This is a vital local election season throughout the Tri-Valley.
Accordingly, the DanvilleSanRamon.com editorial board is offering the following recommendations for the Livermore, Dublin and Pleasanton council races as well as Livermore's health care cost initiative, Measure U. The Danville and San Ramon council endorsements have already run online.
Our recommendations are based on the public candidate forums we co-sponsored, meetings with individual candidates or campaigns, and/or regular news coverage during the election.
Dublin voters face a crossroads election. There are five candidates for two open council seats, plus a sitting councilman is challenging the mayor. Depending upon the votes, there could soon be three new people sitting on the council dais.
Mayor David Haubert is running for re-election to his fourth and final two-year term against Councilman Arun Goel.
We recommend citizens re-elect Haubert. He's been endorsed by three other council members, four school board members, the Tri-Valley mayors and others, and has led the council well during a time when residents have been rightly concerned about overcrowded schools and traffic congestion to say nothing of the pace of development.
Haubert, who previously served on the school board, suggested the city to give the school district $70 million of city-owned land for two schools. The council agreed and that's a unique city-school district partnership in the state that resulted in Cottonwood School opening this fall and preserved $100 million in bond funds for a second high school in East Dublin.
For City Council, we prefer longtime school volunteer Jean Josey and Navy language specialist/consultant Shawn Kumagai.
Candidates Jing Firmeza and Bobby Khullar both want to slow down housing significantly. They, along with Goel, argue Dublin is going in the wrong direction. Perennial candidate Shawn Costello is also on the council ballot.
Josey has impressed with her commonsense approach to problem-solving as well as her commitment to using a series of measures to alleviate congestion at school sites and a focus on economic development. She has a long record of volunteer leadership in the schools.
Kumagai stresses he will listen and strive to bring the community together, an approach that will serve Dublin well.
Vote Haubert for mayor, Josey and Kumagai for council.
Mayor John Marchand is also seeking his final term in office with term limits, and he faces local resident Joshua Laine, a military veteran who owns Valor Winery here in the Valley.
Marchand is the leader Livermore needs for the next two years.
Marchand was poised, direct and informative at our Sept. 20 candidate forum, offering salient views on a range of topics such as support the council's downtown plan, traffic and transit improvements, combating homelessness and city pension liabilities.
Laine, on the other hand, appeared under-informed about most issues facing Livermore residents and the city government. And even more, he has done little to differentiate himself from Marchand's positions on other important issues such as downtown or homelessness.
This is an important City Council race as it marks the final at-large election before shifting to district-based council elections in 2020. Sitting Councilman Steven Spedowfski isn't running for re-election, meaning at least one seat is guaranteed to change.
Incumbent Bob Woerner stood out at our forum, as he does from the council dais, with in-depth insights and strategies for how to address a variety of issues facing Livermore. We were particularly impressed with his responses on the downtown plan, Measure U's faults, pensions and public safety.
Of the three challengers, Patricia Munro has our support. A sociologist who's held leadership roles in her Jewish congregation and with the Livermore Shakespeare Festival board, Munro appears focused on collaboration to achieve community goals. She offered a strong perspective at our forum for her priorities of transportation, smart growth, Stockmen's Park and helping vulnerable populations.
Alan "Brent" Siler also demonstrated an assertive voice and a willingness to ask the tough questions of city staff and the public, but we wonder if he's overly critical of a city that's operating well in many ways. Criticism for criticism's sake can sometimes prove obstructive.
The fourth candidate, Planning Commissioner Neal Pann, understands issues related to land-use and design, but his answers at the forum raised concerns about his depth of knowledge outside the planning sphere.
Vote Marchand for mayor, Woerner and Munro for council.
On the ballot in Livermore, this initiative aims to overhaul health care in that city by limiting medical care prices charged by providers to 15% above "the reasonable cost of direct patient care" -- and it tasks the city government with making sure that happens with each patient at every provider, large-scale or small, in Livermore.
