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By Roz Rogoff

About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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My Choice for Mayor of San Ramon

Uploaded: Sep 29, 2011
It's a tradition like pumpkins at Halloween or turkey at Thanksgiving. When election season rolls around opinion writers tell voters whom we believe they should vote for, as if it really mattered. So I'm going to play along and tell my readers whom I'm supporting for Mayor of San Ramon and why.

There are only two candidates running for Mayor of San Ramon this year, and both are fairly well known, but my choice might be surprising to people who believe I'm some sort of sycophantic supporter of the current City Council.

My support of the Council hasn't been because I agree with everything they've said and done over the last eight years, but because they've generally done a good job managing the City and the alternatives have been worse. Most of the arguments against Measure W were false or distorted, and I don't like liars. So I argued in favor of Measure W even though I didn't consider it well-written or necessary.

Both candidates running for Mayor supported Measure W for the same reasons I did, because we believe our City government would do a better job controlling growth in Tassajara Valley than five Contra Costa County Supervisors who don't live here or there. Whether our Supervisor remained Mary Piepho or was redistricted to someone else, which it now has been, the County has different priorities. We learned (those of us who did learn) from the County's handling of the development of Dougherty Valley, they are not looking out for the best interests of our City.

The defeat of Measure W didn't prove to me that the people opposing it were right, but it did prove that the City Council was out of touch with a large percent of residents and their concerns. The Council did some incredibly dumb things, like not allowing rebuttal arguments on the ballot and not putting the move of the Eastern Urban Growth Boundary into a separate measure. In fact there wasn't even a reason to vote on the General Plan at all, only the changes to the UGBs on the East and West required a vote. A lot of time, money, and angst could have been saved by putting each UGB move into a separate measure. I, along with several other speakers, asked about this in the public hearings but the Council didn't listen. Yup they didn't listen.

More recently I have been opposed to the plans to tear down the Mudd's Restaurant building. I consider it a landmark of green architecture and of important historic significance to California and the organic food movement of the 1980's.

At the July 26, 2011 Redevelopment Agency Meeting Ted Kai from San Leandro asked why the City was rushing into this project. He said Mr. LeBlanc's new restaurant could go somewhere else. "Once you tear down Mudd's, it's gone. Why tear down a good building?"

Carol Rowley answered Mr. Kai by telling him the San Ramon Historic Foundation is looking for new members and the Forest Home Farm's buildings have more historic significance.

What a minute. How did Carol get five miles down the road from Mudd's to Forest Home Farm without a taxi? This is what I call in my Critical Thinking Class a "red herring." That's changing the subject without addressing the question.

Carol did tell Mr. Kai they had to tear down Mudd's building because it would be too expensive, "to bring that building up to whatever we would like it to be." Ah, and they would like it to be Mr. LeBlanc's Heritáge Restaurant.

The current five members of the City Council have become too insular. Four of the five don't want to listen to any voices they don't agree with. We need new people with new vision on the City Council who are more willing to listen.

Bill Clarkson listens. He is open-minded. He asks questions, and he tries to find out all sides and doesn't take sides until he knows which side is which. Bill is good at working with people. One of Bill's reasons for running, as stated on his website, is to ". . . spend more time talking with residents . . . (and) find more ways to include them in these important decisions."

When I started writing the San Ramon Observer almost ten years ago, I had a few regular supporters. Bill was always one I could count on to send an encouraging email. It was a real boost that kept me going.

Carol has been supportive too, but I can't ignore her attitude towards Mr. Kai's concern for preserving local history in the Mudd's building. Telling him to join the Historic Foundation because Forest Home Farms has more historical significance than Mudd's was an inappropriate answer at best and condescending at worst.

I don't agree with everything everyone says. I obviously have my own opinions and positions which I blog about here, but everyone deserves a listening and not a lecture. Too much of that has been coming from the current City Council, usually from Mayor Wilson, but now from Carol Rowley. Maybe she's practicing to be Mayor too much.

Perhaps I'm over-reacting. Carol served as a City Councilmember for the last eight years. Bill Clarkson has never served on the City Council. Doesn't that make Carol better qualified to be Mayor?

Bill served as a San Ramon Valley Unified School District Trustee for 12 years. He was Chairperson three different times. He certainly has the experience and qualifications to be Mayor of San Ramon.

I don't have children in school, so I cannot say that I have followed Bill's performance as a School District Trustee very closely. I know the School District has made mistakes. It underestimated the number and size of elementary schools needed in Dougherty Valley. It required two parcel taxes to keep the school district at its high level of financial support, but voters balked at adding a third one.

Still Bill knows how to get things done. He's a past President of the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce and has been active in Rotary for many years. He recently started a Dougherty Valley Chapter of the Rotary Club, which is now the largest Rotary Chapter in the region.

