By Roz Rogoff
Policies or Politics?Uploaded: Jan 20, 2014
I called Dave Hudson on January 16th to ask him about the comments made by Councilmembers Phil O'Loane, Scott Perkins, and Mayor Bill Clarkson on why they didn't endorse him for reelection in the election last year. The three Councilmembers all said their reasons were based on policy differences.
The differences according to Hudson are not so much about policies but about politics. Dave's interpretation of "policies" is different from the other three. "They want to do the political stuff and want to be loved," Dave said.
Dave considers a "policy" a requirement mandated by State law, or established in a regional plan like One Bay Area, or voted on by residents like the City Charter or General Plan. So Dave's definition of "a policy" is hard coded into some document or law and not just what politicians want to do or promised their constituents.
This helps to understand where Dave Hudson is coming from on his positions for the City and his speeches on the Dais where he often says to those in attendance, "You voted for this . . .," meaning the public voted on some measure that they probably didn't read through or understand. But Dave believes we should all know what we voted for.
Dave called the "policies" mentioned by Councilmembers Perkins and O'Loane and Mayor Clarkson, "politics, not policies." Phil O'Loane wants to buy open space around the city. Hudson said we can't afford that. Even if environmental groups like Save Mount Diablo and East Bay Regional Parks take over ownership and maintenance of the land, it may not be forever.
Hudson said that non-profits sometimes sell off properties to developers. So just because a property is purchased to preserve it as open space, that isn't a guarantee the properties won't be developed at some time in the future.
Scott Perkins said he wanted to do a better job communicating with residents about city projects. He said Dave was not supportive of Staff. I asked Dave who Scott Perkins wanted as the staff contact point for city information. Dave said it was Terry Koehne, the Community Relations contact for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.
Two years ago Mayor Clarkson proposed hiring a PIO or Public Information Officer. I thought that was a good idea, but the cost was estimated between $150-200K. This was when the city had a hiring freeze on and wasn't replacing employees who left or retired. So it would not be a wise investment to hire a PIO from outside at such a high cost.
Hudson pointed out that the Mayor and City Council can only hire the City Manager and City Attorney. All other staff positions are hired by the City Manager. Staff can direct the City Manager to budget a position for a PIO and hire someone to fill it, but the Council cannot, according to the City Charter, hire that person or force the City Manager to hire a specific person.
I commented on hiring a PIO at the July 24, 2012 City Council meeting. The Council voted to defer hiring a PIO at that meeting, but did not drop the possibility of hiring one eventually. At that time I did not know that Clarkson and Perkins wanted Terry Koehne for this position.
Clarkson was a Trustee for the School District for many years and he and Koehne are, to use Dave's word, "buddies." I asked Dave why Scott Perkins would want to hire Terry Koehne. Dave said Perkins wanted to back up Clarkson. But why, I asked? Dave said that Clarkson and Perkins went to High School together, and Perkins wanted to do what Clarkson wanted.
Now I'm just the messenger here, so don't shoot me. I'm reporting what Dave Hudson told me. So if Scott or Bill or Terry wants to reply to this, it isn't my quote. However, I didn't want Terry either. We don't need a spin doctor to make the City look good. Residents need real information about what is going on.
Too often residents complain that they didn't know about xyz or they weren't contacted or informed. Communication is a two way process. Too many residents don't make the effort to find all of the information that's already available to them on the City's website, at the Library, or even at regularly scheduled public meetings. Instead they want a spokesperson to knock on their door and like a town crier, tell them everything that's been going on and what is planned for next. It ain't gonna happen.
Dave Hudson knows a lot about what the City Council can or cannot do. He just needs to explain it better. Better doesn't mean more verbiage or repeating the same things he's said before. Dave needs to recognize that most residents don't follow local politics and what's happening in the city until something happens they don't like. Then they want their City Council to fix it.
That isn't what City Government is for. It's to keep things running smoothly, manage expenses, and improve revenues and infrastructure. Dave knows what the City Council can and cannot do, and he's honest enough to say so.