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Q&A with Concord City Council Candidate Marnie Sheehan-Carter

Patch poses three questions to Marnie Sheehan-Carter, candidate for Concord City Council in the 2012 election. Concordians will vote for two council members on Nov. 6.

The Nov. 6 election is just a week away and Concordians will not only have to decide on a president and vote on a number of propositions, but will also have the chance to nominate two candidates to the Concord City Council. 

In an effort to help inform voters about who their 11 candidates are and what they stand for, Concord Patch asked each one to answer three questions. The candidates were invited to do this in person or via email. The following Q&A with Marnie Sheehan-Carter was conducted in person. Some editing for clarity and brevity has been made, signified by brackets [  ] and ellipses (...) respectively. 

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Why are you running for Concord City Council?

"The reason I decided it was my time to speak is because I don't see that we have the city leadership to continue to be successful. I don't see adequate representation — [people who are] really advocates for the community. I see advocates for their positions, but not advocates for the citizens of the community. What's going to be good for Concord is support for the citizens, not for different pieces — not 'I just want a downtown center' or 'I just want the Concord Naval Weapons Station.' The more we continue to say 'I'm about this piece,' the more we remain fragmented. We have to get the people as a whole behind our city and what our city is doing and engage them as a whole. 

Given that I'm an educator, a small businesses owner, a mother of five kids — you can't do that without understanding collaboration, teamwork and bringing people of different opinions together. You have to be a good mediator.

I'm someone who's been in this community my entire life and has the benefit of being a six-generation Californian. My family's roots are here. My love for this community goes really to the soil. It's part of the fabric of who I am."

What are the top three issues you would want to focus on as a council member?

Transportation and drawing people to small businesses:

"We need to encourage people to get out of their cars. First, it leads to good health and a greener environment, but it also supports local business. When you have people walking, they're going to stop and patronise places. If all they're doing is driving in their car straight home or out of our community, those dollars are driving out of our community. 

We have a great water park here in town. People come from all over the place. But there's no relation to the Willows Shopping Plaza — the first thing you see is this huge 'for lease' sign and you don't realize there's all these little businesses in there. So you drive right on out of town.

People love Concord and feel very good about Concord. We should be tapping into that. When you have the music in the park or the farmers' market and individuals are coming to our city, you should have QR codes out there so people can use their smartphones to get a coupon and that's going to draw them to go to such-and-such a business. It's very simple advertising."

Branding and technology: 

"It doesn't matter what your religious background is, your ethnic diversity, there is something for everybody here. That is something that is attractive because [Concord] is a place for people to come and find fellowship and gain a stronghold in this community. Those are the things we need to be branding. I should not be in a position that when I tell people I'm from Concord, they go 'where's that?' We are the biggest city in Contra Costa County. I say Walnut Creek and they know where Walnut Creek is. The reason they know Walnut Creek is because Walnut Creek has branded themselves. They've thought about forward thinking in terms of advertising themselves as a community and partnering with business. We could easily do that here, but we have to have those in city leadership who understand how to partner technology with innovation and put that on top of the foundation we already have here... It takes someone who understands where we came from but also has a vision for where we should be going.

The average age of our current council is 68. Their way of thinking is tied to a time when our community was much smaller and everyone interacted with everybody personally... for example, [business owners] don't have time to take half a day off work and go down to the business office. if we're business-friendly, that person who works 9 to 5 for someone else and is also planning a business [should be able to] go right to the City of Concord's website, check out all kinds of information and apply online. It's thinking about where we're going and part of the reason there's not that thinking now is it's not who we have in city leadership."

Community services:

"We pay a tremendous amount of money to other cities to utilize facilities. As an example, I have a son who plays competitive soccer for the Concord Heritage Soccer team. Their field is off Arnold Industrial Parkway. We have to share that field with Diablo Football. That is the only field for these kids to play soccer, and soccer is a very popular sport. I think we have 136 teams in Concord that play between the different age levels. Yet we play in Martinez. We pay money to the City of Martinez to use their field. 

Or basketball — my husband is a basketball coach. For the basketball teams here in Concord we pay money to Diablo Valley College and we pay money to Tice Valley in Walnut Creek. We pay money to these cities because Mount Diablo High School is only so big and you can only get so many teams in there. 

Sports connects you to the community. You have to have your youth engaged and sports is a good avenue to teach them teamwork, collaboration and communication, which are valuable skills for our youth to be competitive in the workforce... It leads to accountability and responsibility.

[These skills aren't gained] just through sports, but also through arts and creative music. So when our state education has to slice those opportunities for our youth, it's our job as a community to step up. We have to serve that gap and how we do it is partnering community organizations with businesses. A business here in the community can help sponsor or subsidize in some way, or the city builds a facility and businesses can advertise — this is how we can all work together."

What makes you different from the current council and the 10 other city council candidates?

"I feel like if you're on local city government, you have to be prepared to be accessible and visible. You have to be supporting our local business, you have to be available to the community. They need that because you're the conduit. You're the advocate for the community as a whole.

My concern with where we may go in this election is that we have some [candidates] who are very far to one side, and some who are very far to the other side. If those are the ones who are elected and put into office on our current city council, we will have complete paralysis... I'm willing to understand that maybe not all of my ideas not everybody will grasp on to, and that's why I appreciate that you're on a council... All of us are tapped into certain areas of the community and you need that — because [Concord] is so big and [there is] all this diversity.

I started out this campaign being told by city leadership that I would not win because I didn't have the backing of individuals in the community that I needed to be backed by to be successful — our garbage, our developers. I realize that it's politics — I'm not naive to that. I can hold my own. But it's disappointing at a time when our city really needs advocates that the way some feel you get to advocacy is by standing on the backs of others. That's considered oppression. It's unfortunate, but I also don't think the community knows a lot about what's going on. They can be very apathetic to city politics because they have been conditioned to believe exactly what I was told in the beginning: you can't make a difference. This is a system. This is how it works. I say: I'm not buying that.

We should be embracing the fact that 11 people want to step up and lead, not discouraging them. I've been walking door-to-door, business-to-business. The benefit to that is I'm setting a good example for my children, I'm setting a good example for my community, and if that is the best thing I gain at the end of this process, that is what I'm going to relish in."

Other Concord City Council candidate Q&As:

Robert Camacho
Harmesh Kumar
Carol Longshore
Vernon Kurpieski  
Dan Helix  
Terry Kremin
Edi Birsan

Concord Patch contacted all 11 city council candidates, giving them an opportunity to answer these questions in person. The questions have also been sent out via email for candidates to respond to in writing. Concord Patch will publish answers if and when they come in. For an email notification when candidate Q&As are published, click "keep me posted" below.

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