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November 8, 2016 — California General Election
Special District

Kensington Police Protection and Community Services DistrictCandidate for Director

Photo of Sylvia Hacaj

Sylvia Hacaj

Consultant
1,892 votes (31.14%)Winning
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Address the inherent conflict of interest in having a combined chief of police and general manager.
  • Obtain bids for contracting for police service so the community can consider how this option could meet our budget and community policing needs.
  • Implement a fiscally sustainable budget by assessing future risk, creating scenario plans and establishing a reserve policy.

Experience

Experience

Profession:Consultant
Vice President, Philanthropy Programs/Global Phillanthropy Forum, World Affairs Council of Northern CA (2010–2014)
Dir., Public Policy & Advocacy/Assoc Dir., Development, Western Region, Save the Children (2004–2009)
Senior Vice President & Managing Director, Campaigns, M&R Strategic Services (1998–2004)
Deputy Director, Government Relations and White House Liaison, Corporation for National & Community Services (1994–1997)
Deputy Director, Government Relations, Corporation for National & Community Service — Appointed position (1994–1997)
Legislative Analyst, US House of Representatives (1991–1994)

Education

San Francisco State University Certificat, Applied Positive Psychology & Coaching Skills (2016)
American University Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), International Relations (1989)

Community Activities

Board Member, Kensington Education Foundation (2016–current)
Board Member, Kensington Property Owners Association (2015–2016)
Reviewer for the Purpose Prize, Encore.org (formerly Civic Ventures) (2012–2012)
Board Member, National Campaign for Youth Justice (2007–2011)
Board Member, Suited for Change (1993–2002)

Biography

For twenty-five years I have been shaping public policy, leading advocacy efforts and developing strategic priorities for nonprofits, foundations and progressive businesses. I have an ability to foster collaboration and rally others in a common endeavor. I thrive on empowering people by connecting them to each other and to the information they need to create change.

In my career as an agent of social change, I have led the production of the annual Global Philanthropy Forum, improved the advocacy efforts environmental, health and education groups including Save the Children, World Wildlife Fund, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and worked to establish the AmeriCorps national service program and the National Commission on Children and Disasters. 

Currently as a coach and consultant, I help organizations and individuals achieve enterprise, career or personal goals. I partner with them to navigate transitions in a thought-provoking and creative process. I identify gaps and design practices to overcome challenges. I employ an approach that capitalizes on core strengths and is rooted in social and positive psychology research. Clients find working with me empowers them to move forward.

My recent work includes providing professional development and facilitation services to Fluxx Labs, Build Change and Catapult Design/Grand Canyon Trust, collaborating with the Skoll Foundation’s World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, and facilitating the collaboration of Big Bang Philanthropy.

Who supports this candidate?

Featured Endorsements

  • East Bay Times http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/10/19/editorial-end-kensington-intimidation-elect-nottoli-hacaj/

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

I am running to restore trust in the KPPCSD board and to address Kensington’s long-term governance and fiscal challenges. I moved to Kensington in 2008 because it is a great place to raise a family: vibrant local businesses, wonderful walking trails and a top-rated elementary school, which my two daughters attend.

I faithfully began reading the Outlook to keep up on local issues and was increasingly dismayed by the accounts of acrimonious Board meetings. In 2010 I voted for Measure G, the special permanent tax proposed by the Board to support police services and stabilize the finances of the district.

In 2014, I began to pay closer attention to the KPPCSD Board’s management of budget and services. That year, the Board proposed a new contract with the police that offered a salary increase to subsidize the employee contributions toward benefits. A thorough financial analysis by the Kensington Property Owners Association (KPOA) showed the terms of the contract weren’t sustainable with Kensington’s projected revenues.

I joined the Board of the KPOA and am proud of the role its membership played in galvanizing the community to convince the KPPCSD Board to start over and renegotiate. As a result of that renegotiation, police officers, for the first time, are contributing a small amount toward their health and retirement benefits.

Then there was Reno-gate in which a Kensington police officer lost possession of his gun, badge and handcuffs to an illegal prostitute (likely a victim of sex trafficking). The incident only came to light after an investigative reporter with the Contra Costa Times wrote about it. Disciplinary action by the Chief of Police, which should have been immediate, only came after the story broke—9 months after the fact.

Like everyone else, I was embarrassed for our community. But more importantly, it exposed a pattern of failed Board oversight stemming from an uncritical eye toward police services. If there was a silver lining, it was the manner in which the community came together and demanded change. By a 4-1 vote, the Board took decisive action and did not renew the Chief’s contract.

The community insisted that the Board examine ways to change how the KPPCSD operates. An ad hoc committee was formed to present the Board with fundamental policy choices on how we manage police services and improve Kensington's governance structure.

If elected I will work to rebuild trust and work constructively with board members and residents to minimize fiscal and legal risk. I will address the inherent conflict of interest in having a combined Chief of Police and General Manager. It’s also important that we obtain bids for contracting police services so the community can evaluate this option.

Kensington is a community of friends and neighbors who look out for one another. It is this caring spirit that makes it one of the safest and most desirable towns in the Bay Area and the state. We have deeply held shared values. We should build on these to forge permanent consensus-based solutions. I know there are many residents who are ready for change, and I am ready to give my time, talents and enthusiasm to serve our community.

I respectfully ask for your thoughtful consideration of my candidacy and for your vote on November 8th.