The measure is spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union, United Health Workers (SEIU-UHW), whose only membership in Livermore is at Kaiser Permanente (and notably not Stanford-ValleyCare). The opposition campaign features a diverse coalition of health care providers, hospital staff and volunteers, Livermore civic leaders, and more.
We share the strong opposition expressed by the editorial board of our sister paper, the Palo Alto Weekly -- whose city is the only other Bay Area community facing this same ballot question.
As they wrote, "The proposal is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
"Not only will it fail to help consumers and create perverse incentives for medical centers to cut staffing levels, but it will also saddle the city with the need to hire a staff of experts to analyze and oversee the charges being made by almost all medical professionals, including individual practitioners, dentists and orthodontists ...
"No city is equipped to regulate health care providers, and it is hard to conceive of any court upholding the constitutionality of local control over what local health care providers can charge for their services."
Vote No on Measure U.
Incumbent Kathy Narum and challengers Joseph Ledoux, Joe Streng and Julie Testa are on the ballot, a race made even more significant by the fact at least one seat is guaranteed to change with Councilman Arne Olson not seeking re-election.
We think Narum and Streng are the right community leaders to guide the City of Planned Progress through the next four years.
A valuable and effective advocate for Pleasanton, Councilwoman Narum is a no-brainer for re-election. With by far the most experience of the candidates, Narum's standout service resume includes the city's Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission and currently the Downtown Specific Plan Update Task Force, as well as regional posts such as Zone 7 Liaison Committee and Alameda County Transportation Commission.
She has been a collaborative council member who also maintains her own voice, asking the tough and important questions of city staff and consultants. She focuses on the right goals such as fiscal sustainability, environmental improvements and quality of life, and her record on the council demonstrates her commitment to seeing those priorities through.
Streng impressed as an active member of the Parks and Recreation Commission until terming out last April, taking part in some of the most important, recent parks efforts including Cubby's Dog Park and Bernal Community Park Phase II. He has shown an ability to be a confident decision-maker but also eager to listen to city staff and/or residents -- recall he and the commission revisiting new Tennis Park court locations.
Though we often like to see more direct city planning experience, Streng has worked on master plan efforts with Parks and Rec and the Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trails Subcommittee. As a commuter to Silicon Valley, he also is keenly aware of issues that face many residents on an everyday basis (locally and regionally), and he wants to work collaboratively to solve them.
Testa is a longtime, fervent community advocate and participant in the public process, both as a city commissioner (Human Services, 1995 to 2007) and as an informed citizen speaker at city task force, commission and council meetings -- school board, too. She also learned well from her 2016 mayoral bid, running a more measured campaign for council this time around.
She shares concerns close to the minds and hearts of many Pleasanton residents, but we hoped to hear from her -- as a voice for change -- more specific strategies for solutions to her priorities such as slowing growth, reducing school overcrowding and easing traffic. Pointing out a problem isn't always enough. We are also concerned about her adamance against restarting east side planning soon (which must at least be considered) and her still offering no public position on Costco after all these years.
We commend Ledoux, a dedicated Berkeley police officer with 12 years on the force, for wanting to expand his influence to effect change in his hometown, with goals including public safety improvements, creating cohesive community and representing the young family's voice within the city government.
His top priorities are no doubt shared by many in town, but with no prior Pleasanton service experience and few city meetings attended, his depth of knowledge on key issues is only scratching the surface. We hope to see Ledoux pursue a city commission post to develop that experience. We also note that though he says he would be able to participate in Pleasanton police union negotiations and other matters despite being a Berkeley police union member, we're not sure we share his confidence of absolutely no conflict of interest (real or perceived).
We'd also like to briefly single out our support of Mayor Jerry Thorne, who is appearing on the ballot unopposed. Over nearly 25 years of city service experience, including the past six as mayor, Thorne has proven himself a strong leader on the dais and a devoted presence in the community -- well-deserving of a fourth and final term as mayor.