Photo by Caroline Vance
What issues should the presidential candidates be focusing on?
That is what KQED News and The Bay Citizen, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, asked community members at five meetups held throughout the Bay Area in the past weeks.
Residents were invited to bars, cafes and even a laundromat to come and share their own views with reporters from KQED, The Bay Citizen and California Watch.
Each meet-up attracted 40 to 50 community attendees and gave them all the opportunity to answer the same questions, which included: what is the biggest challenge facing your community and what should your community’s elected officials be doing to address that challenge? The questions and answers were all recorded.
The range of issues mentioned by community attendees were specific to local races at each of the cities (Oakland, Alameda, East Palo Alto/Menlo Park, San Jose and Richmond). This reenforces the notion that citizens’ relationships with local levels of government are generally stronger and more direct than with state and federal ones.
At the Alameda meet-up, elected officials including the Mayor, Police Chief and Fire Chief interacted with the public over Measure C, a special 30 year, half percent increase to the sales tax devoted exclusively to constructing public facilities, creating and managing a new emergency operations center, and replacing outdated equipment such as parks department trucks, fire engines and police cars.
At the Berkeley meet-up, conversation centered on the Mayoral election where Tom Bates is running unopposed. His wife, State Senator Loni Hancock, preceded him in the Berkeley mayor’s office where she served for two terms.
Broader common themes such as funding for education arose at many of the meet-ups, as did the role of media and journalists in covering and shaping these issues.
According to Marie McIntosh, Public Engagement Manager for the Bay Citizen, bringing in new members of the public who may not be engaging with media online helps grow the database of “everyday experts” for the Public Insight Network, which is an America Public Media project that adds context, depth, humanity and relevance to news stories and newsrooms around the country.
This week The Bay Citizen will run a story highlighting the five meet-ups and all the input that was received.