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Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - November 9, 2012

The legacy of a City Council

The election Tuesday of a new mayor and two new members of the City Council also marks the end of the most productive, possibly one of the best councils ever in recent memory. With four on the council, including Mayor Jennifer Hosterman, who have served together since 2004 with Cheryl Cook-Kallio joining the team in 2006, it may be the council that has had unprecedented unity. Council members, even mayors, come and go, more frequently today in the era of term limits. This outgoing council, including Hosterman, Cook-Kallio, mayor-elect Jerry Thorne and now termed-out members Cindy McGovern and Matt Sullivan, is leaving a legacy of fiscal prudence, capital improvements and controlled growth that will continue to shape Pleasanton for years to come.

Sure, there have been very-public feuds, ranging from the aborted Oak Grove housing project to allowing Walmart to open a neighborhood grocery store here. For the most part, however, this council has put its members' differences aside throughout its years of unified service for the good of the community. Matt Sullivan was truly the environmental steward of the council and its outspoken neighborhood representative, "the voice of the people," as he called himself. Cindy McGovern never saw a child that she didn't want to help, always arguing, even in the toughest court-ordered land use directives, for more parks and play areas for children, more schools, more trails and more amenities. Hosterman at the start of her mayoral role clamored for living wages, nuclear disarmament and even marched in New York on behalf of the Kyoto accord. Then, settling back in her elected role as Pleasanton's mayor, she became a moderate that even the Pleasanton Chamber came to endorse, giving Pleasanton a national voice as she signed on to major committees of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Just look at some of this council's accomplishments:

* Opened Callippe Preserve Golf Course in 2005, now ranked as the 43rd best municipal course in the U.S.

* Completed the design and construction of three new baseball fields in Bernal Community Park, funding the first stage of a 318-acre park.

* Approved the design, construction and restoration of the Veterans Memorial Building on Main Street.

* Completed the realignment and construction of Vineyard Avenue, making it one of the premier gateways in east Pleasanton.

* Funded the construction of the Valley Avenue extension with an underpass at the Union Pacific tracks and marking the completion of the long-planned Bernal Loop that connects all neighborhoods in Pleasanton.

* Successfully negotiated the acquisition of an old railway corridor through downtown Pleasanton after years of bickering with its owner, Alameda County. The deal gave Pleasanton additional off-street parking downtown, a major trail through the business district, and the final piece of land needed to construct the Firehouse Arts Center, which this council also completed.

Most recently, the council negotiated a court settlement and land use agreement with an Oakland-based affordable housing coalition that kept local land use control in the hands of the city, not the state as housing authorities had suggested.

And there were more accomplishments during the unified reign of the current council, including a new and second BART station, annexation of Staples Ranch to allow the construction of Stoneridge Creek retirement community that's now under way, construction of Fire Station No. 4 on Bernal Avenue, downtown public restrooms, the Marilyn Kane Trail, and the restoration and renovation of Kottinger Creek.

Perhaps most important, this council recognized at the onset the start of the recent recession, adopting and adhering to strict fiscal policies that maintained discretionary reserves of $22 million and locked up approximately $75 million in other reserves, initiated an employee pay freeze and halted all but essential purchases. During the worst of the recession, Pleasanton, unlike most surrounding communities, had no personnel layoffs or cut in services and maintained balanced municipal budgets without fail.

This council also took steps to start reducing the city's unfunded pension liabilities, setting aside annual appropriations to reduce the debt and successfully negotiating new contracts with police and firefighter unions to start contributing 9% of their pay toward their retirement with a two-tier hiring system that will reduce pension benefits even further.

Thanks to all of you for your six-to-eight years of work on a unified City Council.

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