Jessica Cejnar / Thursday, April 1 @ 3:47 p.m.
Fourth Runner-Up In November Election Is Now a Crescent City Councilor
Ray Altman, the fourth runner up in the November 2020 Crescent City Council race, will have a seat on that governing body starting Monday.
Altman, who lost to Beau Smith by a narrow margin in the Nov. 3, 2020 election, will take the seat vacated by Alex Campbell. Campbell, who lives outside Crescent City limits, resigned from the Council after pleading guilty to one count of election fraud on March 2.
The four remaining Councilors voted unanimously Tuesday in favor appointing Altman to the empty seat. Three other candidates included Holly Green, Altman’s colleague on the Crescent City Planning Commission, Michelle Radison, who works for the Crescent City-Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce, and Bay Area businessman James Belardi.
Altman will serve on the Crescent City Council until 2022 when his seat will be up for election, according to the city’s staff report.
Though he praised the three other candidates for stepping up, county resident Kevin Hendrick, who ran for District 5 Supervisor in March 2020, noted that Altman lost to Smith by 14 votes in November.
“Five months ago, 451 residents of Crescent City voted for Ray Altman,” Hendrick said. “If it was not for the election fraud perpetrated by another candidate, Ray Altman might have been the third Councilman elected last November.”
The Council agreed.
“We don’t know where those other voters would have gone if we didn’t have some fraudulent candidate,” Crescent City Mayor Jason Greenough said. “I agree with the statement that this is an opportunity for us to kind of make it right and to allow the voters’ will from the last election to be meted out.”
While interviewing the four candidates, Councilors asked them what they hope to accomplish in the year their appointment lasts; about their ability to resolve conflicts; the city’s greatest strengths and needs; prioritizing those needs; Measure S; economic development and what they envision Crescent City to look like in 20 years.
Altman has lived in Del Norte County since 2004 and has lived in Crescent City for about three years. He said his father introduced him to the area.
As for qualifications to be on the City Council, Altman said anyone is qualified to build a brighter future for his community and he didn’t think his were greater than anyone else’s. He said he was disappointed in apathy he sees and longs for more people participating.
“We’re entering exciting times right now,” he said. “Measure S was passed and we are working on a world class park. Front Street looks awesome. I’d like to see more of our streets look that way. I’d also like to see our city employees get a fair wage and more positions added so we’re not just improving the city, but we’re able to maintain it in a great state.”
Altman said he thinks a good leader is someone who can admit they’re wrong. He said he doesn’t have a problem with that. Thinking that he had beat Smith on Election Day last year was presumptuous, but Altman said it’s good to realize “there are others that can do the job too.”
When it came to answering Greenough’s question about the budget and prioritizing the city’s needs, Altman admitted that was tough. He commended the city’s employees, who “work tirelessly to keep the water flowing through drains and into the night” and said he hopes it’s within the city’s means to give staff a living wage.
“As an accountant, I really think it’s important to live within our means,” Altman said. “I don’t know what you would kick aside because everything is so important to us, but there would have to be. There’s always the quandary of where is the solution, I'm counting on everyone to work together on these decisions, not just me.”
It was Crescent City Mayor Pro Tem Blake Inscore who brought up Measure S, the 1 cent sales tax increase to support the police and fire departments, street repairs and the Fred Endert Municipal Pool.
Inscore asked Altman, and other candidates, how they would ensure the money is allocated to best support residents’ needs.
Altman, again, brought up streets, saying some were in poor condition.
“I know the reason I voted for it and that was for us to have an adequate police department, an adequate fire department and, hopefully, to fix our roads,” he said, bringing up the recent Front Street storm drain repair project, which included the partial re-design of the road. “Front Street is beautiful, wouldn’t it be great if all of our streets are like that? I even had some comment (about) why is it only half done?”
When speaking about economic challenges, Altman noted that some people move to Crescent City for employment, but want to “get back to a big city life.”
“It’s a culture shock to them,” he said. “I understand that, but there’s got to be a way to promote enough businesses and growth to where we can retain people who come here to work. We want them to stay here.”
For much of his interview, Altman spoke of Beachfront Park, calling it “the world class park” that will attract visitors and be a focal point for the city. He said he’d like to see other beautification projects downtown that attract youth and local artists.
Altman also mentioned a willingness to have diversity on the City Council, saying that even if the Council doesn’t appoint him to the vacant position, he’d continue to serve on the Planning Commission.
“I’m not saying I’m the best candidate, but I am saying I’m very willing,” he said. “I was raised to work hard. I have good ethics. I’ll try my hardest to make the best decisions and promote compromise.”
Inscore, who also served on the Planning Commission before being on the City Council, said he had applied for an open Council seat before he won his seat in the 2014 election. He urged each candidate not to be discouraged if they’re not appointed.
“This is not an easy decision,” he said. “Each and every one of you bring qualities that benefit the Council.”
Inscore did say, however, that he felt being on the Planning Commission was a stepping stone to the City Council. He said it provided a more seamless transition to the Council.
Inscore’s colleague, Councilor Isaiah Wright said he remembered Green, noting that she was at a lot of City Council meetings when they were held at the Flynn Center.
Green, who had competed for the Crescent City Council in a previous election, said she’s good at finding compromise. She mentioned a Planning Commission meeting involving a project to install a bus stop on Oregon Street.
“The community members were a little bit at odds with each other, misunderstanding what it meant to have a bus station,” she said. “What I asked for as vice chair is if we could give extra time for both sides of the issue to be heard and because of that, they came to an understanding and the bus stop was built ultimately.”
Smith, though he noted that the decision was difficult, went back to the November election.
“I was in a run-off with Mr. Altman and the tables could have easily been turned,” he said.