Nov. 4 elections: 15 Fil-Ams running in San Francisco Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO — Foremost among the Filipino Americans standing for election is Alameda County’s Rob Bonta, a dynamic legislator who is seeking his second term in State Assembly District 18.
Three city mayors — Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves, Hercules Mayor Myrna de Vera, and Suisun Mayor Pete Sanchez — are seeking another term.
In Colma town, former Mayor Joanne Del Rosario is running for her third Council term.
In San Francisco, Commissioner Hydra Mendoza is running as education board trustee.
In Daly City, Councilmember candidates include incumbents Ray Buenaventura and Mike Guingona.
For school board trustees, Rosie Tejada and Katherine Zarate Dulany are running for reelection.
Other Fil-Ams profiled in this piece include Pat Gacoscos, who is seeking reelection to the City Council of Union City; San Mateo County’s Rob Bernardo, who is running for his second term with the Harbor District Commission; Garry Barbadillo, a candidate for a City Council seat in Milpitas; Dr. Tony Ubalde a reelectionist with the Vallejo Board of Education; and Neolani Sallings who is running for a seat in the board of Santa Clara Unified School.
Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), the first Filipino American to be elected to the State Assembly, is seeking reelection in the 18th District, which covers the cities of Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro.
The son of farmers and organizers with the United Farm Workers of America who worked with legendary Filipino leaders Philip Vera Cruz and Pete Velasco, the 42-year-old Bonta has an impressive record of getting 16 out of his 20 principally-authored bills signed by Governor Jerry Brown.
Rob authored AB123, a landmark legislation that mandated the inclusion in the state curriculum the contributions of Filipinos to the California farm labor movement, a measure that make all ethnic Filipino proud of their heritage.
He also introduced AB1469, a bill that that addressed the “financial challenges” afflicting the teachers’ pension fund, the California State Teachers’ Retirement Systems (CalSTRS), which had an underfunded liability of $7.4 billion.
A savvy problem-solver, Bonta said he worked together with teachers, school districts and the state “on a shared responsibility approach” where everybody put more money without changing the benefit so that the program is fully funded over the course of 30 years.
Still on education, the FilAm legislator authored The Safe Schools and Safe Learning Act of 2013 (AB514). It provides resources to support youth who have been victims of school-based discrimination, harassment or bullying (including their families), gang violence, and psychological traumas caused by violence at home, school and community.
Joanne del Rosario
Two-term Colma Councilmember Joanne del Rosario has served in the council eight years, during which time she was the town’s mayor, vice mayor and councilmember. With her proven leadership and performance in office, she is practically assured of getting another mandate from the townspeople whose trust she has earned.
Known and respected by Town Council colleagues as a consensus builder, Joanne takes pride in the council’s record of not cutting back on any of the services enjoyed by residents, despite the economic challenges that started in 2007.
Unlike other towns and cities, Colma was spared of layoffs through sound fiscal management, which entailed restructuring certain projects while maintaining basic services needed by the community.
Joanne was born in New York City in 1953 and lived in Yonkers until the age of 12. She then resided in Manila until 1974. She was educated both here in the United States and the Philippines. She came to live in California in 1978, and moved to Colma in 2001 with her husband, Rene Malimban. She has one son, Reginald, from a previous marriage.
Joanne was first elected to office as a member of the City Council in December 2006 and last served as mayor in 2009.
Joanne is past president of the Filipino America Association of Colma and past director of the Filipino American Coalition. She is a member of the Seton Medical Center Community Advisory Council and a member and past president (2010) of ALLICE (Alliance for Community Empowerment) “Kumares and Kumpares” whose purpose is to educate and bring awareness to the community on issues regarding all forms of domestic violence.
In 2009 she was named one of the 100 Most Influential Filipinas in the United States by the Filipinas Women’s Network.
Mayor Jose “Joe” Esteves has been elected Milpitas mayor four times, from 2002-2010, and was again voted to a fifth term from December 2012 to November 2014.
Before becoming mayor, Estevez was a city councilman (1998-2002) and planning commissioner. He was chosen Milpitas’ Citizen of the Year, voted Milpitas’ Best Elected Official in 2003-2008 and in 2011, 2012, 2013.
