Menlo Park: Political newcomer has busy life
Listening to Dave Bragg, 34, reel off the many demands on his time is dizzying: A father of three young children, Mr. Bragg also juggles being a firefighter with owning a construction company with coaching football and Little League with volunteering for Rebuilding Peninsula with ... the list goes on. And now he's added "run for Menlo Park City Council."
"I only do things I enjoy, and I enjoy a lot of things," Mr. Bragg said. He allows that being elected would require some readjustment, a change from head coach to assistant coach, for instance. Thor Construction, a small business he co-founded with wife Anna, already pretty much runs itself, he said, and a firefighter's schedule offers enough flexibility to leave Tuesday nights open for council meetings.
The non-political community involvement is one of Mr. Bragg's selling points; he said he thinks he'll connect with an under-represented portion of Menlo Park — the people focused on raising their families and running their businesses rather than becoming enmeshed in city government.
The top three issues facing Menlo Park from his perspective: implementing the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan; retaining small businesses; and finding new revenue streams to help balance the budget.
Housing for an aging population is also high on his list of interests. He praised Councilman Andy Cohen's championing of in-law units on existing properties. "We have three generations here in our house. Being able to age in place and have family live near you on your property is a fantastic idea," he said. Mr. Bragg's mother-in-law currently lives with their family.
A Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq, he's been with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District for almost nine years, leading to the inevitable question about pension reform. He voted against Measure L, but said he was "100 percent on board" with some type of reform to public pay and benefits. "[Measure L] was ballot box budgeting. In a bad economy, any time you put something on the ballot that says 'we have to save money,' they're going to vote for it. There are ways to negotiate with unions; the ballot is only one of them."
His main argument against Measure L, which applies to new hires, is that it won't change the city's budget for about 15 years. "If we have to make a budget change, I want to make decisions that change the budget today, not 15 years from now," he said. "There's not a public employee out there, myself included, who would ever want to bankrupt the city, because then we wouldn't have jobs. I don't think public employees were represented well in this thing."
A newcomer to the political arena, Mr. Bragg chose to start with a run for city council instead of volunteering on a commission because of the variety of issues elected officials tackle. As might be expected from his current list of activities, variety is preferred.
Early endorsements include the presidents of Menlo-Atherton Little League and Pop Warner football, and, unofficially, the firefighters union. The candidate said he plans to meet with those active in the Menlo Park political scene as well as small business and property owners, although he's "still trying to figure out the huge importance of talking to every retired mayor in town."
As of June 29, Mr. Bragg is one of three seeking election to the council, with Transportation Commissioner Ray Mueller and incumbent Kelly Fergusson as the other early entrants to the race. Mr. Cohen is also up for re-election but has not announced whether he'll run. The candidate filing period starts July 16 and ends Aug. 10, with a five-day extension if either incumbent chooses not to run.