Pleasanton Weekly

Column - February 19, 2010

Thorne launches re-election bid

by Jeb Bing

Councilman Jerry Thorne has launched his re-election bid for a second four-year term in office, telling a crowd of supporters at an Alameda County Fairgrounds breakfast that he will continue his focus on improving the city's economic vitality. First elected to the council in 2005 to fill the seat vacated by Councilwoman Jennifer Hosterman, who had been elected mayor, Thorne won the most votes in his first four-year-term election the following year. Councilmembers are limited to no more than two four-year terms of office; so this will be Thorne's last if he's re-elected. He could still run for mayor, a post that also has an eight-year service limit, although with four two-year terms.

Thorne is the first of three incumbents on the council to hold a campaign/fundraiser rally in the municipal election slated for Nov. 2. Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio, also elected for the first time in 2006, plans a re-election campaign announcement next month. Mayor Jennifer Hosterman, who held a fundraiser last November, has said all along that she plans to seek re-election, but has yet to schedule a public campaign announcement. Now in her third two-year term of office, she is eligible for one more term. So far, no one has said publicly that they will oppose any of the three candidates, but it's early. The nomination period for the November election starts July 12 and runs through Aug. 6. That's when candidates must file petitions containing the signatures of at least 20 registered voters and pay a filing fee of $25. For those wanting their names listed in the county sample ballot, that costs another $1,000, although a final fee for the 2010 election has not yet been set by Alameda County.

Still, with the critics becoming more vocal, Thorne decided to get started early and asked his campaign manager Kathy Narum to schedule the February breakfast. At last Tuesday's meeting, speakers opposed to the 51-home development called Oak Grove slammed the council majority for its continued support of the project, accusing the three of "stifling the voice of citizens" by placing the development referendum on the June 8 ballot. Faced with harsh criticism over his Oak Grove vote as well as his support for extending Stoneridge Drive to Livermore, Thorne decided to launch his re-election campaign early.

Thorne told supporters that he if re-elected, he will continue and even intensify his focus on fiscal restraint as well as on business retention and expansion. He is concerned that even as the economy improves, the city government will face a cautious financial future as Pleasanton nears build out and fewer development dollars come in. Life after build-out may not be as easy as some people think, Thorne said.

He wants to make the city more "business-friendly" to provide more jobs and protect jobs already here. That means improving the permitting process to make it easier and less costly to open a business in Pleasanton and for the city and local business associations, such as the chamber and the Pleasanton Downtown Association, to do a better job of attracting small and medium-size businesses to the city. In a survey made over a 10-month period last year, Thorne found that that approvals for proposed construction projects averaged 22 days. By his count, that was 13 days for existing residential projects and 34 days for new residential and commercial projects. He wants those numbers to improve dramatically over the next couple of years and is asking that measuring tools be brought in to monitor it takes for a permit request to go through the system. He wants employees held accountable to achieving these goals and objectives.

Despite the weak economy, traffic continues to be a No. 1 public concern, Thorne found in another survey. He wants the Stoneridge extension built along with new developments planned for Staples Ranch. He's also been active in rounding up support from other cities and regional agencies to widen Hwy. 84 across Pigeon Pass into an expressway between I-680 and I-580. Work is under way at the Isabel Avenue/I-580 end of the roadway, but traffic congestion on the rest of the route during peak commute hours makes cutting through Pleasanton an attractive option for commuters. Longer range, Thorne is part of a regional transportation group that is pushing for a BART extension from its Pleasanton station east to Greenville Road. He's convinced that the roadway improvements in accord with the new General Plan adopted late last year and the BART extension could dramatically ease the traffic crunch on Pleasanton streets during the peak morning and evening commute times.

Thorne also wants to hike the fees charged to anyone who appeals decisions by city commissions. The appeals, most of which he thinks are politically motivated and unnecessary, bog down the workload of local government along with frivolous lawsuits that often are unsuccessful, but still delay projects. His is a tall order, but Thorne, a retired business executive, just might be the councilman to pull it off.

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