A retired information systems specialist of the Superior Court of California, in Santa Clara County, Joe is currently a businessman and business consultant. His business acumen and extensive business experience have come handy to his extended tenure as top city executive of such premier city at the heart of Silicon Valley.
Joe holds a double degree in BS in Civil Engineering and BS in Industrial Engineering.
As Milpitas mayor, Joe has been elected on his platform of fiscal responsibility, which in practical ways simply means “keeping taxpayers’ dollars in taxpayers’ pockets.”
He is married to Susan, a successful businesswoman, and together they are strong business, church and community leaders. Their only child, Irene, is a member of the National Honor Society and the California Scholarship Foundation.
Myrna de Vera
De Vera was elected to her first four-year term on the Hercules City Council in November 2010 and was appointed to serve as vice mayor in December 2012, and then as mayor in December 2013.
A B.S. Architecture graduate of the University of the Philippines in 1982, De Vera went on to work in the architectural and civil engineering industry for 10 years in various Bay Area firms.
In April 2005, the Hercules City Council appointed De Vera planning commissioner, reappointing her in April 2007 and April 2009. She was voted by her fellow commissioners as vice-chairperson in April 2006, moved up to the position of chairperson in November 2006 until April 2009. She was also a member of the city’s Design Review Subcommittee.
Myrna says in her website that she tries to emulate her sister, FilAm community leader Lorna Dietz, and her late father, Jose Lardizabal, by being actively involved in the community.
She is a member of the Filipino Americans of Contra Costa County, FilAm of Hercules, Hercules Lions Club, Chinese Association of Hercules, Filipina Women’s Network, and the National Federation of Filipino American Associations.
She’s also a member of the Pastoral Council and the fundraising advisory board of St. Patrick Catholic Church, Rodeo.
Among her many citations includes “Woman of the Year” by the Hercules City Council. She was also given a Special Recognition Award by the Hercules Chamber of Commerce in 2010. She was awarded one of the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the U.S. under the “Policymakers and Visionaries” category by the Filipina Women’s Network.
Pete Sanchez, the unassuming FilAm mayor of Suisun is one of the few elective local officials in the Bay Area who is running unopposed.
Known by colleagues and residents for his casual and easy- going ways, Pete loves to tell the story of just how friendly he could get.
“One day, a man came to City Hall, walked up to me, and asked for an appointment to see the mayor. I made one for him right away. When he walked into the Mayor’s office, he was surprised and laughing to see that it was me,” said Pete, who has been mayor since 2006 and a council member from 1994 to 2006.
With nearly two decades in an elective position, Pete admits he enjoys being in public service — getting the chance to study and respond to the needs of the local people.
Pete serves as chair of Suisun City Successor Agency; president of Suisun-Solano Water Authority; and director of Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District, Solano Transportation Authority, and Solano County Mayors’ Committee.
A certified public accountant, Pete Sanchez graduated from the University of the East in Manila, and worked with a private bank and the Central Bank of the Philippines before immigrating to the United States in 1980.
Steadfast education advocate Noelani Sallings is running for Santa Clara Unified School board. She has served on the boards of organizations such as the Santa Clara Schools Foundation, the Wilcox Dance Team Boosters, and Next Vista for Learning.
Noelani helped organize “Walk for Education” to raise awareness of budget cuts and was a key contributor to the reorganization and redirection of the Santa Clara Schools Foundation, for it to focus on working more directly with the children they fund and improve their fundraising results.
Her most prized project is Music Rivals – a district-wide music competition that inspires student creativity and collaboration. Throughout all of this work, she has remained on the PTA board at her children’s schools.
She is also a passionate advocate for women’s rights, social justice, and the environment, having served on the boards of DAWN (Democratic Activists for Women Now), the Asian Pacific American Democratic Club, and BAYMEC (a local LGBT rights organization).
Noelani earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Santa Clara University and is currently completing a Masters Degree in Public Administration at Notre Dame de Namur University. She was the first in her family to attend college and ultimately plans to obtain a Ph.D.
Fil-Am lawyer Ray Buenaventura is a 17-year Daly City resident, who is proud to call himself a “member of a diverse and dynamic city.”
