With political campaigns under way for mayor and two seats on the City Council, along with two competing ballot initiatives on Nov. 4, the dialogue at City Council meetings is getting a bit testy.
Take Tuesday night when Councilmembers Cindy McGovern and Matt Sullivan tried to extend the 5 p.m. deadline set for today to file rebuttals to arguments filed last Friday in support or opposition to the two initiatives. One placed on the ballot by a citizens' coalition, Save Pleasanton's Hills, calls for an immediate ban on hillside development and tighter controls over the city's 29,000-unit housing cap. The second, put on the ballot by a majority of the City Council, might do the same but only after public hearings and reviews by committees and commissions.
McGovern and Sullivan, who signed up to write rebuttals, asked to extend tonight's deadline to 5 p.m. Monday. City Attorney Michael Roush said the extended deadline would be within the guidelines of the Alameda County Registrar's office. He also said it would take a unanimous vote of the council to consider extending the deadline.
"I think when we agreed to this deadline, we thought this was the maximum time we had," Sullivan said. "I'm having difficulty pulling this together."
Sullivan said he was leaving on a business trip to Southern California and could use the extra time to finish up his rebuttal on Monday.
"I have other work I have to do for a living," Sullivan said. "This job (on the council) doesn't pay my rent."
But Council members Jerry Thorne and Cheryl Cook-Kallio said no, that they would not support extending the deadline, and the 2-2 vote on the motion to extend (with Mayor Jennifer Hosterman out of town) killed the proposal.
"We've known about this deadline for some time," Cook-Kallio said. "I have other work to do, too. And this is keeping me from doing that other work."
Visibly upset, Sullivan retorted: "The only thing I have to say about this is that we talk a lot about having an open public process for these initiatives. If this is an example of that, I don't know what we're in for."
The debate Tuesday followed dueling letters between former Councilwoman Kay Ayala, a sponsor of the citizens' initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot, and Roush over the language used in the city-sponsored measure.
In her letter, Ayala said the stated goal of the council-backed initiative is misleading because it is an advisory measure only, not a legislative act. She asked Roush to amend the ballot title to include the words "Advisory Vote Only."
"The council composed a ballot title for the initiative (that) is misleading, as this title is substantially the same as the citizens' initiative," Ayala stated in her letter. "This is...inaccurate as there is nothing in this initiative that protects ridgelines or controls growth. Therefore, the title of the initiative should be changed."
His recommendation to the council was to keep the initiative language it had adopted and let voters decide if they want to reaffirm and readopt the Land Use Element and Conservation & Open Space Element policies and programs of the (1996) General Plan, which already provide the kinds of controls being sought by the citizens' coalition.