11 Sep Vinay Pimple: ‘We Can Make It Happen’
Interview, Mitzi Perez | Photo by Faviola Leyva
Vinay Pimple, 50, was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Richmond City Council in 2015 and served as a councilmember until January 2017. He is making his second run for the council.
Originally from India, he moved to Richmond in 2010. He is an attorney and former teacher and software engineer.
Pimple spoke with Richmond Pulse about city services, junk food and opportunities for youth.
Richmond Pulse: Why are you running for City Council?
Vinay Pimple: I am here because many people throughout my life have helped me so much. I can’t help them in return, so I volunteer and run for public office to help others in turn.
On city council, I found that so many of our laws were written by privileged outsiders from Berkeley and SF, who simply had no idea about how discrimination works or how people deal with hardships. As a blind person of color and an immigrant, I have firsthand experience of the various ways in which our communities face discrimination and other challenges.
I overcame many challenges to become a teacher, a software engineer and an attorney. I will use my understanding of our community’s issues, and my analytical skills, to put in place the best and most effective solutions.
RP: What are the two most pressing issues in Richmond, and how will you address these issues?
VP: The most important issue is to increase opportunities for our youth. I want to improve education and job training and reduce crime. Education is the key. I will make sure that we make a full shift to a college-going culture because only about 30 percent of our eligible students currently use the Richmond Promise college scholarship. I will continue my work of expanding training for careers in the building trades. I will make a big push for volunteer mentors. Mentors can be game-changers when we focus on high-risk children aged 12 to 17. Mentors can build a bond with high-risk children, and navigate them towards all these opportunities that will help our children realize their full potential.
The other major challenge we have is to improve city services. We need to raise revenue by building housing and attracting businesses, and by careful personnel management. I have experience of doing just this. During my two years on council, I approved 450-plus affordable homes, and 300-plus market-rate homes. I took the lead in convincing police officers, fire fighters and managers to take big cuts in take home pay so that we could balance the budget without cutting services.
RP: What is you vision for development at Point Molate?
VP: The backroom deal on Point Molate with the developer has made many of our residents distrust the current council. One of my top priorities is to have full public participation at every stage of the process. We also need to consider safety and traffic concerns.
Personally, I am an avid hiker and love the vast solitudes of Northern California. But, I also can’t forget the joy of the kid who described his camping trip on his first trip to a big park. I would like a development with amenities that will attract people who may not be seeking out nature but will make them curious to explore nature once they get there.
RP: How will you address health disparities and the shortage of medical care services in the city?
VP: The city doesn’t have direct responsibility, and by implication, the funding sources for health care. So, we need to work with others.
Doctors Hospital was closed down, just when I was sworn in as a council member, due to annual losses of $18 million. We made sure that Kaiser expanded its emergency services. Instead of taking the patient to Doctors Hospital, we now take them to Kaiser, Kaiser stabilizes their condition and then moves the patient to the county hospital in Martinez, if the patient needs further hospitalization. Lifelong Medical Care expanded with some state funds, and added an urgent care unit. They are also opening a new center on Harbor. We need to continue working with other agencies to make sure that they fulfill their responsibility to serve everyone.
I will also work with the schools because Richmond has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in California. Being an immigrant, I know that in third-world countries, it is expensive to eat junk food or drive when you can walk. Therefore, they are considered fancy habits and status symbols. We need to educate our residents that these are just unhealthy habits, and not status symbols here. I am also frustrated that we have to constantly fight the onslaught of junk food advertising.
RP: When you think of Richmond in 10 years, what do you see?
VP: I want to see Richmond fulfill its potential as an affordable, family-friendly jewel on the Bay. When we increase opportunities and reduce crime, our children won’t dream of moving out of Richmond, but of returning to Richmond to raise their own families.
Today, we are divided and afraid. We are divided by the different opportunities available to different communities. We are afraid of crime and of whether the government will protect us or provide essential services. If we create and seize our opportunities, we can become a united and confident community. That is my dream for Richmond. We can make it happen.
This article is one of a series of interviews with this year’s City Council candidates. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.