Position Papers

The Future of the Kensington's Governance and Operations Structure

Summary

The incoming Kensington Police Protection and Community Services District Board needs to consider the important policy choices researched for the past year by residents appointed to its Ad Hoc Committee on Governance and Operations Structure. These findings were presented to the Board on October 1, 2016. The committee studied 3 specific issues: separating the General Manager's role from the Chief of Police, contracting for police services and disolving our independent fire district.

 

The most important role of a Director is to be aware of our community’s needs, concerns and values, and ensure that they are reflected in the District’s priorities and budget. The Directors are responsible for the formulation and evaluation of policy with regard to the provision of police, recreation and solid waste removal services. Directors set the goals and priorities for the General Manager who proposes a budget that the Board must review, modify and adopt as final.

Since at least 2008, as long as I’ve lived in Kensington, the Boards have collectively failed to address our government’s inherent structural weakness created by having the Chief of Police serve as our General Manager. The Boards have been too passive and uncritical in controlling expenses for police services. This imbalance and deference to the Chief of Police favors police services at the expense of other community needs and long-term fiscal prudence. To compound matters, Directors have failed to de-escalate conflicts among themselves and with the community. Some residents haven’t felt respected or heard, others have been vilified, and the silent majority of residents have been utterly repelled by the discord.

Kensington has a rich tradition of an engaged citizenry. We established our library, literally built our community youth center, and created our park. Our town also has a reputation for self-sufficiency. Independence and engagement are interdependent. We cannot do all that we must without the time and expertise contributed by residents. It is vitally important to listen, acknowledge and explore opposing views and to understand the underlying concern and the desired outcome.  This is particulary important at this time as the incoming Board needs to consider the important policy choices researched for the past year and presented by citizens appointed to its Ad Hoc Committee on Governance and Operations Structure on October 1st.

The committee studied 3 issues and my positions on each are stated below:

 1) Separation of the General Manager position and duties from those of the Chief of Police

 In talking with fellow residents, their top concern is the combined Chief of Police/General Manager position. They agree with the Ad Hoc Committee’s draft report findings that separation of the roles is “the preferred organizational structure.” At the most basic level, they understand that having one person serve in both roles creates a conflict of interest, especially in matters related to police complaints and budgetary priorities. It is a glaring structural weakness, no matter who is in the role. The Ad Hoc committee has identified several alternatives for separating the positions. The Board and community will have to consider the best one to serve our needs and budget. One can always find obstacles to change, but the community has demonstrated its will and the Board must find the way!

 2) Contracting for police services to another agency

The incoming Board must maintain the momentum of the Ad Hoc Committee’s work and facilitate our community’s ability to fully explore contracting some or all elements of police services. An analysis of the police services data and a thorough understanding of our town’s budget constraints is necessary to put together a Request For Proposals. Only then can the community have a robust conversation that both clarifies the numbers, but more importantly explores the values that we as a community hold dear. The new board will then be empowered to decide how contracting could meet our community policing needs in a fiscally sustainable way.

 3) Restructuring Kensington's two special districts so that the fire district is dissolved and fire and EMT services come under the KPPCSD.

I do not consider a takeover of the Fire District to be a priority. Initiating a takeover of the District may be an interesting tax policy discussion, but the KPPCSD needs to get its own house in order first. The greatest threat to our homes and personal safety in Kensington is wildfire and earthquake. Scientists with the US Geological Survey describe the Hayward fault as a “tectonic time bomb, due anytime for another magnitude 6.8 to 7.0 earthquake.” On August 16th of last year an early-morning brushfire near the Steam Train in Tilden Park grew to one acre before it was extinguished. This summer’s wildfires were a devastating reminder that life can change in an instant. The KPPCSD Board should work cooperatively with our Fire District to continuously improve our residents’ preparedness for a certain future quake and on a clear evacuation plan to get us to safety in minutes should a small brush fire grow out of control.

The Board’s greatest near-term challenge is rebuilding the wider community’s trust in its ability to provide services that reflect the community’s values and are fiscally sustainable. This trust is crucial so that Kensington can have a community-wide values-based conversation to find common ground in transitioning to a better governing and operating structure. In the long-term, the Board must take a leadership role in ensuring that our budget is managed for a fiscally sustainable future. Our district has to consider underfunded pension and medical trust fund liabilities and the impacts of required seismic upgrades to the public safety building and community youth center.

If we want to maintain Kensington’s tradition of independence, and make it an even better place to live, the Board has to proactively educate residents and facilitate their involvement in Kensington’s civic affairs, not tune them out and turn them off!  We have the talent and resources to face these near- and long-term challenges if we commit ourselves to mutual respect, civility and transparency. If I am elected I will work constructively with the Board and bring in new voices that broadly represent the diversity of views and wealth of experience of our community. I bring an ability to unite people around a common goal, listen to all points of view with respect, and build consensus to move forward.

 

Videos (2)

— October 9, 2016 Friends of Hacaj for KPPCSD Board

Sylvia's #1 priority is to split the General Manager and Chief of Police position. Having them combined is a clear conflict of interest that has ill-served Kensington.

— October 8, 2016 Paid for by Friends of Hacaj for KPPCSD Board 2016

Kensington has deeply-held shared values. We need to build on those values to form permanent, consensus-based solutions. We have the talent and resources to meet our fiscal and structural challenges, if we commit to mutual respect, civility and transparency. Vote for Sylvia Hacaj for KPPCSD Board

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