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Polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; city, school board races lead local balloting

On Pleasanton ballots in today's General Election are candidates for president, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, State Senate and Assembly, Pleasanton school board, Pleasanton's mayoral post and City Council.

Voters are also being asked to vote on Measure MM, a zoning document that could allow Costco to build a store here, as well as on a $270 million Pleasanton school bond measure, another one seeking $3.5 billion for BART and one asking voters to approve a $580 million Alameda County affordable housing bond measure. There also are 17 state propositions on the ballot, led by Proposition 51, a $9 billion general obligation bond initiative for schools statewide.

As mind-boggling as some of these choices are, voting for local candidates offers more easily-understood, clear-cut choices.

Pleasanton Municipal Election

In the municipal election this year, two candidates are seeking election as mayor: incumbent Mayor Jerry Thorne and challenger Julie Testa. Three are seeking election to one of two open seats on the City Council: incumbents Karla Brown and Jerry Pentin and Planning Commission chairman Herb Ritter.

Jerry Thorne is seeking re-election to a third two-year term as mayor, a post that limits office holders to eight full years. Before his election as mayor, he was a councilman for seven years and a Parks and Recreation Commission member for 10 years, for a total of 21 years of service.

His stated accomplishments include a reduction in future pension liabilities by 13%, the elimination of a long-term golf course debt and the completion and opening last weekend of a $16.5 million expansion of Bernal Community Park with lighted sports fields and a woodland of trees, pathways and open space.

He advocates local control of local issues, particularly land-use, implementing a comprehensive Library/Civic Center Master Plan, working with Zone 7 Water Agency to create a sufficient water infrastructure and more water resources. He is endorsed by all Tri-Valley mayors as well as Pleasanton's congressman, state senator, state assemblywoman, both regional county supervisors and more than 70 current and former elected and appointed officials from around the area.

Julie Testa is challenging Thorne in the mayoral election. Calling herself a "slow growth" candidate, she favors a "thoughtful approach" to growth in Pleasanton -- one that considers impacts on schools, traffic, water and quality of life. A resident of Pleasanton for 30 years, she served as a Pleasanton city commissioner for 11 years and has participated on numerous committees and task forces for both the city of Pleasanton and Pleasanton school district.

She wants Pleasanton to slow down and return to responsible planning, adding that the current City Council continues to approve new projects not required to meet any housing mandate. She said that with housing mandates finished, additional development is not required through 2022. She supports building a new library and reducing the city's unfunded pension liabilities.

Karla Brown is seeking re-election to a second four-year term on the City Council. She wants to continue to be the voice of "slow and smart growth policies," arguing that schools and roads are overcrowded. She also favors adding more recycled water for irrigation, building a larger library and protecting open spaces and ridgelines.

During her first four years on the council, she has been a leader in preserving historic homes, reducing pension debt, prohibiting smoking in parks, and adding 10 miles of recycled water pipe, a dog park and a veterans memorial at Pioneer Cemetery.

Jerry Pentin also is seeking re-election to a second four-year term on the council. He currently serves on 17 local, regional and state committees and boards. Prior to serving on the council, he spent nearly 20 years on many city task forces and as an appointed commissioner to the Planning Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission, where he served terms as chairman on both.

On the council, he evaluated complex issues such as pension reform, affordable housing and traffic, working with residents, city staff and agencies to come up with solutions. He supports the Civic Center/Library Master Plan, Downtown Specific Plan Update and resuming the East Side planning work. He also wants to implement the wireless water-metering system, complete the two tennis courts at the Tennis Park and continue expanding the city's use of recycled water.

Herb Ritter, currently chairman of the Pleasanton Planning Commission, is a candidate for City Council. A senior sales executive for a global company with an office in Pleasanton, his civic involvement began when he was appointed to the Parks and Recreation Commission, where he served as chairman and focused on protecting open spaces and completed three new parks and the Firehouse Arts Center.

As a councilman, Ritter said he would continue advocating for the economic, educational and environmental issues impacting residents. He is a member of Pleasanton North Rotary, where he served as its president, and was a founder of the Pleasanton North Rotary Charitable Foundation. He is also on the boards of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and the ValleyCare Charitable Foundation. He also represented Foothill High School Boosters in funding a new stadium scoreboard for Foothill Athletics.

Pleasanton school board election

Three seats are available on the Pleasanton school board with four candidates vying for election. They are incumbents Valerie Arkin and Jamie Hintzke, with two challengers: retired Hart Middle School principal Steve Maher and Kathleen Ruegsegger, a former school board member and retired executive assistant to Pleasanton and Palo Alto school superintendents.

Valerie Arkin has served for the last eight years on the school board where she is known as a thorough, detail-oriented, fair and independent thinker. Facilities and technology are her priorities, where she has worked to update and modernize facilities, adding technology to promote 21st-century learning. She favors building a new elementary school to help relieve overcrowding.

She is a delegate to the California School Boards Association and an advocate of special education programs. She has served eight years on the Pleasanton Library Commission and is a Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council board member. Passionate about youth and education, she is seeking re-election to continue ensuring that all students graduate with the skills they need to succeed in a global economy and prepared to be socially responsible adults.

Jamie Hintzke is also seeking re-election to the school board. As a board member for the past eight years, she has established a record of strong involvement, working to ensure the best possible education for students. She plans to continue to ask the tough questions and ensure greater district transparency as a steward of the district's limited resources.

One of her key accomplishments has been to change the process of how the district's audit firm is selected. The district now contracts with a new group of law firms with improved oversight, reducing its legal fees. Currently president of the school board, she has ruled that board agenda items must be agendized at least twice before the board will take action. At her urging, the addition of student board members serves as a constant reminder for the board to keep students at the center of every decision.

Steve Maher, a retired Hart Middle School principal, also is seeking election to the school board. He has 40-plus years of experience as a teacher and principal, all in the Pleasanton school district. He wants to stop the revolving door of principals, staff and district office personnel. He also wants the school board to make more of a concerted effort to help under-served students become more successful. He adds that the board must be fiscally responsible and transparent about all decisions.

Vowing to upgrade the district's infrastructure, Maher said he will seek creative funding to improve technology and encourage staff to help teachers better prepare for 21st-century learning. Maher added that he would welcome and consider ideas to improve the district's schools, pledged to be transparent and to continue his long history of actively communicating and collaborating with all stakeholders through outreach, public forums and school-site visits.

Kathleen Ruegsegger is seeking election again to the Pleasanton school board, where she served during 1990-93. She has 19 years' experience working with multiple superintendents and nearly two dozen board members with diverse perspectives and priorities in both the Pleasanton and Palo Alto school districts. She said that while parents can be proud of the creative and energetic students here, this is a pivotal moment for voters to evaluate and consider what direction the district should take to reach the next level of excellence.

As a school board member, she would encourage the district's new leaders to be "mindful caretakers" of a tight budget, communicate more effectively with the entire community and work more collaboratively with city leadership. She would seek to provide opportunities for students, parents and teachers to discuss issues directly impacting student learning, such as later start times, block scheduling, truancy rates and sleep deprivation with a focus on what is best for the students the district is committed to serving.

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