By Roz Rogoff
Off the fenceUploaded: Sep 26, 2013
I attended the Candidate's Forum Wednesday night. I sat next to Parks Commissioner Dominique Yancy, who commented at the end, "It was very enlightening." There was a clear division between two candidates who knew what they were talking about and the other two who were either stuck on a single issue or floundering around to find one.
I like Rene Matsumoto personally, even though I don't know her very well. I believe she is smart and a quick learner, but learning everything a councilmember needs to know on the job, "would not be prudent," to quote Dana Carvey. Rene needs to go back to school, or at least to apply for one of the City's advisory committees and work her way up.
Harry Sachs started on the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC), which is a great place to learn where the city gets its revenues and how to keep them coming in. Harry and Phil O'Loane moved from the EDAC to the Planning Commission, which is another great way to learn about what is allowed, what is required, and what is necessary in granting building permits and maintaining a balance between residential and business growth.
Saying he doesn't like high density housing and the City Center needs to be cut in half, as Thomas von Thury did Wednesday night, demonstrates a lack of understanding of the planning process, regional housing and transportation mandates, and economic needs for the future.
Clearly two candidates stood out in their knowledge and understanding of the complex web of laws, plans, and state and regional mandates Harry Sachs and Dave Hudson.
In my blog Still on the fence I said I wasn't endorsing Harry and Dave even though I noted that they are the most knowledgeable candidates. I wanted to read Rene's answers to my questions and be open-minded about her candidacy.
I'm afraid her knowledge of how the city operates is weak, and learning on the job is not a good option for San Ramon right now. We really need Councilmembers who know what they are doing. That's why I'm officially endorsing Harry Sachs and Dave Hudson for the two open seats.
This is even more important this year if the Measure to go to even year elections passes. That would mean candidates elected this year would serve five year terms instead of four. While that would give Rene Matsumoto and Thomas von Thury an extra year to learn what the Council does, I'd rather have known quantities representing me on the Council.
I don't agree with everything Dave Hudson says or does, and I don't agree with everything Harry says or does. But I do know that both of them have come to whatever decisions they make through knowledge of what the options are.
I'm not sure how much difference my endorsements will make in the election. I predict that Harry Sachs will be the big vote getter and will win in a walk. So it comes down to who will come in second. So far Thomas von Thury's only issues are stopping the HOV ramps on the Norris Canyon overpass and reducing the size of the City Center.
The HOV Ramps are a high priority regional project which the City might be able to get moved from Norris Canyon to Executive Parkway but probably won't be able to prevent entirely. This has been planned since 2002 and won't be built until 2018.
Dave Hudson, in his usual incomprehensible way, told the audience at the forum, "You voted for this in 2004." Yes, Dave, but most people don't know what they are voting for. The plan for HOV ramps and high speed busses was buried in Measure J, which extended the half-cent gasoline sales tax from 2009 to 2034. Measure J passed with 71% of the vote, and now the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) has a bucket of money they want (no must) spend on improving mass transit on the 680.
The plans for the City Center were approved in 2008 and most residents look forward to having it. I was at the meetings when this was planned and I didn't see Thomas von Thury or anyone else there to object to it.
If residents want things to happen or don't want things to happen, they have to come to the Council meetings and get involved. The last time there was a big turnout was to save the Sycamore trees on the Bollinger Canyon hill going up to Dougherty Valley. That road needs to be widened and the only way to do it would be to reduce the size of the median where the trees are, or move the sidewalk and bike path out of that roadway while still providing access for walkers and cyclists to get to Dougherty Valley.
I know Dave Hudson is already thinking about that because I've talked to him about. I don't know where Harry Sachs is on this, but with his experience on the Planning Commission he understands the process to put in roads and bike paths and sidewalks better than his other opponents would at this time.
Now isn't the time to take chances on unknown and inexperienced candidates who make grandstand promises that they don't understand and are probably unsupportable. This City has been well-run for the last ten years. For two years we had a well-meaning but unprepared Council majority (known as "The Gang of Three) who almost bankrupted the City. Let's not go back there again. Vote for Sachs and Hudson and keep our City solvent and moving forward not backwards.