Ray served on the Library Board of Trustees and helped to establish a foundation to provide additional financial support to the library. He is proud to have been part of the leadership of the Library Board that helped Daly City enact cost-cutting measures to help stabilize the budgetary problems faced by Daly City. A private attorney, the UC Berkeley alum ran for San Mateo County Superior Court Judge in June 2014 but was short of votes.
Along with fellow Councilman Mike Guingona, the Philippine-born Buenaventura has the edge in winning reelection as an incumbent in the largest city of San Mateo County. His name recognition as an incumbent and judge candidate makes Ray a formidable candidate this Nov. 4.
Ray has also raised a considerable campaign war chest, evidence of strong grassroots and community support. He has been endorsed by U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Sen. Jerry Hill, Daly City Mayor David Canepa and leaders of San Mateo County.
Former Mayor and incumbent Council Member Mike Guingona is seeking a record sixth term in the city council of Daly City.
Mike was first elected to the city council in 1993, the first Filipino American to be elected to that position and one of the youngest elected officials of the Bay Area. He has served as mayor four times — first in 1995, second in 1997, a third in 2001, and a fourth term in 2005.
Mike represented Daly City in many important groups, including the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, which he chaired from 2001 to 2007. He was also actively involved with Daly City’s Sister Committee and instrumental in initiating the Daly City-Quezon City partnership
Over the years, Mike, a successful lawyer, has worked hard on projects that changed the face of the community: the renovation of Westlake, Skyline and St. Francis shopping centers as well as youth, senior and community centers. He worked to upgrade streets, lighting, landscaping, parks and signs in pursuit of his vision for an updated Mission Street and a completed Pacific Plaza.
Katherine Zarate Dulany
As a parent and school board member, private attorney Katherine Dulany is proud of the Jefferson High School District, which serves the Daly City, Pacifica, Brisbane, Colma, and Broadmoor communities. During her seven-year tenure, she and her board of trustees have modernized school facilities, saved jobs and programs, and raised school safety and student achievement, despite California’s severe financial crisis.
In seeking another term, Katherine said her goals for the school district include: responsibly improve the retention of quality teachers; improve the district’s internal and external communications; continue to modernize the facilities and maintain clean, safe, drug-free learning environments; narrow the achievement gap; and, increase the educational opportunities for college-bound and vocational-school students.
“I’m committed to providing access to quality education for all of our students. Working as a lawyer has taught me how to carefully think things through, do thorough research, and view all perspectives,” she said. “As a mother with young children, I want to make sure our schools offer an excellent education for students today, as well as tomorrow.”
Katherine has earned the valuable endorsements of California Assembly member Rob Bonta, Daly City Council member Ray Buenaventura, Daly City Mayor David Canepa, Colma Mayor Joanne Del Rosario, the Filipino American Democratic Club of San Mateo, Daly City Council member Mike Guingona, Daly City Arts and Culture Commissioner Dorie Paniza, former JUHSD Board member Rachel Puno Juliana and Filipino Bar Association of Northern California president Robert Uy, among many others.
Rosie Tejada is a life-long resident of Daly City and Pacifica, who is running to retain her trustee seat in the Jefferson Union High School District Board of Trustees. Like Trustee Katherine Zarate Dulany, the Pinay board member has worked with community leaders, residents, parents and teachers to ensure success for its district students and teachers.
A product of Jefferson Union School District, Rosie said she and her family have always given priority to education. Her oldest son attends a district high school.
Rosie has served on the Marjorie H. Tobias Elementary PTA Board, including two years as president, the Jefferson Council PTA Board, and the Westmoor High School PTSA Board. In 2012, she led the successful Measure I campaign for Jefferson Elementary School District, and still serves on that district’s Citizens Bond Oversight Committee.
In her professional life, Rosie is a senior legal secretary and has had 30 years experience in the legal field.
In 2006, Hydra successfully won a citywide bid for a seat on the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education. She is the first and only Filipina elected to public office in San Francisco. Hydra was re-elected to the Board in 2010, finishing first with over 100,000 votes citywide.
Hydra has previously served as president and vice-president of the board where she was unanimously voted in. She has served as chair for Budget, Rules, Curriculum and Buildings and Grounds Committees. A major success of her second term in office was shepherding the partnership between the mayor, SFUSD and Salesforce.com Foundation resulting in a $2.7 million donation that improves Science Technology Arts Engineering and Math (STEAM) opportunities through coding and technology tools such as iPads and Chrome Books for middle grade students in the city.
