor recently retired as director for Oakland Parks and Recreation, where she managed nearly 1,400 employees and supervised park assets, including 2,500 acres of open space. She became the first female director of the department in its more than 100-year history.

Jones-Taylor, with a master's degree in leadership from Saint Mary's College, said she has dedicated her 40-year professional life to managing parks and recreation, with an emphasis on serving the most vulnerable populations of the community, and has demonstrated leadership as a steward of natural resources including preservation and expansion of open spaces and parkland, urban creeks, trails and shoreline.

"What I will bring to the Lamorinda community is the commitment to be involved, engaged and an advocate for protecting the remaining hillside and ridgelines," said Jones-Taylor. "I have been on your trails, walked in your parks and have listened to your concerns. I want to be your voice on the board of directors to ensure there is an awareness of the value of preserving and protecting open space in addition to providing safe and enjoyable spaces for children and seniors."

John Roberts

A federal bank regulator, Roberts plans to bring regulatory tools to the board to help lower the costs of running the park district. For example, he would have the financial auditor report directly to the board rather than to a chief financial officer, who reports to the general manager. Roberts also favors an independent body to oversee fiscal performance and he endorses a bottom-up approach to district management operations. "This would be in coordination with the park supervisor whose performance evaluation would be based in part on cooperation with park users and the community," Roberts said.

"Park visitors should get a sense of ownership of our parks, not a sense of dread from its many rules and restrictive policies," Roberts said. He plans to improve park trailhead accessibility, making it easier to connect with the local trail network either through trail development or by purchasing or partnering for greenbelt access points.

Roberts would allow mountain bikes on trails suitable for multi-use, adding suggestion boxes with names of park supervisors at each park trailhead, and the elimination of park fees. "The government should focus on collecting taxes and treating everyone fairly, not on maximizing profit, which is a private sector focus," Roberts said.

Dee Rosario

An East Bay Regional Park District retiree, whose 37-year career included stints as park ranger, park supervisor and firefighter, Rosario would bring to the board a perspective borne of district experience. He will push for better public access to the board through evening meetings, and will commit to personal meetings with constituents on a regular basis. To provide the public with unbiased access to the district financial data, the candidate will advocate that the chief financial officer report directly to the board.

Rosario will work to reduce the use of herbicides, making parks safer for the public and the environment.

He does not foresee major changes in trail use. Multi-use trails form the backbone of the park district, he said, allowing shared use and access for maintenance and emergency vehicles, but for safety, bikes should be restricted from single-track trails, except where designated. Dogs are required to be on leash in public use areas and resource protection areas and should be allowed off leash, under voice control, in other areas, he said.

"I want to see the park district become not only the largest land owner in the East Bay, but an environmental leader, protecting natural resources, incorporating alternative energy sources, and maximizing educational opportunities."

EBRP directors earn $100 for each meeting they attend, capped at $1000 per month. They also receive a parks district lifetime pass.

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