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By Tim Hunt

A different approach to candidates' forums

Uploaded: Nov 1, 2016

Among the flood of letters to the editor in the papers have been a few discussing the Oct. 13 candidates’ forum (Tri-Valley @ a Crossroads) at the Firehouse theater that was sponsored by citizens’ groups in the three cities.
Two are overtly anti-growth, Pleasanton Voters and Dubliners for Change, while the Friends of Livermore—the master money laundering group for its City Council candidates—was the third sponsor. The Livermore Independent underwrote the forum.
Interestingly, the Independent already had printed its Pleasanton endorsements (Sept. 29 and Oct. 6) for Councilwoman Karla Brown and mayoral candidate Julie Testa before the forum. In the case of the forums held by both the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and the Pleasanton Weekly, endorsements were not published until after the events were held.
It makes it rather challenging to hold a neutral forum while the sponsors already have stated their preferences. That said, the Independent’s recommended candidates are exactly as would be expected based upon the long history of the newspaper.
And getting Juliette Goodrich of KPIX (CBS 5) to moderate added credibility. Juliette is a long-time resident here and grew up in Pleasanton—I have no clue about her local politics.
The forum drew all the Livermore candidates plus all the Dublin candidates with the exception of Mayor David Haubert. Three Pleasanton candidates, Mayor Jerry Thorne, Councilman Jerry Pentin and Planning Commission Chairman Herb Ritter, did not attend. Brown and Testa were there.
Kelly Cousins, president of Pleasanton Voters, wrote a letter to the Independent that implied that she had tried to accommodate the schedules of those who missed the forum. As the organizer of the bi-annual Pleasanton Gardens candidate forum, I can attest to the challenges to coordinating schedules—that’s why we contact candidates in the week after campaign filings close to announce our date.
I reached out to all three Pleasanton candidates who were contacted by Cousins. All three had previously scheduled campaign events on Oct. 13 and said they decided to stick with their announced plans instead of cancelling to attend the new forum.
I also emailed Julie about why she did not take part in the Pleasanton chamber’s forum. She wrote she had planned to attend, but had a “personal crisis” that demanded her attention that morning. She reached out to chamber CEO Scott Raty later that day to apologize.
It is also notable how Pleasanton Voters mixes up its credentials, claiming on its website to be non-partisan and then stating its “goal of educating Pleasanton voters about the new and massive development projects.” Maybe the non-partisan refers to no political party, but the intent is clear.
Candidate Karla Brown and Cousins’ group also share the same email list—no crime…I suspect Friends of Livermore merges lists with its selected candidates…but it again calls non-partisan into question.
One of Karla’s recent emails contained her survey on issues in Pleasanton—a questionnaire designed to extract exactly the answers she wanted.
It’s curiously that Julie, Karla and Kelly argue things are so wrong in Pleasanton yet the city’s professionally designed and administered poll shows approval ratings of more than 90 percent on quality of life in Pleasanton.