Still on the fence | The Observer | Roz Rogoff | |

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By Roz Rogoff

Still on the fence

Uploaded: Sep 12, 2013

My butt hurts from sitting on the fence. I emailed the candidates to ask why they were running, why they thought they should be elected, and where they stand on important issues. I was hoping to find reasons in their answers to endorse two of the four candidates, but the only clear decision I made is whom to oppose.

There are pros and cons for each of the candidates and each will have his or her group of supporters. For those against the HOV ramps, Harry Sachs and Thomas von Thury have stated their opposition to the ramps. For voters looking for a more moderate approach, Rene Matsumato wants to learn more about the HOV ramps before making a decision one way or the other.

Dave Hudson is not only for the HOV ramps, he knows the history of the plans and why they are necessary. Dave's strengths are his knowledge of local transportation and environmental issues and his participation in regional agencies that impact San Ramon now and in the future.

When I asked Dave why voters should reelect him, he said, "Do not underestimate the value of my seat on two regional executive boards of directors, BAAQMD & ABAG (Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Association of Bay Area Governments). We are capable of being first in line or close to it for many grants." Dave is lobbying now for a pilot program on bicycle sharing. "You don't get into these battles unless you are at the table. No one else on this council even knows this $6 million project exists."

Candidate Thomas von Thury is at the opposite end of the knowledge/experience spectrum. His reasons for running for City Council are "Because I do not like the over-development (AKA High-Density) that has been occurring and will continue to occur and none of the other candidates oppose it to the same extent that I do. In particular, the new City Center will transform San Ramon. That massive project will require a new on-off ramp for 680 to accommodate the thousands of additional vehicles. The only place for that to be built is at Norris Canyon where an over-pass already exists. My property value and quality of life will be directly affected along with everyone else's."

Hudson is concerned about an inexperienced person getting elected and messing things up. He didn't name anyone in particular, but he told me, "Anyone who gets elected is capable with their vote of messing up approved projects. We just ended a three year lawsuit over CEQA thresholds that should have been automatic. Nothing is over until it is over."

Mr. von Thury apparently isn't aware that the HOV ramps on Norris Canyon were planned more than 10 years ago, which is long before the current City Center design was approved in 2008. Construction of HOV ramps won't be started until 2018 if they stay on schedule. Construction of the City Center was supposed to begin in 2010 and completed by now. So there is no direct relationship between the City Center and the HOV ramps on Norris Canyon.

In 2011 Alex Mehran, Sr. invested half of the $11M required to improve the Bollinger Canyon interchange. The City has already widened Bollinger Canyon Road and may add another lane to handle the expected increase in traffic.

Mr. von Thury includes a link to a blog on the Bishop Ranch website in his blue flyer. I read the blog and thought it sounded great! Most San Ramon residents have been waiting impatiently for the City Center to be built. Mr. von Thury says he isn't against the City Center. He just wants it reduced in size by 50%.

Dave Hudson has an entirely different perspective on live/work developments such as the City Center. "California changed drastically in 2008 with SB375 and the climate action plan," Hudson wrote. The City Center is a project that makes it easier for San Ramon to comply with SB375 while increasing sales tax revenues to avoid more cuts to services.

Mr. von Thury wants to cut the budget even more. "I am certain that there is 2% fat in our city budget and I will look for it and excise it." The City Council held six Budget workshops from December 2012 to May 2013, before voting to adopt the 2013-14 Fiscal Year Budget on May 14, 2013. These were public meetings and the minutes and videos are available on the City's website. All of the retail planned for the City Center would bring in millions of dollars in revenue from sales taxes that now flow out to Pleasanton and Walnut Creek.

While Mr. von Thury is certain about the things he doesn't know, Rene Matsumoto wants to learn more about the things she doesn't know. This is an intelligent, reasonable approach to decision making, but it may make her seem indecisive.

I would like to see a woman on the City Council again. Rene is smart, responsive, and willing to learn. While I think she would be a quick learner, she might have a steep learning curve.

Rene has been endorsed by Mayor Bill Clarkson and Council Members Phil O'Loane and Scott Perkins. Clarkson and Perkins also endorsed Harry Sachs. So Dave Hudson seems to be odd man out with the other Councilmembers.

The Contra Costa Times endorsed Dave Hudson and Harry Sachs. I agree with the Times that Sachs and Hudson are the most prepared to be on the Council. Dave was first elected to the City Council in 1997, which was the year I moved to San Ramon.

I was suspicious of Harry's positions on the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan and the Norris Canyon HOV ramps, but then looked at some of my earlier blogs defending the HOV ramps. Harry answered my interview with Alex Mehran on December 3, 2011.

"City staff has been briefing various committees about these, on an annual basis, since 2004. While on Economic Development this was presented to our group and my initial reaction was 'bad idea'. The traffic congestion is notorious and I am not a believer in HOV ramps."

Harry is endorsed by supporters on both sides of San Ramon's political divide. Mary Lou Oliver and Jim Gibbon are both on Harry's Endorsements' list. Anyone who can accomplish that shouldn't run for San Ramon City Council. He should run for President.