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What a Week: My latest documentary watch, 'Dublin: The Making of a City'

There's a new documentary just released by the city of Dublin chronicling the community's incorporation 40 years ago and evolution since.

Jeremy Walsh, editor.

Of course I was drawn to watch it, as a fan of local history and film.

I don't watch as many documentary features as I used to -- although we will watch the occasional docuseries at home. I had almost forgotten, but I took a "history of documentary" course en route to my cinema studies minor at American University. Turns out I still have the primary text on our bookshelf, "Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction", a 160-page pocket-sized book by Patricia Aufderheide.

The watch list for professor Sarah Menke-Fish's class was a great sampler of the genre. Some stick out to this day -- "Nanook of the North", "Man with a Movie Camera", "Dont Look Back" and "An Inconvenient Truth" -- while others completely slipped from memory, like "Blue Vinyl" and "Chile, Obstinate Memory".

An engaging documentary can educate and elicit emotion while entertaining the audience, and I was pleased to experience that range while viewing "Dublin: The Making of a City" this week.

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The documentary was produced by city communications analyst Ryan Moran, with assistance from private vendor DJS Media Consulting for the final editing at a cost of $10,000.

The 51-minute video now available on YouTube weaves photographs, documents, newspaper clippings and interviews together to tell the story of why Dublin incorporated in 1982, and how the city has changed in the four decades since.

"The short story is you got a bunch of people who live some place and are not happy about the services that they're getting from the county. And they're saying we want better roads, we want better lighting, we want better amenities, and their solution to that was to make a city," Steve Minniear, Dublin's city historian, said in the documentary.

Or, as late former councilmember Valerie Barnes put it: "It was to say it ourselves, not to have it said for us."

Voters converting Dublin from an unincorporated community into its own incorporated city was a major milestone, forever changing the direction of the southern Tri-Valley.

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"That first group of elected officials, they did not have any other political ambitions that I could see when I was working. Their focus was on Dublin," said Richard Ambrose, Dublin's first city manager serving for 26 years. "The city needed a lot of work. It had been neglected by the county."

Ambrose and Barnes were just a few of the figures recounting those times pre- and post-incorporation, along with former councilmembers like Georgean Vonheeder-Leopold, George Zika and Claudia McCormick.

There were plenty of more recent Dublin leaders interviewed too, like current Mayor Melissa Hernandez, Alameda County Supervisor David Haubert and U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, plus former mayors Janet Lockhart, Guy Houston and Tim Sbranti.

What incredible perspectives they offer, making the documentary a true source material for local Dublin history.

"The unification of the school district (in 1986) really helped set the pace for Dublin's development and showing that, yeah, we did have the resources and the ability to govern ourselves and to grow ourselves as a school district and a city. And I'm just so proud of where they are now," Lockhart recalled.

Houston said, "Dublin has always been very successful with their businesses, even back in those days. But, there was no 'there' there. And so that's something we've changed over the last 25 years."

"Dublin is a well-planned community, and the growth that you see was all planned in the 1990s and every square inch had a plan," according to Haubert.

"One of my favorite things about Dublin is the diversity of people," Swalwell added. "This place is so much more diverse than when I graduated Dublin High School in 1999. You go to Dublin High School today and you'll see the number of different ethnicities and religious backgrounds that the students bring, and it's exciting."

The film traces many key moments along the timeline after incorporation, including pushing for BART to Dublin, building the Civic Center, approving workforce and senior housing with associated community benefits from developers, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also doesn't shy away from the gut-wrenching losses the community has endured as well, with interviewees reflecting on their memories of the disappearance of Ilene Misheloff in 1989 and the on-duty deaths of deputy John Paul Monego (1998), firefighter Sekou Turner (2002) and deputy Aubrey Phillips (last February).

Other over themes include public amenities, historic preservation, community togetherness, service organizations, and business and residential expansion.

There are so many great anecdotes, and even a few left me begging for more specificity. Of course the documentary was produced by the city government, so maybe we have to take some things with a grain of salt -- like how they didn't interview sources from neighboring communities for perspective.

For example, I would've loved to hear more reactions to a comment Ambrose made at one point: "We had a lot of battles with our neighbors and with the county over those growth issues in those early years. For whatever reason, Livermore and Pleasanton wanted to keep us small while they grew. I never understood that. And they tried every means to limit the city's growth."

But the filmmakers did a fair job in the end. After all, it was their story to tell, the way they wanted to tell it.

Perhaps Barnes summed it up best, in an interview for the documentary not long before her death June 1: "It definitely does fill me with joy to think of where we've come. Fifty-seven years ago when I moved here we had 7,000 people. And what have we got today? 70,000? But it's good, it's all good."

Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh has been the editor of the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division since February 2017. His "What a Week" column publishes on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.

