Candidates disagree on local government's direction
Oak Grove, hillside development continue as issues on campaign trail
Candidates for mayor and City Council sparred Tuesday over the question about the direction of the municipal government in Pleasanton with very different and blunt answers.
Asked by businessman and moderator Brad Hirst at the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce candidates' forum if they thought the City Council was headed in the right or wrong direction, the answers were:
Wrong, said by City Councilwoman Cindy McGovern who is seeking the mayor's post, and by Realtor Karla Brown, a newcomer on the political circuit who wants a seat on the council. They said the council majority had for too long ignored the will of their constituents, citing votes to approve the Oak Grove housing proposal and against a citizens' measure to block hillside development.
Right, said Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and council members Cheryl Cook-Kallio and Jerry Thorne, who are seeking re-election, and newcomer Fred Watson, a manager at Open Heart Kitchen who also is seeking a council seat. The incumbents pointed to a host of capital improvements during their terms, including construction of the $10 million Firehouse Arts Center, which opens tonight, the lighted baseball fields on the Bernal Community Park, the approval earlier this month of the multi-million-dollar development projects on Staples Ranch, the extension of Stoneridge Drive to El Charro Road and Livermore, and the renovation of the Veterans Memorial Building.
In response to questions, Cook-Kallio and Thorne also cited successful negotiations with the firefighters' union with members agreeing to contribute 2% of their pay toward retirement benefits. Also both the firefighters and city management employees hired after Jan. 1, 2009, will have to contribute to health insurance coverage for their spouses and families and will no longer be eligible for lifetime coverage after age 65, having to rely on Medicare instead.
Thorne, who serves on 18 regional committees and commissions, including the League of California Cities, said Pleasanton has managed to reduce its unfunded pension liabilities in the last several years, but a greater effort has to be made to add more contributions to reduce the liabilities.
Hosterman cited a recent Money Magazine report that named Pleasanton as one of the top cities in the U.S. in its population category.
"We have a city that provides a wonderful opportunity for people to raise their families, to work here, to play and to go to some of the best schools in the country," she said.
Cook-Kallio said the City Council is about leadership and she believes she has the qualities of a good leader.
"In these difficult times, we must take steps to ensure that we have a stable economic plan so that we can continue to offer the high level of services we now provide," she said. "Businesses are essential partners in that effort."
Watson said he was not familiar with some of the issues facing Pleasanton, but knows that a good business base is vital.
"As a manager at Open Heart Kitchen, I have seen the homeless coming for help," he said. "These are good people who have a good education and want to work if there were jobs for them to take. I want to make sure Pleasanton stays as a community that makes sure businesses stay here and that others build here."
In his questioning, Hirst pointed out that Cook-Kallio was the only candidate four years ago to support extending Stoneridge Drive to Livermore. Tuesday, all six of those at the candidates' forum said they favor opening the roadway now.
The six also said they support the planned construction of a new, large Lifestyle Safeway supermarket and retail complex at the corner of Valley and Bernal avenues, across from the Fairgrounds.
McGovern also said she is accepting campaign contributions only from individual supporters, and declined an interview with the Pleasanton Chamber's political action committee because she does not want money or support from a special interest group. She has been a long-time critic of Hosterman for accepting campaign contributions from developers.