By Roz Rogoff
Walking, Talking, and ListeningUploaded: Aug 14, 2011
Scott Perkins, who is running for reelection to his City Council seat, told me he has walked to over 14,000 homes in San Ramon in the past 2-1/2 years. 14,000? Yes, he showed me a map of the city with the portions he walked highlighted. It covers everything North of Crow Canyon Road, not too many residences there, and everything East of Alcosta, which is most of Dougherty Valley. Perkins, who lost a lot of weight a few years ago, looks very fit from all of his walking. He says, "It really energizes me to walk neighborhoods."
I asked if people bring up Measure W, and he said no. About a dozen asked about staff salaries, but the number one question is "When will we build the City Center?" Perkins said the plans are still on the table but Alex Mehran who has them, is waiting until the economy turns around.
Perkins wants to get out and listen to the residents. He feels the Council, including him, didn't listen enough to the concerns about moving the Urban Growth Boundary into Tassajara Valley. He believes the Council should have put it into a separate measure, so the rest of the General Plan would have passed.
I mentioned that Steve O'Brien has a comment on his blog that anyone who disagrees with the Council is ostracized. O'Brien mentions Phil O'Loane, but also links to a story in the Express about Perkin's vote against the General Plan. I asked Perkins if his divergence from the Council Majority has caused him any problems. Perkins smiled and said, "I'm not feeling the love I used to," but he was quick to add that everyone is cordial and there is no hostility.
Perkins and I agree that O'Brien is a good writer, but Perkins wanted to point out that O'Brien's interpretation of the budget is incorrect. Perkins went into the other room and brought bound copies of the Audit Report and the Annual Budget. He said that long term debt must be offset by long term assets and short term debt to short term assets. He compared a home mortgage to the value of the home and a credit card to the value of the last purchase. The City's long-term assets include buildings, land, and even the streets.
He said the City is in very good financial condition and cited the AAA bond rating by Standard and Poor's. "We are able to pay our obligations," he said. The City had to dip into "a small amount of reserves, $3 to $4 Million this year, but we never over run our expense plan." In other words, they have used some reserves last year but never overspent their approved budget.
Perkins said he regretted not comparing Herb Moniz's salary increases with regional averages. The City conducted a study of cities in the 50,000 to 100,000 size range for the offer to new City Manager Greg Rogers. Herb was paid annual increases based on performance and the Council didn't think of looking at the comparisons at the time. Perkins told me that Moniz never asked for a raise, and added, "The City saved Herb's salary many times over by his astute ability to craft contracts to the City's benefit."
I asked Perkins what he thinks about his opponents in the race, Phil O'Loane and Abram Wilson, so far. "Phil is a smart man and a reasonable man," he said about O'Loane. The Councilmembers all know Phil well because he served four years on the Economic Development Advisory Committee and another four years on the Planning Commission.
Perkins considers Abram Wilson, "gifted in the political field." I'm not sure if that's a complement or a criticism.
Since Carol Rowley isn't running for her City Council seat the filing period for City Council is extended to August 17th. Perkins recalled how Ed Cahill filed at the last minute in 2003, and paid his election expenses himself to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest. Cahill later told Perkins it was a mistake. He would have been better off getting donations from supporters.
Perkins has about $9000 left in his past Council account and signed the pledge to keep under the $42,368 voluntary spending limit. I asked since he was walking the City and meeting voters face-to-face if he needed to spend so much money. He said that he still needs the flyers, and even if he walks to another 7-8,000 homes in the next two months that won't cover the whole City.
Perkins sees his position on the Council as two-sided. "I have a responsibility to the 'corporate' San Ramon as a member of the Board of Directors, and to residents as a representative of the citizens. Those two almost always coincide," but Perkins wants to be available to residents when they don't.
The City needs to improve communications. He said that people welcomed Town Hall meeting in their neighborhoods. "I have my phone number and address on the City's website. I want people to know there's a person they can call. I need to listen better. It's an ongoing process."