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Ziesenhenne banks on business acumen

on October 21, 2010

Looking at Richmond’s high rate of unemployment and steady job losses, mayoral candidate John Ziesenhenne, 53, is not happy with the city’s economic leadership.

“There’s no leadership in Richmond now,” Ziesenhenne told the audience at the Marina Bay candidates night earlier this month. “I’m running for mayor to fill this void of leadership that the city doesn’t have.”

Touting himself as a “business friendly” candidate, Ziesenhenne emphasized throughout the evening the importance of bringing new businesses into Richmond. With a calm outward demeanor, he explained the deterioration of the city’s economy over the last four years, citing Richmond’s 18.5 percent unemployment rate and high number of foreclosed homes.

Ziesenhenne’s top economic proposal is to organize a taskforce to remedy the communication gap that he said has existed between businesses and City Hall over the last few years. The team would be charged with assessing what businesses need in order to thrive in Richmond, and then finding ways to bring new business to the city.

Ziesenhenne explains how an economic taskforce could revitalize Richmond at the the Marina Bay candidates night on Oct. 13.

The team would begin by contacting Richmond’s top 100 businesses to determine how the city can assist in their continued operation. Team members would also initiate conversations with prospective companies considering relocation to Richmond. Ziesenhenne also said he would make affordable land available to new businesses, concentrating on areas like the North Richmond Shoreline or Port of Richmond.

John Ziesenhenne calls himself a “lifelong Richmonder.” His parents moved to the city during World War II and have since lived in north and east Richmond. Ziesenhenne graduated from Harry Ells High School, attended Contra Costa College and received a degree in U.S. History from UC Berkeley. He is now CEO of M.A. Hays Insurance Company on MacDonald Avenue.

Ziesenhenne has consistently taken a business-friendly position in regard to politically sensitive issues such as the Chevron refinery or Point Molate. He supports improving communications with Chevron, saying it would provide much needed jobs and stimulate the economy.

“We don’t have to love Chevron,” Ziesenhenne said, “but they are here, so let’s have them be the best.”

Ziesenhenne’s two opponents, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Nat Bates, have both taken strong positions on the proposed casino development at Point Molate: McLaughlin against it and Bates for it.

In contrast, Ziesenhenne has said throughout the campaign season that he will wait for the vote on Measure U to decide his position on the casino development at Point Molate. Measure U is a public referendum on the casino development, asking voters whether the city should approve the casino project.

“I want to hear from the voters. They are very important in helping me shape my decision,” Ziesenhenne said.

After the candidate forum, Ziesenhenne visits with one of his supporters.

In an interview with Richmond Confidential last July, Ziesenhenne was more forthcoming, saying he favors building a hotel and 4,000-slot Indian casino for the number of jobs it would create.

Addressing his position on the Point Molate project, Jennifer Adams, a Richmond pharmacist and supporter of the current mayor, criticized Ziesenhenne for lacking political skills. Adams does believe he would bring more job opportunities to the city. At the same time, she says she’s concerned that, despite his serving on the city council from 1982 to 1993, the insurance company owner is politically inexperienced.

Donor Dick McCloskey, on the other hand, says he appreciates that Ziesenhenne isn’t a politician. “He doesn’t have some pie in the sky idea of what it should be,” said McCloskey, a painting contractor who lives in El Sobrante. “He wants jobs; he realizes that businesses are important and they need to be supported and brought into the area. I think he can do it better than anybody.”

Improving public safety is another of Ziesenhenne’s visions. In order to lower crime rates, he suggested installing more cameras in public places and creating more DUI checkpoints, solutions that don’t require increasing police staff.

He also said he hopes the city can support more recreational activities by keeping public libraries open longer, improving student gyms and funding youth soccer leagues. He argued that all of these improvements would not only better the community, but also help deter crime in the long run.

In a rare moment during the interview, Ziesenhenne showed the lighter side of his personality. When asked what he would do if he was not elected mayor, he replied, “ I haven’t thought much about it and I don’t want to think about it, but I’d like to go to more Giants games.”

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  1. Mr. Lee on October 21, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    통계자료요. 총액을 나타내되 y축의 후원금 액수를 후원자 수로 바꾸면 어떨까요? 그냥 저의 생각이니 참고만 하세요.

  2. Siddo on October 21, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    The state of politics in the United States is such that most “average” Americans have become extremely jaded and ambivalent. Hence, it’s a bit funny when someone criticizes a candidate for lacking political acumen. People despise career politicians, but want their candidates to have political experience. People are concerned about jobs and the economy, yet they oppose businesses moving into their community. It’s difficult to have the best of both worlds all of the time. People in the States are so used to being a superpower that it has become difficult for them to abandon their sense of entitlement in times where humility and deference is more appropriate. The future looks dim indeed.

  3. Hyeohokim on October 21, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    I think this is a well-made report about a mayor candidate. The report seems to introduce the candidate in front of me. Above all, the main purpose of the candidate of becoming the mayor was descrived sysmetically.

  4. Yeonhee on October 22, 2010 at 5:07 am

    “I want to hear from the voters.” Who wouldn’t?

  5. Julie on October 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    I feel I met already him ^^*
    You have remarkably improved in your ability of writing.!! Love it!

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