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Jeremy Walsh
 
Jeremy Walsh, a Benicia native and American University alum, joined Embarcadero Media in November 2013. After serving as associate editor for the Pleasanton Weekly and DanvilleSanRamon.com, he was promoted to editor of the East Bay Division in February 2017. Read more >>

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What a Week: My latest documentary watch, 'Dublin: The Making of a City'

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Aug 12, 2022, 4:11 am

There's a new documentary just released by the city of Dublin chronicling the community's incorporation 40 years ago and evolution since.

Of course I was drawn to watch it, as a fan of local history and film.

I don't watch as many documentary features as I used to -- although we will watch the occasional docuseries at home. I had almost forgotten, but I took a "history of documentary" course en route to my cinema studies minor at American University. Turns out I still have the primary text on our bookshelf, "Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction", a 160-page pocket-sized book by Patricia Aufderheide.

The watch list for professor Sarah Menke-Fish's class was a great sampler of the genre. Some stick out to this day -- "Nanook of the North", "Man with a Movie Camera", "Dont Look Back" and "An Inconvenient Truth" -- while others completely slipped from memory, like "Blue Vinyl" and "Chile, Obstinate Memory".

An engaging documentary can educate and elicit emotion while entertaining the audience, and I was pleased to experience that range while viewing "Dublin: The Making of a City" this week.

The documentary was produced by city communications analyst Ryan Moran, with assistance from private vendor DJS Media Consulting for the final editing at a cost of $10,000.

The 51-minute video now available on YouTube weaves photographs, documents, newspaper clippings and interviews together to tell the story of why Dublin incorporated in 1982, and how the city has changed in the four decades since.

"The short story is you got a bunch of people who live some place and are not happy about the services that they're getting from the county. And they're saying we want better roads, we want better lighting, we want better amenities, and their solution to that was to make a city," Steve Minniear, Dublin's city historian, said in the documentary.

Or, as late former councilmember Valerie Barnes put it: "It was to say it ourselves, not to have it said for us."

Voters converting Dublin from an unincorporated community into its own incorporated city was a major milestone, forever changing the direction of the southern Tri-Valley.

"That first group of elected officials, they did not have any other political ambitions that I could see when I was working. Their focus was on Dublin," said Richard Ambrose, Dublin's first city manager serving for 26 years. "The city needed a lot of work. It had been neglected by the county."

Ambrose and Barnes were just a few of the figures recounting those times pre- and post-incorporation, along with former councilmembers like Georgean Vonheeder-Leopold, George Zika and Claudia McCormick.

There were plenty of more recent Dublin leaders interviewed too, like current Mayor Melissa Hernandez, Alameda County Supervisor David Haubert and U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, plus former mayors Janet Lockhart, Guy Houston and Tim Sbranti.

What incredible perspectives they offer, making the documentary a true source material for local Dublin history.

"The unification of the school district (in 1986) really helped set the pace for Dublin's development and showing that, yeah, we did have the resources and the ability to govern ourselves and to grow ourselves as a school district and a city. And I'm just so proud of where they are now," Lockhart recalled.

Houston said, "Dublin has always been very successful with their businesses, even back in those days. But, there was no 'there' there. And so that's something we've changed over the last 25 years."

"Dublin is a well-planned community, and the growth that you see was all planned in the 1990s and every square inch had a plan," according to Haubert.

"One of my favorite things about Dublin is the diversity of people," Swalwell added. "This place is so much more diverse than when I graduated Dublin High School in 1999. You go to Dublin High School today and you'll see the number of different ethnicities and religious backgrounds that the students bring, and it's exciting."

The film traces many key moments along the timeline after incorporation, including pushing for BART to Dublin, building the Civic Center, approving workforce and senior housing with associated community benefits from developers, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also doesn't shy away from the gut-wrenching losses the community has endured as well, with interviewees reflecting on their memories of the disappearance of Ilene Misheloff in 1989 and the on-duty deaths of deputy John Paul Monego (1998), firefighter Sekou Turner (2002) and deputy Aubrey Phillips (last February).

Other over themes include public amenities, historic preservation, community togetherness, service organizations, and business and residential expansion.

There are so many great anecdotes, and even a few left me begging for more specificity. Of course the documentary was produced by the city government, so maybe we have to take some things with a grain of salt -- like how they didn't interview sources from neighboring communities for perspective.

For example, I would've loved to hear more reactions to a comment Ambrose made at one point: "We had a lot of battles with our neighbors and with the county over those growth issues in those early years. For whatever reason, Livermore and Pleasanton wanted to keep us small while they grew. I never understood that. And they tried every means to limit the city's growth."

But the filmmakers did a fair job in the end. After all, it was their story to tell, the way they wanted to tell it.

Perhaps Barnes summed it up best, in an interview for the documentary not long before her death June 1: "It definitely does fill me with joy to think of where we've come. Fifty-seven years ago when I moved here we had 7,000 people. And what have we got today? 70,000? But it's good, it's all good."

Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh has been the editor of the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division since February 2017. His "What a Week" column publishes on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.

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