Pleasanton Weekly

News - September 24, 2010

In touch with the residents

Tri-Valley mayors communicate with constituents in different ways

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Tri-Valley mayors reach out to their residents in different ways but they all agree on one thing: If people are unhappy about something they don't hesitate to tell the mayor.

Danville Mayor Mike Doyle hosts a monthly informal coffee morning to give residents a chance to meet with him and town officials, continuing a tradition begun in January 2007.

The number has usually been about 20 attendees, said Town Manager Joe Calabrigo, who always attends. The average cost this year has been $168.

Mayor Doyle recalled that he used to hold 10 a.m. daily coffee sessions downtown at the Rising Loafer on Hartz Avenue in the 1990s, as a councilman and as mayor.

"People knew I'd would be there. Everybody would come up, for years and years and years," he said. "I got a lot of publicity. Newspaper people knew that at 10 o'clock I'd be there."

Doyle said that people approach him everywhere -- walking around town, in stores, at restaurants, at weddings, funerals and any social gathering. He'll meet people at Town Hall by arrangement, especially if he wants to include a staff member.

"I personally will go anywhere they want to see me," he said. "Some people feel much better talking to you one-on-one away from the town offices."

In Pleasanton, Mayor Jennifer Hosterman also prides herself on being accessible.

"I went to every single First Wednesday, hung out on Main Street, and shook hands with 350 people," she said. "I go to farmers market every six or eight weeks; I have a big sign that says 'Mayor Jennifer Hosterman' and I stand underneath it."

She can answer questions on the spot or set up an appointment.

She sends out NuAlerts to tell people electronically where she is and what she's doing.

"I get a tremendous amount of email and I'm proud of the fact that with 70,000 residents, I have been able to answer every single email I've received in six years of service," she said.

She also never misses a chance to visit a classroom to make a "kid connection" or to lead them on a tour of City Hall.

She alternates her grocery shopping locations and makes eye contact with people if she has time to stop and talk. She also keeps regular drop-in office hours Friday afternoons at City Hall although she suggests that people call first for an appointment at 931-5003.

And she walks Main Street often.

"I will pop in and ask people how business is going," she said. "When I see a vacancy I call the property owner and ask how to get a tenant."

San Ramon Mayor H. Abram Wilson also believes in the kid connection, which he achieves through the Street Smarts traffic safety program, reading at schools, attending ceremonies for Eagle and Gold Scouts, and when elementary school students study city government.

"We bring the third-graders in and they have mock City Council meetings," he explained.

Wilson noted that he appears twice a month on the Tri-Valley Mayors Report on Channel 29-30 Community Television, plus each quarter randomly picks businesses and has lunch with them. He also attends Chamber of Commerce events.

He says people often approach him when he enjoys Central Park on weekends.

"After eight years I have an advantage," said Wilson, who became mayor in 2002. "People feel free to come up and say hello."

San Ramon also started a program last year called Government 101 for residents to take a series of classes with different department heads to lean how the city runs.

"I come in and speak to them personally," said Wilson. "There are no holds on the questions -- that's the ultimate open government."

And he said he returns every telephone call.

"I encourage residents to come in one-on-one," he said. "You lose something if you email. If I get an email I usually pick up the phone and call them." His home telephone number is listed on the city's website.

Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti set up his own website to keep residents informed and updates it continually, including posting videos.

"I think that's something that's been very well received," he said. "Candidates typically now launch those things for elections but rarely maintain them after elections." He also sends out messages via Facebook and NuAlerts.

"Those are something I'm proud of, the utilization of technology, coupled with the more traditional forms," he said, noting that he's been to more than 30 neighborhood events since he was elected in 2008.

"I've let it be known that I'm willing to go anywhere in the city at any time," he said. "There have been times that I come out on a specific issue, or sometimes there is no set agenda."

"Any time there's a city event, I'm there and talking to people," he said.

Dublin may host a farmers market in Emerald Glenn beginning in the spring but Sbranti noted that although such markets are popular, not everyone goes to them. So he also targets Little League games, the Heritage Center, the Senior Center and other places.

Sbranti, who grew up in Dublin and attended its schools, teaches social sciences at Dublin High School and is its activities director.

"So I'm very accessible that way, too," he said. "I think my outreach in the community is very extensive."

Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena says the city's quarterly issues of highlights go out to every resident, which helps him reach the community.

"I make sure my office and telephone number are in there," he said.

He said he probably receives 548 emails a day, although about half of those are from regional committees and other governments.

"I respond to each person who has a request," he said. "It's not uncommon for me to be here on Sunday."

He's also out and about, at street fairs and festivals, at the Livermore Farmers Market and at ribbon cuttings.

"It just seems like no matter where I go, there's always some issues that will crop up," said Kamena. "It's fun to talk to residents."

At the recent opening of the downtown fountain, he said he stayed for four hours, listening to people's praise and concerns.

"Half the time it's a matter of them loving what's going on in Livermore," he said. "The other half of the folks are wondering what's happened to something we used to do."

He also noted appearing on the quarterly Mayor's Report on Channel 30.

"I'm surprised how many people will recognize me because of that program," he said, adding that people ask him to expound on topics mentioned on the program.

Each of the five mayors said they enjoy interaction with residents.

"I just love meeting and talking to people," said Danville Mayor Mike Doyle. "My favorite saying is, 'You don't have to fight City Hall -- it belongs to you.'"


Posted by unclehomerr.., a resident of Downtown
on Sep 27, 2010 at 1:03 am

Next.. maybe some enterprising reporter will do a piece on how congresscritters keep in touch with 'their' constituents.

When Congress is not in session, don'cha think a congressperson would take a walk up and down Main Street or visit a farmer's market?? God forbid they sit in their district office and make appointments!

ps. It's a well regulated militia when THE PEOPLE say so.

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