Cook-Kallio leaves the council with a portfolio of major accomplishments that include construction of the Firehouse Arts Center, restoration of the Veterans Memorial Building, and approving financing for lighted baseball fields in Bernal Community Park, Kottinger Creek improvements, upgrading of the Dolores Bengtson Aquatic Center, rebuilding and expanding Kottinger Place and Pleasanton Gardens senior housing, and, perhaps most notably, extending Stoneridge Drive from Trevor Parkway to El Charro Road.
Those are only some of her legacies. Just as important has been her promotion of listening carefully to project proponents and opponents at council meetings, but then deciding what's best for everybody in the community, not just a specific neighborhood or stakeholder.
She always saw her job as representing everybody. It's an alignment that fit with her background as a teacher of U.S. government. She has a genuine perspective of what representative democracies are all about.
Even though she was sometimes viewed as pro-union and a strong Democrat -- which she admittedly is -- when it came to economic issues, property rights and other community concerns, she's been quite conservative, often sharing a Republican perspective when it comes to business and the economy. She's been a "go-to" councilwoman; the one who gets things done.
An elected leader known for her ethics, fairness, accessibility and good communicative skills, she would tell you publicly why she disagrees with your proposal. Constituents have told her they voted for her not so much because of her actions on the council, which sometimes they opposed, but because she always answered their phone calls and emails to explain her decision.
She also saw the peaks and valleys of governing Pleasanton, serving on the council in the good financial years before the 2007 recession and then supporting city staff during the lean years when pay raises were canceled and hiring halted, even for replacements. Her union background served to buffer objections from city employee, police and firefighter unions who accepted her plea to join in the needed municipal financial belt-tightening.
She also stood firm in agreement as the council chose to accept court and state rulings nullifying an ill-advised housing cap voters approved in 1996. The legal action cost the city $5 million, and Cook-Kallio helped negotiate a compromise with Gov. Jerry Brown that spared the city a possible $9 million in additional penalties sought by Urban Habitat, an Oakland-based affordable housing coalition that sued the city over its housing restrictions. Those on both sides of that dispute praised Cook-Kallio for her solid foundation in how U.S. government works -- that while Pleasanton has a history of talking up local control, it must also recognize it is subservient at times to regional, state and federal regulations and controls.
So what now? Next Wednesday, she'll still be teaching at Irvington High School in Fremont, where she also heads up the school's "We the People" team. Although termed out on the council, she could still run again for mayor in 2016, or in 2020 when Thorne is also termed out. Depending on how newly elected Republican State Assemblywoman Catharine Baker performs and is perceived by voters in 2016, Cook-Kallio, with Democratic Party backing, could challenge her for that post.
More likely, she'll listen to the outpouring of support she has already received to seek election to the Pleasanton school board, putting her years of city governing experience and 39 years in education to work on that board where constituents believe she's needed. Three board members will be up for re-election in 2016, a race that's as likely to be as testy as the one just completed.
In any event, let's hope that we haven't seen the end of Cook-Kallio's political leadership skills. That would be the good news as we bid a "well served" farewell at the start of the City Council meeting Tuesday night.
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