Q&A with City Council Candidate Nancy “Sunny” Rhodes Bostrom-Fleming

Bostrom-Fleming is one of four candidates vying for two seats on the City Council. This is her third time running for City Council (she has run for School Board as well). Edited for length and clarity.

What is your age and how long have you lived in Piedmont?

I am 75 ½ years young.

What do you do for work, either in or out of your home?

I am an art scholar, curator, and collector primarily of African and modern art and ethnographic sculptures and masks. My life has been very enriched by witnessing the Black-Art Renaissance energized by the Black Lives Matter Movement and the reexamination of human values resulting from the tragic death of George Floyd.

I am also an avid bird watcher, horsewoman, dog and cat lover (when I was a child my parents gave me a live lion cub as a present from the pet department at Harrods Department Stores. They no longer sell lions or elephants of any size in the stores since 2014) rower, and gardener.

Have you worked or volunteered in the Piedmont community (or elsewhere) previously? If so, in what capacity(ies)?

Helped get new immigrants settled, raised money to send our wonderful Piedmont kids to Mexico to build houses, have promoted micro-loans to African and Asian women and been a spokesperson for the forgiveness of foreign loans to struggling nations. I’ve supported the anti-slavery movement especially in Africa since I lived in Mauritania in NW Africa where slavery has always been legal until it was finally “officially” declared illegal with consequences in 2007. The consequences are still a mere slap on the hand and 4% of all Mauritanians live in slavery, all owned by people of color.

I’ve spoken on subjects of rape, suicide, vegetarianism, longevity, exercise, national health, education, and promoted efforts to encourage the adoption of foster children, children with disabilities and children of color and sibling groups.

What inspires you to run for office?

I have been inspired to run for office by a desire to help. I have run before and spoken out about issues at the city council meetings.

When I addressed organ donation, many Piedmonters decided to bite the bullet and donate. When a brand new house I bought at 5535 Moraga Ave started to slide down the hill two days before the close of escrow and the soil engineer told me there were streams of water running under Moraga Avenue and all of the houses there are in peril plus the houses above on Blair, I decided to run for city council to publicize the fact and fight the soccer field proposed project. There was a landslide which held up traffic for two days in both directions and the measure was defeated. Many people worked on this.

What are your qualifications to be on the City Council? Any special skills or experience the voters should know about?

Because of a fortunate upbringing, I was exposed to people of many different backgrounds and races and ages.

My grandparents’ lives stretched from the time of the Battle of the Little Big Horn to the landing on the moon. They were scheduled to sail on the Titanic. My husband made sandwiches and filled thermos bottles, then called Dewar’s flasks, and rode in horse and carriage to meet the Carpathians and invite a few survivors as guests. When they got to the main road there were 30,000 other families in carriages with blankets and baskets to help the survivors. I shook the hands of many, to one ancient, nonagenarian Civil War veterans as a tiny girl.

I saw Germany and England after WWII and visited Vietnam. So, I have seen the damage of war. I’ve been in the middle of riots, visited African villages with no one alive over nine because of AIDS.

I’ve seen civil war up close in Africa and starvation in India and Bangladesh, and now I see hunger and rat-infested homeless tent cities in America, blocks from Piedmont.

What do you see as the most challenging issues currently facing the city?

Proving our belief that everyone is a person of value worthy of our best efforts to protect, house and feed and educate.

A tiny warm, safe home and garden for everyone changes everything. After WWII, the average American home had four children, and a 1,000 sq. foot home was the norm. Now, when the average family has 1-9 children, the average new home has 2,600 sq. feet and often, as in Piedmont, the wealthiest and most highly educated have one, often none**.

Our financial stability is one of our most challenging issues. We tell our children to be responsible stewards; to repair and maintain. Good years are an opportunity to enhance our safety by setting aside even more and prudently nurturing our infrastructure, not splurge. Our revenues are going to plunge along with our home value sales taxes if this pandemic blossoms into a depression.

What do you see as strengths of the Piedmont community?

Piedmont is inhabited by committed families of all orientations who work to support their schools and scouting organizations and sports facilities and cultural events and garden clubs and veteran’s organizations and mosques, synagogues and churches and temples. They are well-education, well-travelled, tech-savvy, exercise-aware, tree-hugging, plan to–go-vegan-someday, dog, cat, horse, chicken, iguana, bird-long philanthropically- oriented givers and sharers.

Their biggest status symbol is not their cars or houses, but their children as decent people being sent into a needy world, sometimes just down the street. Ambassadors of kindness.

I’d like to see that on the wall of city council and on playground fences and gates and sign boards. “Entering Piedmont. Be kind.”

What will be your top priority if elected?

Promoting fairness especially related to race issues, promoting health and working on homelessness and the increasing hunger problem.

For three months last year I decided to go out on the streets and see for myself the severity of the problem of the unsheltered. Intense misery exists in front of the Grand Avenue Safeway, Ace Hardware, the Piedmont movie theatre, practically all the parks, soon our Piedmont parks, if this continues.

If it were not for the temporary anti-eviction policy, one third of all Oakland renters would hit the streets in the next 90 days.

If it were not for the income supplement checks, there would be food riots already. Not having to go to the store can save your life. Stock up now. By the time the riots hits, it’s often too dangerous and too late. Every house in Piedmont and America should have a month supply of non-perishables and 99 cent gallons of water stored behind the sofas.

