By Tim Hunt
Changing dialogue in Pleasanton electionUploaded: Nov 13, 2012
One of the striking aspects of the campaign for mayor and city council in Pleasanton was how the issues being debated have shifted.
It was not long ago that there were heated debates about luxury homes at the end of Hearst (above Kottinger Ranch), the rate of growth, extending Stoneridge Drive, to name a few.
The city has a major planning effort underway to develop a master plan for the area east of Valley Avenue and Santa Rita on the community's eastern border. Barring some unexpected addition, it's the last major area of the community to be planned for development.
In two forums I attended and in the various comments in letters to the editor and blogs, little was said about the growth issues that typically have been major points of contention. Councilwoman-elect Karla Brown stressed her slow/smart growth approach in her advertising, but was alone in listing that concern. She also stressed the city's unfunded pension liabilities and presented herself effectively.
Instead the dialogue seems to have shifted to City Hall and whether current spending on staff can be sustained over time. The widespread conclusion is that the city needs to lower the percentage which loomed near 80 percent to something closer to 70 percent. Given the current unfunded liability on the pensions, that's a worthy goal to maintain funds for critical services.
Retired executive Councilman Jerry Thorne made the spending and his business background the cornerstone of his campaign and won easily with 54 percent of the votedespite money and endorsements coming from business and real estate interests .
His opponent, Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio, received endorsements and money from labor interests and many of the politicians in nearby communities and in the county. She stressed her connections as a point separating her from Thorne, particularly after he opposed extending the county's half-cent sales tax and making it permanent (that measure is still too close to call although it is failing narrowly). She supported Measure B1 as did unsuccessful council candidate and former BART director Erlene DeMarcus.
Some letter writers argued that her relationship with labor would make it difficult for her to negotiate with the city employee groups.
What's particularly notable is that Pleasanton, with the support of both Thorne and Cook-Kallio, has made significant progress dealing with its employee unions. They've gone from paying none of their share of retirement to agreeing to pay their full share by the middle of next year. Compare that with other communities that had been paying both sides of the retirement burden and made little progress with employee unions.
Jerry Pentin, who has a long record of civic involvement as both a planning commissioner and a parks and recreation commissioner, easily won the second seat on the council. Once Thorne is sworn in as mayor, the council will run with a vacant seat until an election next year.
That election will mark a huge change on the council with three new members after Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and council members Matt Sullivan and Cindy McGovern were termed out after eight years of service each. Hosterman has ambitions to run for Congress, althoughgiven the potential competition there with newly elected Eric Swalwell plus termed out state Sen. Ellen Corbett and Silicon Valley attorney and former Commerce Dept. official Ro Khanna all with active committeesshe may find the going easier in a run for Assembly where Joan Buchanan will be termed out.
Of course, that vacant seat may well draw a significant group of candidates as well.