Four candidates are vying this fall for two San Ramon City Council seats, with incumbents Phil O'Loane and Scott Perkins challenged by Susmita Nayak and Sabina Zafar.
Perkins is seeking his fourth consecutive term on the council, and O'Loane is competing for his second term. Zafar, a business technology director who is seeking her first term on the council, currently serves on the city's Transportation Advisory Committee. Nayak, an engineer, is also vying for her first term.
We recommend voters re-elect O'Loane and Perkins.
In a city recognized recently as the No. 1 ranked Northern California city and No. 21 in the nation overall in Money Magazine's "Best Places to Live 2016," growing in size and diversity, now is not the time to displace effective elected leaders.
As members of the city's Finance Committee, O'Loane and Perkins have been instrumental in making San Ramon financially stable with a 75% operating reserve and 95% of retiree benefits funded. The city also has an enviable AAA credit rating from Standard and Poor's, making San Ramon one of only 29 California cities with this rating, out of 4,090 cities overall.
As part of the council, O'Loane and Perkins have worked with their colleagues to build strategic partnerships with East Bay Regional Park District, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and others to move projects forward for the benefit of the community.
Challengers Zafar and Nayak lack the seasoned experience necessary to cope with the tough finance, growth and state and regional pressures San Ramon faces. We hope to see them advance their municipal interests with service on one of the commissions, such as Planning or Parks and Community Services, or a committee such as Economic Development.
Measures X and RR
Traffic congestion and road conditions in the Tri-Valley are a problem, and Contra Costa County residents are being asked to vote on two measures on the Nov. 8 ballot addressing these issues in various ways.
Measure X is a 30-year, half-cent sales tax increase expected to generate $2.87 billion to fund bike-pedestrian projects, street maintenance and repairs, highway projects and the redesign of streets to make them more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.
Almost a quarter of the money will go toward maintenance and repairs of local roads. It will also fund improvements to highways throughout the county, including 4, 24, 80 and 680, as well as improve bus and other public transit services.
In 1988, Contra Costa voters passed Measure C, a half-cent transportation sales tax that helped fund the BART extension to Pittsburg/Bay Point, built the Richmond Parkway, improved bicycle and pedestrian trails in the county, and invested more than $30 million in senior and disabled transit services.
In 2004, voters passed Measure J, which renewed the 0.5% transportation sales tax through 2034. Measure J has helped fund the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel, generated $1.3 billion dollars of investments to Highway 4 in Eastern Contra Costa County, including a BART extension to Antioch, and combined with Measure C has provided $286 million to Contra Costa's cities and towns to maintain and repair local streets.
As with Measures C and J, CCTA has an effective expenditure plan in place for Measure X, and an independent oversight committee and audits will ensure the money raised will be used as promised and only on local projects.
We recommend a Yes on Measure X.
The other transportation-related measure on the ballot is RR. The BART Board of Directors is seeking a $3.5 billion "loan" from voters to pay for capital investments, but the money will likely go to cover outrageous labor costs. Instead of planning for the future by putting money in reserves for capital improvements that will inevitably be necessary with such a system, BART officials have made poor decisions and expect taxpayers to bail them out.
Shortly after a labor deal was made earlier this year, BART announced that the system expected a $477 million deficit over the next decade, including $77 million from the labor agreement they had just made. This was right around the time employees were given $3.3 million in bonuses.
But, according to BART General Manager Grace Crunican, all that's needed to make up this shortfall is to pass a $3.5 billion bond measure. And she promises the money will go toward capital improvements. This is technically true of this money. However, money previously set aside for capital improvements can go back into the operating budget.
We recommend a No on Measure RR. Send a message to BART that there is not an unlimited supply of cash to cover their poor planning.
We endorse incumbent Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon) for re-election to a second term representing the San Ramon Valley and the rest of the 16th Assembly District. Baker has consistently pursued bipartisan decisions as a legislator, emphasizing education as the gateway to opportunity and working to empower local decision-making rather than state mandates.
Baker was first elected in 2014 after a lively campaign against then-Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, a Democrat, to represent the 16th District. She is the mother of school-age twins, has been a parent leader in local schools, served as vice president of the Dougherty Elementary School Site Council and on several school improvement committees.
She earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago, overcoming cancer her senior year to graduate Phi Beta Kappa and with honors. She later went on to earn her law degree from UC Berkeley School of Law.
Baker's opponent, Democrat Cheryl Cook-Kallio, recently retired after more than 39 years as a classroom teacher. She served on the Pleasanton City Council for eight years, being termed out in 2014. She said friends had urged her to run for the Pleasanton school board, which we would also encourage.
As a Republican, Baker helps keep the state from having a one-party, Democrat-controlled Legislature. Vote for Baker.
In other key legislative seats in the San Ramon Valley, we endorse three Democrat incumbents over inexperienced Republican challengers: Steve Glazer for his first full term representing the 7th State Senate District, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell for a third term representing the 15th Congressional District, which includes San Ramon, and U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier for a second term for the 11th Congressional District.
And please remember, the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 8 election is this Monday (Oct. 24). For more information, visit the Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters' Office website or call the office at 335-7800.