Do you see yourself being especially involved in any particular city issue or program, whether or not it’s your top priority?

An issue near to my heart is the swimming pool. I swim nearly every day either at the club or in the bay, so I love swimming and think Piedmont needs a clean safe pool. I saw the brochure which said our pool has leaks and a crumbly deck and a non-compliant bathroom for disabled persons.

Even if we were not in what is only the beginning phase of a modern plague; even if we were not on the brink of a depression…this pool idea would be a terrible plan.

Talk about any leadership roles you’ve held and what you learned from them.

When I ran for office in the past, I was the only voice suggesting that since I kept my sailboat in Tiburon and saw a man putting up cameras to protect the citizens of Tiburon, we could do that here and add license plate readers. As the perceived architect of this plan, I took a lot of flak, but as my two Piedmont homes had been robbed, raided and ransacked and the Piedmont crime including home invasions was up 40%, I persisted and though I didn’t get elected, within two months the plan was implemented, and now a week never goes by without someone telling me how they read in the paper about the cameras or LPR catching a felon or two.

I’m fundraising for various causes. I’ve learned to glean information from everyone and be a good listener and to be kind and polite and share all credit and express gratitude.

Share an example of your decision-making style.

I am a muller. I run every day three times a day which gives me a lot of uninterrupted “think” time. Example: should I run again for office? Yes, no, yes, no, yes, because in the past, even when I didn’t get elected, I was able to talk to people about organ donation and hi-tech safety solutions for our city, which though unpopular ideas, rapidly gained traction, and in other cases, have saved lives and reduced suffering.

What project have you worked on that you are especially proud of?

N/A

City Council members must navigate a wide range of community opinions and demands. How will you handle those pressures?

I will do what I think is good for Piedmont in the long run. Flashy “feel-good projects” that produce applause and photo-ops, if not fiscally prudent, and lead to financial discord. Roman emperors who were afraid to modify their budgets during years of revenue reductions because of pestilence, drought, crop failures, thought they could hold it all together with more wars and booty. Sound familiar? The great public works project that pulled America out from The Great Depression was not the W.P.A., but WWII.

Is Piedmont doing a good job addressing Covid-19? If not, what improvements would you advocate?

N/A

What do you think about the proposed bond measure to replace the pool?

I think Piedmont needs a clean safe pool. I saw the brochure which said our pool has leaks and a crumbly deck and a non-compliant bathroom for disabled persons.

Even if we were not in what is only the beginning phase of a modern plague; even if we were not on the brink of a depression where so many have lost their jobs that government checks are being sent to masses of people to keep them from starving and rioting; even if we were not living blocks from homeless camps overrun with sewage and rats in a city where there is great heartache and despair and 80% of third graders can’t read or do math, this pool idea would be a terrible plan. The pro-pool brochure says we should do it because the interest rates are low. A nice man last week tried to sell me a used Bombardier Jet because it’s cleaner than a Jet Time-share and I can take my miniature Arabian horses on it and it can fly very high to get better mileage (thank goodness for that). For him, the clincher was the low interest rate.

A bad deal is a bad deal @ zero interest. I phoned three pool people and said I have 40 acres and thought I’d like an Olympic pool, full-sized just like the ones at the Olympics. I was told it would cost $300,000 to $500,000 for a pool 169 feet by 10 lanes wide and 8’ deep to prevent excess splashing. I am told this project’s estimate is 20 million dollars.

Do what a sensible rich person would do. Call the pool plumbers and fix the leaks, get carpenters to fix the decks. Get the bathrooms up to code. Be fiscally prudent in not wasting taxpayer dollars.

What do you think about current taxes in Piedmont? Too low, too high, just right?

I think most people would think they are high enough already, thank you.

This goes for people in 800 square foot Craftsman cuties and 25,000 square foot chateaux.

How would you deal with improving and maintaining City facilities?

N/A

Between the city and the schools there are many shared facilities and programs. What is your perspective on city-school partnerships and collaboration?

Sounds like a natural potential partnership.

What would you do to create more affordable housing available in Piedmont?

Family budgeting should be taught in school and the power of saving. We need to teach children how to establish a credit history and FICO score so when they get a job and down payments, they have the credit score to qualify for a home loan.

What would you do to promote diversity in Piedmont, including among City staff?

N/A

What would you do to improve environmental sustainability in Piedmont?
  1. Don’t have children
  2. Adopt
  3. Have 1 child
  4. Become a vegetarian. Only uses 1/20th of the resources
  5. Promote solar
  6. Electric cars, including police cars when possible
What do you think about current recreational opportunities in Piedmont, and do you have other ideas for adding, subtracting or changing programs?

Current recreational opportunities are great. Pickle ball is fantastic. We could add debating, sailing, horsemanship.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with voters about your candidacy?

An added thought: Please consider making “Be Kind” Piedmont’s city motto and Piedmont School District’s motto.

Please consider making “Lift Every Voice and Sing” Piedmont’s song. In 1919 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People dubbed it “the Negro national anthem for the power in voicing a cry for liberation and affirmation for African-American people.” It can apply to any people who have struggled, and there is no specific reference to any particular race; but especially at this time, it would resonate in the hearts of Black brothers and sisters who have grown up hearing it in their churches

Bostrom-Fleming does not have a website to visit, but voters may contact her with questions at venturecaptialboston@gmail.com.

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