Candidates for mayor, City Council share views on how they'd govern Pleasanton in years ahead
Senior housing issues dominate forum as Stoneridge Drive, other long-time concerns fade
Candidates for Pleasanton mayor and City Council in the upcoming municipal election on Nov. 2 took to the stage for the first time Monday to publicly talk together about their views on the challenges facing the community and how they would handle them if elected.
The candidates for mayor are:
* Mayor Jennifer Hosterman, who has been on the council since 2002 including the last six years as mayor. She is seeking re-election to a fourth and -- because of term limits -- a final two-year term in the top post.
* Councilwoman Cindy McGovern, who was re-elected to the council for a second four-year term two years ago. She served on the Pleasanton school board from 1993 to 2003 before being elected to the council in 2004.
Candidates for the City Council, where there are two seats available, are (again in alphabetical order):
* Karla Brown, a Realtor with Keller-Williams Realty, president of the Dublin Women's Realtors Association and president of the Kottinger Ranch Homeowners Association, who is seeking her first elected post with her bid for a council seat. She has lived in Pleasanton 18 years.
* Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio, who is seeking re-election to a second four-year term on the council. An advanced placement history and government teacher at Irvington High School in Fremont, where she also coaches the school's "We the People" competition civics team, she has lived in Pleasanton for more than two decades.
* Councilman Jerry Thorne, a retired business executive with Hewlett Packard and Agilent Technologies, was appointed to the city's Parks and Recreation Commission 15 years ago. He was elected to the council in June 2005 to fill an unexpired term and then re-elected in 2006. He is seeking re-election to his second full four-year term.
* Fred Watson, who moved to Pleasanton in 2000, is manager of volunteer services for Open Heart Kitchen, a Tri-Valley nonprofit that is also the area's only "food bank" serving the needy. Watson said he is a member of the Pleasanton Tea Party Association.
Since the candidates' forum, the first of the current campaign, was held at Pleasanton Gardens, a subsidized senior housing facility on Kottinger Drive, much of the discussion concerned the housing needs and services that will be required as a larger portion of Pleasanton's population matures. The forum was moderated by Tim Hunt, former associate editor of the Tri-Valley Herald and a newspaper columnist, who is also on the board of directors of Pleasanton Gardens.
Candidates generally said they favor a plan under development that would rebuild Kottinger Place across from Pleasanton Gardens into a larger, multi-story senior housing complex for low income residents, taking part of a park next to Kottinger Place on Vineyard Avenue. Under the plan, Pleasanton Gardens would be folded into the new complex, with the city deciding what to do with the current facility that is now privately owned and managed.
That plan brought the only heated debate in Monday's forum after McGovern said she favored renovating both senior facilities, not replacing them. She wants the city to use available federal and state funds for senior housing to build a new facility somewhere else in Pleasanton, not on a park site.
But Hunt, momentarily taking off his "impartial" moderator's hat, told McGovern her plan wouldn't work. He said Pleasanton Gardens is more than 60 years old and could not meet new building standards without a complete rebuild.
"It's ready for the bulldozers, Cindy," Hunt told her.
Candidates touched on environmental, business and municipal government issues, with Hosterman, Cook-Kallio and Thorne highlighting the strong fiscal policies already in place in Pleasanton and recent decisions to add more housing and tax-revenue-supporting businesses on Staples Ranch and in Hacienda Business Park.
"Money Magazine recently named Pleasanton as one of the top 100 cities in the country," Hosterman said. "We want to keep it that way. These are tough economic times but the fact is that our city's budget is balanced and we haven't had to lay off any employees or cut back on the high quality of services we have here."
Cook-Kallio agreed, but added that Pleasanton hasn't kept pace in terms of providing enough housing to serve low income seniors. If re-elected, she vowed to move forward "expeditiously" on the Kottinger Place rebuild plan and to also make sure transportation and other special services that serve Pleasanton's senior population keep pace with rising demand.
Thorne, who is currently the city's vice mayor and is also vice chairman of the organization that operates Wheels buses, said he would work to have dollar-a-ride bus service available to seniors and to keep Wheels' Route 8, which seniors use to reach medical and other services.
"I, too, want to move forward on the Pleasanton Gardens project," Thorne said. "We need to quit dragging our feet on this important effort."
But McGovern said that while the city overall appears to be in good financial shape, she is concerned by the influence of developers and special interest groups on the others not sitting on the council.
"I decided to seek the mayor's post because I want to renew trust in our local government," McGovern said. "I promise to focus on what is best for our citizens, not outside interests. I believe in the public process and the right of our citizens to object to whatever actions the council takes."
"I also will not seek or accept any funds for my campaign from special interest groups of political action committees," she added.
Brown, who served as co-chairwoman to "Save Pleasanton's Hills," a citizens' coalition founded by former Councilwoman Kay Ayala, said her concerns over hilltop developments and other issues caused her "to get out of my comfortable chair at home and run for council where I will listen to citizens when they come to speak."
"My goal is to restore representative government here in Pleasanton," she added. "I remain committed to ridgeline protections. I also want to revitalize economic development in our city to make our downtown vital and strong and to bring more stores back to our downtown."
Watson said that as a manager at Open Heart Kitchen, he has seen first-hand the growing needs of many in the Tri-Valley caused by a downturn in the economy.
"As a taxpayer, I want to be more fiscally involved in the city, working to create a more financially healthy community," he said. "We need to keep our taxes lower, our community employed and city service intact. Our parks will not be safe if they are surrounded by foreclosed homes and businesses."
Although Hunt's questions and the candidates' responses touched on a number of long-controversial issues, such as low-income housing, development on the hillsides and the annexation and development of Staples Ranch, what's generally considered the most controversial issue over the last decade and longer -- the extension of Stoneridge Drive to El Charro Road and Livermore -- was never mentioned.
That extension plan, which would block access to El Charro for the time being, is part of the overall Staples Ranch environmental plan that was approved the City Council two weeks ago and will be finalized at the council's meeting Sept. 7.