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By Roz Rogoff

Comfort Zone

Uploaded: Oct 20, 2009

I've been asked whom I'm endorsing for City Council. I've decided not to endorse any of the candidates, but I will give you my opinions (don't I always) on them.

I'm concerned about the level of comfort this Council has with itself. There's this love fest going on among the five members, and they want to keep everything exactly the same. I teach online for University of Phoenix and one thing I know (only one?) is that learning doesn't happen in the comfort zone. Students must be pushed into unfamiliar areas to learn something new, or they will just rely on what doesn't threaten them and not move to the next level of cognitive development.

That's where this Council is and has been for the last several years. They all vote the same way. I've been covering the City Council meetings for eight years, and I can't recall any dissenting votes on anything over the last two or three years. Maybe the Council does need some new blood or a change to shake it out of its comfort zone.

The question is, are the candidates running on a platform of change the right ones to do it? I'm frankly disappointed in Brady. I like him on a personal level, but he doesn't seem well-enough informed on what is going on. Maybe it's his comment on making it easier to get permits for rainwater harvesting that bugs me, since I told him I have a rainwater system and invited him to come over and see it. It didn't require any permits. I'm a stickler for getting information right, and if there's a source for it in front of you, why not take advantage of that.

Doug Burr butted his head against state laws with his activism against the speed limits in Dougherty Valley. He's been told that the state requires speed limits be set at the prevailing rate of traffic flow. They cannot be set more than 5 mph lower than the rate most people drive.

The suggestion that any existing member of the City Council would deliberately or even unconsciously endanger children walking to school is preposterous. Carol Rowley was an elementary school Principal for 17 years. Scott Perkins has been active with the boy scouts. Dave Hudson, Jim Livingstone, and Abram Wilson all have children and grandchildren (maybe not yet for Dave, whose daughter just got married). Dave's wife, Barbara, usually arranges for the scouts to do the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of meetings, and Mayor Wilson loves to chat with the kids after the ceremony. This is not a Council that cares more about speeders than children.

Many residents remember the disastrous reign of the "Gang of Three," in 2002-03. These were three well-meaning people who took over the City Council with the promise to hold more open, resident-friendly meetings, and the first thing they did was fire City Manager Herb Moniz. It all went downhill from there.

Residents came out in droves to protest this, but was the new resident-friendly council receptive to them? We all know the answer to that. Yes, Moniz likes to keep his icebergs underwater, but maybe that's where they should be until we hit one. So far he's been very good at steering around them. His replacement, Gail Waiters, was more openly secretive when she put a gag-order on staff not to speak to the press. The city lost a lot of good staff members during this debacle, and went into a structural deficit that could have bankrupted us today if Herb had not been brought back to put the city back on solid financial footing again.

This scenario isn't likely to happen again with the new candidates. Brady has said, "We're not going to blow it." He's praised the excellent staff, and said he would rely on them to get him up to speed.

Doug Burr is fiscally conservative. He wants all of the city's expenditures made public. The existing Council members are fiscal conservatives too and pride themselves on running the city like a business. Burr's background as a business consultant would fit into the existing structure very well.

In my opinion both Burr and Brady need more experience on one of the City's Committees or Commissions first. If Burr wants to keep tabs on City revenues and expenditures, he should apply for the Economic Development Advisory Committee. That's a good place for someone interested in the City Council to start.

When I first interviewed Jim Brady on the phone and heard about his past experience on the Ojai Valley Sanitary District, I advised him to run for Dublin San Ramon Services District next year. We need good representation on DSRSD. That's where water reclamation and use issues are managed.

So should the City Council remain the same five people who have been there for the last six years? With the economy the way it is and with the current council doing a good job of keeping the city solvent and most of the services intact, I don't see any reason to change.

In two years Mayor Wilson will be termed out, so there will be at least one new person taking his place either as Mayor, or if Dave Hudson runs for Mayor, taking Dave's place. So the City Council will probably stay in its comfort zone for another two years, but that's probably where we ought to be for now.