Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - August 10, 2007

Editorial

Is this $90,000 city PR job necessary?

For a city of 70,000 whose residents in a recent survey said they like living here and believe that their local government is doing a good job, we're somewhat baffled by the job search now under way to find a community relations manager (a.k.a. public relations chief) to do what others have been doing quite well. At a starting salary of $90,000, with fully paid medical and retirement benefits, this strikes us as a very high-level job for what the job description calls for. Sure, top PR professionals earn more, but probably not in the Tri-Valley and certainly not in any neighboring cities we know of. Pleasanton has always been a town where we can pick up the phone and call the mayor or city manager or public works chief directly without going through a middleman (or woman). As news reporters, we don't want that direct communications approach to end nor are we about to start calling a public relations manager to get our stories from City Hall.

In fairness to Pamela Ott, the city's Economic Development Manager who has gradually been taking on the role of "city communicator," she has a lot on her plate of responsibilities and no doubt her staff of three can use some help. This new position would report to Ott, and would develop, write and produce various communication materials. According to the job description which Ott and City Manager Nelson Fialho prepared, the new manager also "may act as a public spokesperson for the city." Not on our watch. That may be Tony Snow's job as President Bush's press secretary, but it's not a post we need here.

More than a year ago, Councilman Jerry Thorne asked for a study of compensation packages paid to the management teams of cities such as Pleasanton and similarly sized businesses in the private sector. We'd be interested in seeing this inquiry expanded to include public relations and community relations managers. Even at starting pay of $90,000, do these other positions also include all of the benefits that taxpayers of Pleasanton provide? Here, a manager receives 11 vacation days a year, fully paid disability insurance and a $100,000 life insurance policy, tuition reimbursement, and on and on. City Finance Director Dave Culver warned last June that despite the good times for tax revenue growth in the next two fiscal years, it won't last forever, especially as the city nears buildout and residential construction comes to a halt. There's also the concern over the city's pension fund obligations, which are only half funded. If belt tightening is needed, perhaps the community relations manager position should be chopped down a few levels to fit the city's needs, both in terms of communications and fiscal responsibility.

Taxpayers to pay $500,000 to move asphalt plant

After three years of negotiations, we're pleased to see that Granite Construction has agreed to relocate its noisy and smelly asphalt production plant farther away from its Vineyard Avenue neighbors. The relocation won't be cheap. Granite will pay $600,000 of the $1.1-million cost of moving the plant from Stanley Boulevard to another site close to existing gravel pit operations; Pleasanton taxpayers will pick up the rest of the tab, or $500,000.

Alameda County supervisors approved the agreement last week on the recommendation of the county Planning Commission, which gave Granite and its parent company, Cemex, the approval to build the asphalt plant at its present location in 2002. At the time, county officials believed the plant would be far from residential areas, apparently unaware of plans to realign Vineyard Avenue closer to the Arroyo del Valle and the asphalt plant, with several hundred homes to be constructed in the Vineyard corridor. Although the city of Pleasanton asked the county to withdraw its approval, legal analysts said Granite had the permits it needed to stay there. Even so, the company agreed to pay more than half the costs of the relocation, along with upgrading the facility in the process.

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