When it comes to making informed decisions about the latest ballot initiative, candidates for public office or how to manage the current water shortage, newspaper editorial boards occupy a place of singular distinction among opinion shapers.
But historically, the editorial positions that newspapers take have been the exclusive province of their publishers and staff. Regular community members rarely, if ever, participated in their deliberations.
With this in mind, the owners of this newspaper joined me in an endeavor to engage the public by recruiting exemplary local citizens to serve on the editorial boards of 11 Bay Area newspapers. The citizen board members are independent and broadly networked in their communities, making them ideal conduits for local concerns.
In San Jose, the Mercury News recently announced the addition of Teresa Alvarado to their editorial team. Teresa is the executive director of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, which cultivates philanthropic leadership in the Hispanic community. Teresa’s deep roots in the community make her ideally suited for the role.
Two former small-town mayors now participate in the discussions at the Marin IJ and Contra Costa Times. Andrew Thompson of Tiburon and Laura Abrams of Orinda also bring firsthand knowledge of the Bay Area real estate market. Andrew is well known for his reputation as an independent thinker and crusader for the preservation of Marin’s open space. Laura spearheaded the effort to save the historic Orinda Theater.
It would be difficult to find a better fit for the Oakland Tribune than Father Jayson Landeza, pastor of St. Columba Catholic Church in Oakland, the largest predominately African American Catholic parish in the East Bay. Jayson is a Berkeley native and currently serves as chaplain to the Oakland Police Department, Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, and both the Berkeley and Oakland fire departments.
The Hayward Daily Review is fortunate to have Heidi Finberg, assistant director of the Chabot College Foundation and a member of the San Leandro Planning Commission. Heidi began her career with the Alameda Journal and has seen the changing landscape of the Bay Area newspaper industry firsthand.
If editorial boards prize objectivity and fierce independence, then the San Mateo County Times has its man in Judge Quentin Kopp. Quentin draws upon his experience as a judge, former state senator, San Francisco city supervisor and KGO radio personality.
As a successful Latina entrepreneur, Terry Alderete brings a unique personal perspective to the Fremont Argus. Terry is the president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Alameda County and sits on the board of a variety of community organizations.
Toby Brink, the Tri-Valley Herald’s citizen member and president and CEO of the Tri-Valley Business Council, understands the region’s economic potential. Thoughtful and incisive, Toby holds a degree in philosophy and is a former aide to Senator Dianne Feinstein.
In the financially embattled city of Vallejo, Albert Lavezzo provides the Times-Herald with a deep well of historical knowledge. Al, a respected attorney and North Bay business leader, has also served on Vallejo’s city council, redevelopment agency and housing authority; he knows the city as well as anyone.
And 25 miles to the north, readers of the Vacaville Reporter now enjoy the added perspective of Ernest Kimme, a middle school math teacher whose prescient advocacy for “smart growth” during Vacaville’s population explosion in the 1980s eventually led him to the city council.
Directing the entire experiment is Frank Holland, a UC Berkeley-educated public policy specialist and editor experienced in both traditional and new media. Holland liaises between these capable citizens and the editorial staffs of each newspaper and provides support through research, community outreach and advanced communication.
Local newspapers provide the journal of our public life and a catalog of our most urgent civic priorities. These citizen members and the editors and publishers at each Bay Area MediaNews paper deserve credit for adding an important new perspective to their editorial boards.