San Ramon and Danville mayors Abram Wilson and Karen Stepper joined mayors from Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin to talk about regional cooperation, economic development, working with businesses and the chambers of commerce and branding the Tri-Valley as one entity rather than five cities.
The annual mayors summit rotates to each city in turn and was held this year in Livermore at Wente Vineyards. The sold-out event drew about 360 people, including business leaders, members of chambers of commerce from each city, 15th district Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan and Ro Khanna, the commerce department's deputy assistant Secretary for the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.
Regarding transportation, all five mayors were in general agreement that interstates 580 and 680 are top priorities, as well as completion of State Route 84.
Both Wilson and Stepper focused on I-680 improvements, although Danville officials have been keeping a close watch on the expansion of the Caldecott Tunnel on state Route 24, while San Ramon is looking at new exit and entrance ramps at Norris Canyon Road.
On economic development, Wilson said the key is to listen to what companies want, whether they're large or small, and to let them know about quality-of-life issues in what he called "a Norman Rockwell type of environment."
Stepper said Danville is focusing on "retaining and expanding" small businesses, as well as digital technology for residents.
"We're looking at the technology so they don't necessarily need to leave home," she said.
All five mayors are looking forward to businesses coming to the area as part of I-GATE and the new Livermore Valley Open Campus. I-GATE recently opened a business hub in Livermore as part of a regional effort to help businesses develop clean energy and transportation systems; the open campus is a push to help businesses commercialize research and technology from the Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories.
"We're talking about 5,000 jobs in five years," Stepper said.
Wilson said the five cities are doing "everything we can to work together."
"We want to be the next Silicon Valley," he said. "In the next five years, they'll be looking at us as a place to relocate."
In terms of cooperation, Wilson pointed to trips to Washington D.C.; when he attended alone, he said he got little but "a pat on the head."
"When we go back as one entity, we sit down, we have a game plan," Wilson said. "We realize we are all working together."
Stepper said there are opportunities for the cities to cross market rather than compete. She said all five need to pursue joint policies and promote the entire area.
"We need to work harder (so) when you Google 'Tri Valley,' we come up," she said, something immediately agreed upon by Wilson.
"People are coming to us," he said. "I see the labs as part of the entire region."
With Wilson and Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena terming out this year and Stepper rotating out next year, one audience member submitted a question about whether the partnership between the cities could last.
The mayors said they all plan on staying involved, whether through volunteer work or by running for a different office.
"It's not the title that matters, it's where your heart is," Stepper said.
Wilson and Kamena are both running for council seats.
But, Wilson said, "If you need a title to serve, then you shouldn't be serving."