Getting to the heart of issues in election

Election season is upon us, or as I sometimes call it: Silly Season.

Yet, there are some important decisions to be made in two city districts in Concord: District 1, Clayton Road/Concord Boulevard east of Farm Bureau to Ygnacio, and District 3, north side of Monument Boulevard to Concord Avenue.

In the past, the races are many times “beauty contests” where candidates stay away from hard-core issues and prefer vague, fluff statements like “Reduce crime” and “Make families first,” complete with pictures with their pet dog or cat, families and some trees in the background.

For many voters, there is not a big engagement with specifics. This is where the role of political parties comes in as the screeners and brand-makers of candidates whom they endorse in local races – even though the positions are non-partisan. Likewise, endorsement by local leaders may influence voters.

I am a very specific issues guy. When we had to fill the council vacancy after Tim Grayson was elected to the Assembly, I provided about a 100 questions in private directly to each of the 35 candidates who applied for the position. My colleagues did not appreciate the approach and limited their questions to four in public and passed a policy that the majority could overrule the right of one of their elected colleagues to ask a question in public. I was not then nor am I now pleased.

How you rate or weigh the questions varies greatly, and there is no single guide for it. Please ask very specific questions and demand exacting answers, not political double-speak.

Here are some of my top questions:

1. For apartments with more than 25 units, will you vote for:

a. Limit of 10 percent rent increase a year, unless approved by a rent board
b. Must offer a one-year lease
c. Some sort of just cause for eviction

2. Will you vote for putting a directly elected mayor on the ballot in 2020, for effect in 2022?

3. For the next census-affected district distribution in 2022, do you support:

a. Four districts and a directly elected mayor
b. Five districts and a directly elected mayor
c. Five districts and no directly elected mayor
d. Six districts and a directly elected mayor
e. Five districts and a directly elected mayor and vice mayor

4. Do you support a cannabis dispensary for both medical and adult use?

5. Do you support the manufacture of cannabis for both medical and adult use?

6. Do you support authorizing indoor cultivation of cannabis up to 12,000 sq. ft.?

7. Do you support putting on the City Council agenda an open discussion of future agenda items?

8. Do you support the placement of a police substation back in the Monument and one in North Concord?

9. Do you support a sales tax increase of one-half cent so that the total Measure Q tax is one cent, with the bulk of the proceeds to go to road repair and replacement?

10. Do you support giving homeless free housing at city expense?

Of course, I could easily go on for at least 90 more questions. But the key is: What are your questions and what are the specific answers that will sway you to vote for a candidate?

Email questions and comments to Mayor Birsan at