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By Roz Rogoff

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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Observer's view of Candidate Forum

Uploaded: Oct 6, 2011
The Diablo Valley League of Women Voters held a Candidate Forum at the Community Center in San Ramon for residents to ask questions of the three candidates for City Council and two candidates for Mayor. Each session lasted one hour with a three minute introduction by each candidate and a two minute wrap-up at the end.

The three candidates for City Council went first. Abram Wilson started out listing his many contributions to the City of San Ramon, and finished by saying, "I worked for the last 34 years to enhance and maintain the quality of life for every resident of San Ramon." I agree. Abram has worked as a member of the Arts Advisory Committee, which I am on now, and then a member of the Parks Commission, and then a Councilmember, and then as the first and so-far, only elected Mayor.

Abram deserves a lot of credit and gratitude for his service to the community. Abram calls San Ramon a family, and he's made it his family 24/7. Now is the time for him to retire and spend more time with his real family. San Ramon has grown up and it's time to move away from Abram Wilson.

Scott Perkins recalled how he was elected on the heels of the "Gang of Three" and the mess they made of City finances. I don't dislike anyone in the Gang of Three. They are all good people, but they were a very bad Council majority. As Perkins pointed out they spent large amounts of money on plans for projects that would never be built.

They spent $2.1M on plans for a Civic Center, with an 8-story, 1200 seat Performing Arts Center, which was estimated to cost $128M or more to build, and would cost another $2M a year to subsidize. Jim Gibbon's group, San Ramon for Open Government, sued the current City Council for approving 7-story office buildings in Alex Mehran's City Center plans. The settlement reduced the maximum height of buildings in San Ramon to 5-stories, but nobody objected to the Gang's proposed Performing Arts Center plans, and this was during the dot-com recession which resulted in a structural deficit in San Ramon's city finances.

Perkins recalled that he was elected to bring the budget back under control and since he's been on the City Council, the budget is balanced, spending is under control, and the City has a AAA bond rating. Perkins didn't bring up the Performing Arts Center we have now, which is a City partnership with the School District, but that cost the City around $2M or about what the Gang wasted on those monumental plans, and at the September Arts Advisory Committee meeting we were told the subsidy from the City last year came to $34,000. That's thousands, not millions. Somebody is doing something right here.

Phil O'Loane opened his intro by saying he's the only candidate running who isn't a politician. Well what makes a politician, running for re-election? If you haven't run before, then you're not a politician? Phil did run a long time ago, but he's not a politician, and neither is Scott, who added that to his wrap-up, and neither is Carol Rowley or even Bill Clarkson who has run for the School Board three times.

Dave Hudson told me when I ran for DSRSD the second time that now I'm a politician. When Kevin L'Hommedieu found out I was running for DSRSD he accused me (it's a dirty word) of being a politician. If I was a politician, I would have won!

I had a nice, friendly chat with Kevin after the forum. He seems relaxed and happy. I haven't ever seen him that way before. Maybe it was because Phil came off well. I'm afraid Abram said the same old clichés we've all heard before.

The audience wrote questions on small pieces of paper which were asked of the candidates on stage. Each candidate had one minute to answer. One question that caught my attention was about changing City elections to even years. Wilson said it would save the City a lot of money. Perkins said odd years favor challengers because they get more visibility. O'Loane, who is the challenger, was the only one who recalled that the last measure to change to even years increased the Mayor's terms by one year. O'Loane said that's why it failed. He said he's willing to serve three years to make the switch.

Good call Phil. I was the opposition to that last "Term Extensions," measure put on the ballot by the City Council back in 2008. The Gang of Three tried it in 2002 with Measure H. Carol Rowley drew a Stop Sign with No Term Extensions on it that we all made into T-Shirts. I pulled out that T-Shirt in 2008 when the Policy Committee consisting of Carol Rowley and Dave Hudson approved putting the Term Extensions measure on the Agenda to be approved by the rest of the City Council. I posted a video of Dave Hudson saying he "wouldn't even consider shortening terms," on my San Ramon Observer website. Measure Q lost by 169 votes that year.

The Mayoral candidates followed the Council candidates. Bill Clarkson and Carol Rowley have similar backgrounds. Carol was a school teacher and Principal of Country Club Elementary School and Bill was on the San Ramon Valley Unified School District board for many years. Carol was on the Parks and Community Services Commission before she ran for City Council and Bill is on the Parks Commission now.

Someone, probably Kevin L'Hommedieu, asked about the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan. Bill Clarkson said the process wasn't done properly and more public input was needed. Carol disagreed and said the Economic Development Advisory Committee met with property owners and they liked the plan. Actually there is no North Camino Ramon Specific Plan yet. In order to develop a specific plan, the Planning Commission has to hold several Public Hearings and those haven't happened. Rowley explained that "It's a long process and won't happen for years." Chalk that one up for Carol.

My question about Mudd's came up next. I asked Rowley why the City is planning to tear down a City-owned building to lease the land to a private developer to build his own building there. Mudd's wasn't mentioned in my question, but Carol knew that's what I was asking about. She said, "Many things have to be addressed. There are lots of things wrong with it." She mentioned code violations and other problems, but didn't claim it was falling down, rat infested, or full of dry rot. She said the City spent money on restoring the Glass House and Forest Home Farms, and still needs to restore the Harlan House. So it sounded like the money went to other projects, and there isn't enough for Mudd's. That's a more honest answer than I've been getting for the last year.

