By Steven Tavares
Dominic Dutra became the newest Fremont City Councilman Tuesday night on the promise he would not seek re-election in two years, but his acceptance speech sounded anything like a politician who views himself as a stopgap between terms.
"Thank you for letting me serve for the next two years...the next two years" said Dutra, who served on the council from 2002-04. "That's it." He replaces Bob Wieckowski who left two years into his term to become assemblyman for the 20th District.
Some though have speculated if Dutra does not seek re-election, he may turn his eye to replacing Mayor Bob Wasserman, instead. Dutra denied such speculation, but his seven minute address was chocked full of campaign rhetoric surrounding budget austerity and political boilerplate. Dutra urged the council "to be on the right side of history" and called Fremont "still a great city, but under threat" A few of his comments Tuesday are also likely to anger unions. Public employees stand to do battle with the city in the coming year over staff reductions and wage cuts along with possible increases in employee contributions to pensions.
"The path the city is on is not financially sustainable," said Dutra. Expenses in Fremont have outstripped revenues over the past five years by $27 million, he said, leaving only the catastrophic reserve as a cushion. A structural deficit of $8 million-a-year and a recently downgraded credit rating is also cause for great concern, he said.
"In light of today's reality, I think it is absolutely unrealistic to assume the slow-growing or unpredictable economy will save us," he said. "The state will not do anything other than take more money away from cities."
Dutra is the son of John Dutra, who served 10 years on the Fremont City Council before spending 4 years in the state assembly. The elder Dutra lost the Democratic primary for State Senate in 2006 to Ellen Corbett. The son's taste for politics is clearly visible in tandem with his father's fairly moderate political ideology. Both have real estate and development on their resume, which may shape Dutra's view of employee relations in the coming months.
Observers in Fremont believe one of Dutra's main roles over the next two years on the council is to push through extensive restructuring in how the city pays its workers during and after retirement. "It's really the number one reason why I'm here," he said. "I believe our current service-delivery model is broken and we've gotten to the end of the road that we have been kicking the proverbial can down. There is nothing else to do, but act."
He said he will urge the city to reexamine employee compensation and "post-employment benefit liability" along with taking on further cuts to services.
"I can think of no greater priority for the city than to perform comprehensive analysis of our current delivery service model to identify if there are more cost-effective ways of providing these services, or in some cases, if we should be providing those services at all." he said.
Wasserman stood in agreement with Dutra's comments Tuesday night, although most of the speech could be construed as an indictment of his own time in the mayor's office. "As usual," Wasserman said, "you've done your homework and you have the whole thing very well analyzed."
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