In her campaign for re-election, Hydra states, “San Francisco schools should reflect our values. We are proud of the cultural heritage of each of our 55,000 students, and seek to prepare them by offering language-immersion programs, bilingual education, and ethnic studies curricula in our schools. Celebrating diversity takes more than just talk, and in our public schools, our coursework reflects our strong commitment.”
She has been active in the SF-Manila Sister City Committee and the Filipino Women’s Network.
Robert Bernardo has served on the San Mateo County Harbor Commission since 2011. During his first term, Robert championed a comprehensive plan to pay off the District’s $19.7-million debt a year ahead of schedule; worked to receive a first-ever “Clean Marina” certification for environmental stewardship; enhanced rescue operations which save over 100 lives annually; and worked with the county on emergency preparedness and sea level rise.
The Harbor District oversees the operation of two public harbors, Oyster Point Marina in South San Francisco and Pillar Point Harbor near Half Moon Bay.
In his last election four years ago, Robert garnered the highest vote count in San Mateo County for Harbor Commission, leading with close to 80,000 county votes. He said he’s seeking another term because “there is still a lot of work to do, such as managing budgets, improving environmental sustainability, supporting commercial fishing, disaster preparedness, and search-and-rescue operations.”
Pat Gacoscos, a 35-year resident of Union City, is seeking reelection to the City Council of Union City. A former public school teacher, she was elected council member and served as vice mayor in 2010-2014.
Always accessible to the people, Pat says she is proud of what the City Council has accomplished, such as well-maintained streets and parks, new restrooms, building of a future teen center, BART Phase 2 development, and increased library hours, among many others.
She said her priorities for the City Council include maintaining a balanced budget, attracting new businesses that create more jobs for city residents, improving public safety, and expanding services to the youth and seniors.
Pat has a proven track record in public service, having served in the boards of the Union Sanitary District since 2004 and the New Haven Unified School District in 1992-2000; Alameda County Human Relations Commission in 1987-1995; and the Union City Human Relations Commission in 1992-2000.
She is chair of Union City Friends of Sister Cities, from 2004 to present, and a member of the Tri-CED Recycling Board. She has also been a member of the St. Anne Catholic Church Pastoral Council since 2009.
Dr. Tony Ubalde, Filipino American president of the Vallejo Board of Education, is campaigning for reelection to the Board, running on his own record and the record of the Vallejo School District as a whole – in the areas of student poverty issues, academic progress, campus safety, teacher pay and fiscal responsibility.
Convinced that the biggest hindrance to education is poverty, Tony says the Vallejo School District is aiming at achieving so-called “full-service community schools,” which provide three meals a day and health care, including dental and mental.
For the past three years, the Vallejo Board of Education in cooperation with school administrators and staff and the community has regained local governance/control from the State, established solid financial standing, received positive certification from the Solano County Office of Education for two consecutive years, and instituted an independent Citizens’ Fiscal Audit Committee.
The board also addressed safety/bullying concerns by hiring Site Safety supervisors and enhancing security measures at all school sites. Moreover, it decreased the drop-out rate by 11 percent, reduced the academic gap, and increased the high school graduation rate from approximately 59 percent to 66 percent.
Fil-Am lawyer Garry Barbadillo, a candidate for City Council of Milpitas, thinks he has the experience and vision to serve as “an alternative and fresh voice” to represent the interests of the people in the city governing body.
Gary currently serves as planning commissioner of Milpitas and has served on the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Commission. He holds a BA degree in Political Science, Juris Doctor Law degree (JD), and studied MA Public Administration.
A practicing consumer rights attorney and a pro bono volunteer in the county of Santa Clara, Gary firmly stands on the issues of: elimination of the odor causing landfill;
working closely with the school district to build the much-needed schools and better quality of education, maintenance of quality city services/utilities without raising costs; continuing and improving senior and youth services and care; and providing small businesses the means to thrive in Milpitas and create more jobs. (Nicholas von Wettberg, Harvey Barkin, Jun Medina, and James Russell Carey contributed to this report)
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