By Roz Rogoff
Touching base with Harry SachsUploaded: May 22, 2014
City Councilman Harry Sachs phoned me earlier this week to arrange a meeting to "touch base" about the City's new Budget. He suggested meeting Thursday morning at Denica's. We met there before the election to discuss his candidacy, and I still have credit on my Denica's gift card to use up.
But after thinking it over, I called Harry to change the meeting to the Thursday Farmer's Market at Bishop Ranch 3. It's closer and I needed to pick up some fruits and vegies, rosemary oil, and eggs. I didn't see the egg vendor there, but I got everything else except the rosemary oil.
The oil and vinegar vendor, Tony Hernandez of Mangiamo Gourmet, had a test batch, but I said I'd come back on Saturday for the finished product. I need to go back for the eggs too.
I introduced Harry to Tony, and they talked about the City and how nice it is. Tony said he moved from San Jose and is really glad he did. I have met very few people in San Ramon who are not happy to be living here.
Harry said this is a very well-managed City, and credited City Manager Greg Rogers and City Staff for keeping it so nice. Harry wanted to talk about the results of the new Fiscal Year 2014-15 Budget, which the Council just wrapped up this week. It is on the May 27th City Council Agenda for approval. I also wanted to ask Harry about his first six months on the City Council.
Harry was elected in November, 2013, which was also the last odd year election for San Ramon. He said he likes serving the community and getting to know the other Councilmembers better. The Council is holding Goal Setting Workshops every six months where the Councilmembers can talk to each other in a less formal environment than regular meetings.
Harry listed some of the committees he's on ? the Library Renovation Committee, The Iron Horse Trail Committee, and the Policy Committee with Dave Hudson. The Policy Committee sets the Council Meeting Agendas.
He asked if I saw the article in the San Ramon Express about his request for the City Council to review the Planning Commission's approval of the Faria Preserve development. He seemed surprised that the Express had a story on it.
I was surprised he wanted to review the Planning Commission's approval because he was on the Planning Commission when Faria was originally approved five or six years ago. That project has been spinning around for a long time. The original developer, Art Lorenzini, sold the property to Lafferty Communities, and they started all over again.
Harry questioned the size and location of the development. He said 740 units are too many for Faria, which is a sensitive area. The potential for earthquakes was brought up at one of the hearings, but Harry said it is also highly risky for landslides. He wants to see the size reduced.
He also wanted to talk about city finances, which have improved considerably since last year. When he ran for City Council the City had an almost $4M deficit. That has been reduced by $3M to just under one million dollars.
I asked if the City will start hiring again. Harry said there are five long-term part time employees who could be promoted to full time.
The City plans to spend $1.3M for road paving from Norris Canyon to Bollinger. In another project, the fountains at the back of the Community Center are being converted to a patio. I saw some of that work being done when I went to the Overpass Workshop on Tuesday night. The water was drained from the fountain pools, and workmen were doing something there. I thought it was just maintenance.
Harry wants to add more safety features to roadways and creeks. For example, Pine Valley Road and Montevideo Drive have electrified walkways where they intersect with the Iron Horse Trail. These automatically flash lights when a pedestrian or cyclist approaches the intersection from either side of the road and while they are in the crosswalk. These are very effective when driving along Pine Valley or Montevideo, to notify drivers that someone is crossing the road there. Harry said these lights are being added to five more crosswalks throughout the City.
Harry said his main priorities are public safety and financial stability. Those are jobs 1a and 1b. I said he sounded like Jim Livingstone, the Councilman Harry replaced. "Jim was right." Harry said.