Tuesday's election for two seats on the Kensington Police Protection and Community Services District was far from tame.
In the two years and two months that El Cerrito Patch has been in existence, perhaps no other issue has generated as much heated debate, if not partisan acrimony, on the website.
The election campaign was striking not only in the large outpouring of reader comments, letters to the editor, guest columns and blog posts, but also in the vote totals after the dust had cleared early Wednesday morning.
In semi-official results, incumbent board President Chuck Toombs and running mate Patricia Gillespie, a labor/employment lawyer, won with a nearly 3-to-1 margin over incumbent Cathie Kosel, a former El Cerrito mayor, and her running mate, retired teacher Jim Hausken. A fifth candidate running as an independent, IT consultant Kim Zvik, finished last.
The totals from the Contra Costa County Elections Department:KIM ZVIK 8.91% 402 JIM HAUSKEN 12.16% 549 CATHIE ELAINE KOSEL 12.32% 556 CHARLES E. TOOMBS 33.14% 1,496 PATRICIA K. GILLETTE 33.34% 1,505
By contrast, the November 2010 election for three seats on the board was a significantly closer race, with third place finisher, Tony Lloyd, gaining a seat by just 75 votes over Paul Dorroh, who finished fourth.
Here are the results for November 2010:NICKI BOYE KAISER 7.78% 470 RICHARD (TONY) LLOYD 16.41% 992 LINDA G. LIPSCOMB 20.10% 1,215 KIM MANNING ZVIK 14.33% 866 EYLEEN NADOLNY 8.95% 541 MARI METCALF 16.96% 1,025 PAUL DORROH 15.17% 917
Likewise, two years earlier, in a race for two seats in November 2008, when Toombs and Kosel won their current seats, Kosel beat out third-place finisher Joan Gallegos by 52 votes.
What happened this time? Different folks have different views.
"The election outcome did not surprise me," said current board member Linda Lipscomb, whose seat was not up for election this time. "Kensington voters are tired of the discord and obstructionism which has chacterized KPPCSD meetings for the last few years."
The board has been divided on a number of issues, with Lipscomb and Lloyd allied with Toombs on one side, and Kosel and Mari Metcalf on the other. Kosel has been an outspoken critic of Police Chief Greg Harman and of what she sees as a failure by the board to exercise proper oversight of spending by Harman and the police department. Kosel also strongly objected to the board majority's decision to turn down a mid-contract increase in garbage rates requested by the garbage hauler.
Patch has asked Kosel for a response to the election outcome.
Lipscomb continued in an email sent in response to a Patch request for comment: "The voters sent a clear message that they want their police department to be supervised by a thoughtful and constructive Board. "The voters rejected extremism in favor of reliability and commitment to Kensington and its quality of life elements."
Toombs also was asked for comment.
"Democracy is a wonderful, yet fragile institution and we saw it in full bloom on Tuesday," he said by email.
"Kensington’s residents have made a very clear choice on what they want for their community by way of focused, clear sighted problem solving and leadership," he said. "We now need to set aside our differences and serve our community as we work to solve its problems. We will do all we can to continue to earn the trust that the voters have placed in us."
Patch solicited reactions also from several Kensington residents not on the board.
Joe Holmes, who spoke from the audience at last Thursday's community meeting on Kensington streetlights, said, "This year's controversy is unprecedented in my or my wife's recollections, going back to the late 1970's."
"We have known Chuck Toombs since high school, and also have a little familiarity with Cathie Kosel," Holmes said via email. "From what we knew from our personal interactions, and what we could learn, reading between the lines of comments in conversations and one newspaper story, plus the political mailings, we figured that Chuck and Patricia were right and Cathie was wrong."
"Absent a direct, personal involvement with the long series of events which led to this controversy," he added, "we can't be certain what really happened, but it felt clear enough to us to actively help in getting the big result for Chuck and Patricia which Kensington achieved yesterday in the election."
Toombs outline three priorities he'd like to see the new board begin with:
"First, we need to begin negotiations with our police officers on a new contract which is both fair to them and which is sustainable for the community.
"Second, we need to find common ground with our waste haulers on what constitutes a fair rate for their services within the confines of our current agreement while we also prepare a new request for proposal for future services on expiration of the current contract in 2015.
"Finally, we need to have a discussion with our community on their appetite for such public expenses as renovations to our community buildings, restoration of our community paths, under grounding power lines in town, or all of the above and more!"
You can find local election results from Patch here, and the results for how California voted on national and state issues, including state legislators and ballot propositions, here.