Bill Clarkson questioned taking taxpayer money to buy the property and once it is torn down it can't be brought back. That of course is my point.

There were questions for both panels on the City Center. Carol said the infrastructure is in place, but they need tenants for the anchor stores. Clarkson said the City needs to be more proactive in getting the City Center underway, and pledged to form a Citizen Taskforce to keep residents informed of the progress. Clarkson also said he would move Public Comment back to the start of the meetings and communicate better with residents.

The forum wrapped up a little after 9 pm. It was videotaped and we were told the tape would be on YouTube. I'll post a link to it once I know where it is. It's too long for me to try to write everything about it here, but our intrepid reporter, Glenn Wohltmann is writing the story for the front page of the Express.

Comments

Posted by Resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 7, 2011 at 9:28 am

Thanks for the detailed summary Roz. Looking forward to the youtube replay


Posted by Eric Wallis, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 7, 2011 at 10:51 am

Roz - looks like the forum videos can be accesses through another online publication you are familiar with.

Good summary of two hours of discussion. By and large I thought the candidates gave the City a look into their views on issues. Liked the idea of questions being submitted so we didn't have a totally canned presentation. While unscripted questions don't necessarily show how a candidate would actually decide an issue (which generally requires study and contemplation), the answers do indicate how that person's mind works. Like Scott Perkins' answers clearly showed his engineering/MBA background.

Eric

Eric


Posted by publius, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 7, 2011 at 11:57 am

If someone is telling you they are not a politician, they probably are and will act like one.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Oct 7, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Eric,

I checked the Patch and what appears to be a link to a video as actually a live, written report on the forum. I don't know if it was tweeted (I'm not into Twitter), but it looks like that's what was used.

I spoke to Vince Golla after the forum. Vince used to be an Editor at the San Ramon Valley Times and he was also on the TV30 Board of Directors before the Mayors took over doing that. We both wondered who was covering the forum for the Patch. It was David Mills, Associate Regional Editor. I don't know him, so I wouldn't have recognized him there. He deserves credit for coming up with a innovative and lively way to do it.

I haven't found the video posted on Youtube yet. I'm sure the "papers" will be notified when it is available.

Roz

PS Renae, Mudd's is not considered an historical site by Carol Rowley or the rest of the San Ramon Historical Foundation, but Joe Queirolo started a Save the Mudd's building page on Facebook for those of us who do.


Posted by dubious, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 7, 2011 at 1:50 pm

If someone is a politician they probably will try to not act like one


Posted by G. Alpert, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 7, 2011 at 3:28 pm

I'd like to thank all of the candidates for last night. If there was one message that I took away, it is that they all are passionate about the city. They are all extremely generous with their time and energy and truly believe that they have what they believe are the best interests in mind.

I also took away that the issues facing San Ramon were not created over night. They are the result of many years of actions and in some cases inaction. I think that is a symptom of a group that has grown too comfortable, too complacent, and has insulated itself from outside opinions and diversity of thought.

The need for change is apparent. Our city needs new viewpoints and new ideas to take San Ramon to the next level. I appreciate that we are given a choice of candidates with this election.


Posted by Davis, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Well said!


Posted by kevin, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Actually I submitted the question of why they closed the recycling center for the past 2-3 years, the dumpsters were still there but the residents weren't allowed to use it. Mayor Wilson tried to say it was Waste Managements fault and they might revisit it in a year or so. Councilman Perkins really impressed me with his honesty when he stated the center was closed for low income housing and that he believed it was not a correct placement for that use and he regrets closing the center.

You stated how relaxed I was at the debate. I was because I am hopeful. You have argued before the council as passionately for Mudds as I have against the North Camino Ramon Specific plan. I think what we have in common is that the council does not listen and is not forthright about what they are planning and that is a common frustration.

I am hopeful that we capitalize on this opportunity to change our counsel with the new faces that are more than qualified, have a passion for San Ramon and are open minded.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Oct 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Kevin,

I thought I spoke against closing the Recycling Center when they planned it back in 2008, but I found my comments in November 2010 when they were still planning to sell that lot to developers for low income housing.

Web Link

I said it was a terrible place to put low income housing and Scott Perkins agreed, but it was designated for housing. The original decision was made in April of 2008. Here's a link to those minutes.

Web Link

The new contract with Waste Management now allows for curbside pickup of recyclables including hazardous waste. The Center probably isn't needed there anymore, but to put housing there would be a terrible mistake. I was as opposed to the Crow Canyon Specific Plan as you are to the North Camino Ramon plan.

Roz


Posted by kevin, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 10, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Roz,

I attended the City Council meeting when the considered and passed the Hazardous waste curbside pick up program. They passed and appropriated $160,000 per year to have it done. I asked whether it might be better to have spent the money in either reopening the recycle center and incorporating a hazardous drop off point that could be transferred to Martinez. It seemed to me that residents putting their "Hazardous Waste" on the curbside could certainly have it's own inherent "Hazards"

My question now is whether residents of San Ramon are actually calling and arranging to have hazardous waste picked up? If so, how much waste divided into $160,000? My suspicions are that I should have bid on this contract myself as a nice paying side job of 4-5 trips to Martinez a month. It would be an interesting column(hint hint)


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