By Roz Rogoff
Harry Sachs?Uploaded: May 10, 2013
I've known Harry Sachs for about ten years. I recall he came over to me at a function at the Community Center and told me how much he liked my San Ramon Observer website. I started that website in January, 2002. It might have been about a year or two later. It took me at least a year to build a following and improve my writing.
I was still suspicious of complements back then, especially from people I didn't know. I thought Harry was trying to curry favor with me. Maybe he was, or maybe he was being honest about my wonderful writing and website.
Harry and Phil O'Loane were both appointed to the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) around 2002. In 2006 both of them applied for the Planning Commission. I was opposed to their appointments and particularly hostile to Harry. Here's what I wrote in an email to Diane Schinnerer on June 15, 2006:
"I don't trust Harry Sachs. He's an ambitious suck-up. I see these appointments as spelling trouble for Beta Court. I was really sorry they didn't appoint Christy Tyler. She's super."
I still consider Christy Tyler super, but she's very happy now in her teaching career. Beta Court was spared the housing overlay by the Planning Commission, and Harry and Phil turned out to be very good Commissioners.
I attended the interviews for appointments to the Planning Commission in 2010 when Harry and Phil's terms were up. Harry gave the best interview, but I'm sorry to say Phil gave the worst. By then I liked both Phil and Harry, but Phil was very nervous and didn't answer the questions as well as the other applicants.
Phil made a political issue out of not being reappointed, and I believe he thought it was because of his objections to moving the Urban Growth Boundary into Tassajara Valley, but the vote was split. Abram Wilson and Scott Perkins voted to appoint Jeanne Benedetti. Dave Hudson and Carol Rowley voted to reappoint Phil. Jim Livingstone voted for John Mills.
I thought John Mills gave a better interview than Benedetti, but she gave a better interview than Phil. The Council voted to appoint Mills to the Parks and Community Services Commission and Jim Livingstone changed his vote to Benedetti. I felt Phil should have been reappointed, but he used his "martyrdom" in his election campaign for City Council the following year.
Phil has been a good Councilmember and I believe Harry would be too. They are both intelligent and know a lot about how the city works and one or two terms on the Planning Commission, which is a heck of a lot of work, is great preparation for City Council.
So maybe Harry is politically ambitious. It requires some political ambition to run for office. I didn't consider myself politically ambitious when I ran for DSRSD twice, but I was accused of it by several commentators on my blogs.
I had breakfast with Harry at Denica's Café in Dublin last month. I asked him why he is a school teacher. Harry teaches 8th grade in Fremont. Teaching middle school isn't a typical profession for most men, and Harry could have been more successful in a business career. So I asked him why he chose to be a school teacher.
He said he worked in the financial industry at first and didn't like it. He loves being a school teacher and working with kids. It's interesting that Christy Tyler, whom I supported for the position on the Planning Commission in 2006, left Engeo to become an 8th Grade teacher too. She also preferred that to a higher-status engineering job.
I've been teaching online for University of Phoenix for the last 11 years. University of Phoenix does not cherry-pick their students the way most traditional colleges do, and many of them need extra help meeting college-level requirements. I find it rewarding to help my students learn; so I understand Harry's choice to be a teacher.
Still I was skeptical about Harry's candidacy for Council. After I received a fund raising letter from Harry's campaign, I sent him the following email. Harry's response follows below it.
I received your fund raising letter. I plan to donate $50, but I'm not ready to do that until I see who else, other than the incumbents, is running.
If Jim Livingstone doesn't run, there might be another uncontested election with only the Even Year Election measure on it.
I'd like to write this week's blog on your candidacy. In fact this email might be part of it, so it won't be entirely favorable. I'm still dubious about your motives behind your current political direction, such as your turnaround on the plans for North Camino Ramon and Norris Canyon.
I knew you wanted to run for City Council for a long time and I suspect you were PO'd that Phil beat you to it. I didn't consider Phil's turnaround completely kosher either.
That's not to say you haven't changed. I think you have, but I consider Jim and Dave truer to themselves and not politically motivated in their positions. They may stay stupid things or be hardline on some positions, but they are pretty predictable in what they stand for and what they will do.
It sounds like Jim Gibbon is planning to run someone from Dougherty Valley, or maybe he would like someone to run from Dougherty Valley. See his comment on my latest blog. I don't know where you stand with Gibbon's group, but I know you have been moving in their direction.
Here's Harry's reply:
"Roz- ok let's see.
First you're wrong about me being pissed that Phil "beat me to it." I didn't want to run two years ago. My youngest was in preschool. I wasn't ready. I had just finished Measure W (which both Harry and I supported) and truly felt it wasn't my time.
Camino Ramon wasn't a flip for me. It was simply too many housing units were being allowed and the traffic analysis was totally inadequate in my opinion.
HOV ramps same thing. I've read the online investment options report and the 2009 consultant impact report. I think HOV lanes reduce capacity. I do not support them because in my view they won't improve capacity and they take away Norris as the only roadway to get across town that is not freeway ramped. Caltrans admits that bottle necks will continue because of constraints outside the plan area. So how would residents benefit?
In terms of Jim Gibbons, haven't met with him. I have met with a variety of San Ramon folks who follow city government. They have all been supportive of my candidacy.
I share with folks that I have evolved my thinking regarding San Ramon. I do think as facts and situations change, that your thinking and perspective should too. I also share that I don't need to serve on council, I want to. I have the knowledge and skills that I believe are worth the residents' consideration.
So I guess that's how I would respond."
Soon we'll know who else is in the running, but I wish Harry good luck. He's "paid his dues," as I like to say about candidates who have served the city in voluntary positions for many years, and overall I believe Harry would make a good addition to the City Council.