Bill knows all parts of San Ramon. As a local Real Estate Agent for 33 years, he's seen San Ramon grow from a rural outpost to a modest city to a suburban community, and soon to a regional hub between Pleasanton and Walnut Creek. He knows where San Ramon's been and where it's going. So I asked Bill Clarkson for a lawn sign and he brought it over in person last Sunday.

The City needs new voices, not only on the dais, but from the podium, and people on the dais who are willing to listen to the voices from the podium. As Bill said in an interview on the San Ramon Patch, "There needs to be a new perspective at city hall that welcomes challenging questions about policy issues and city processes." That's why I'm endorsing Bill Clarkson for Mayor of San Ramon.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Member, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 30, 2011 at 7:22 am

I agree with your comments about Mudds. Why rush to tear it down. I was at a meeting with Mr. Perkins where he openly spoke about the city getting their hands on the building before they actually made the purchase. He bragged about how the owner was in debt and had no choice and how the city was squeezing him and would get a much reduced price. I felt sad that Mr. Perkins relished in the demise of a struggling businessman. It seemed they wanted more parking for a city property next door. That's what San Ramon needs, a new parking lot, not a small business contributing to the tax base.

Posted by Jim Gibbon, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:49 am

I agree with you about Bill Clarkson but I think you are wrong about the benefits of the 'present' City Council controlling the Tassajara Valley.

We need a change in leadership before we look at the valley again. We have two opportunities for that change, Bill Clarkson and Phil O'Loane. Phil knows the council and knew that the valley would not be protected until we have new leadership. That is why he is running for a council seat.

The residents of San Ramon want and deserve a change in leadership. They are going get that for two seats on the council in November.

Phil O'Loane knows this city and will be, like Bill Clarkson, a great choice for San Ramon.

Jim Gibbon AIA
San Ramon for Open Government

Posted by kevin, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 30, 2011 at 11:32 am


I still chuckle about the "Pigs do fly" comment you made regarding a comment I made that that affirmed what you were thinking. Well, careful because they will be out again today.

The biggest frustration I have had with the City Council is that I don't think they listen. They have pushed public comment to the back of the meeting and after listening to them for 2 hours they say that public comment is limited to as little as 2 minutes. I think they have their minds made up and are going to follow a plan they have already decided on.

A short while ago a person posted an opinion on the Express regarding term limits. The public responses took some tangents but guess what? Everyone had an opportunity to have their say and there were good points I learned. I think we need the same opportunities to voice our concerns to the City Council. City Council is our only opportunity to voice what we want our communities future to be. It is our only control over what City Manager and staff direction is to be. I now realize that no other government affects my daily life more than what happens in my city.

I endorse both Bill Clarkson and Phil O'Loane because thay share a common theme; I know they will listen, consider and be transparent.

So keep your eyes open today for "flying pigs"

Posted by Harry, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 30, 2011 at 11:39 am

Roz- Jim and I have very different views on Tassajara Valley. I am not endorsing anyone here, I know all the candidates well and they all have qualifications and skill sets that would serve San Ramon well.

IF Measure W would have passed, the General Plan 2030 called for:
* open space to be AT Least 90% of all land in the Tassajara Valley area
* NO hillside or creekside development and Save Our Hills protections would have been enforced in tassajara Valley
*the agriculture zoning to remain intact

In the end that wasn't good enough for Phil and the supporters of No on W; now the future of Tassajara Valley rests in the hands of the County Board of Supes and lawyers for the developer and the environmental groups who oppose any development.

All we can hope for now is that the County rejects development and, should there be development, that San Ramon does not have to bear a financial burden in the future; currently San Ramon provides $3.1 million in services to Dougherty Valley and the County last year reimbursed $1.1 million leaving a $2 million shortfall which was covered by general fund reserves. The Dougherty Valley settlement agreement called for full County reimbursement but given the budget realities that will not be the case perhaps now and forever.

That's why 4 of the 5 candidates who are running in the current election supported local control over Tassajara Valey and supported Measure W.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Sep 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


The City Council originally approved the purchase of the Mudd's building to use as a Nature Center and day care. The plan at the beginning was not to tear it down. So Councilmember Perkins was happy that the City could get this property at such a good price. It was not in good shape to be used as a restaurant, but it would have required only about $215K to fix it up as a Nature Museum, which was the original intention.

The Council wasn't considering putting another restaurant there until Michael LeBlanc gave his presentation a year later. I have no problem with Mr. LeBlanc building a restaurant in San Ramon. Everything I've heard about him and his Pican Restaurant in Oakland has been favorable, but tearing down the Mudd's building so the City can subsidize his private restaurant on City property is wrong. I hope new Councilmembers will recognize that and find Mr. LeBlanc another location for his restaurant and return to the original plan to restore the Mudd's building as a City facility.

I shall be writing my recommendations for City Council on Monday. I haven't written it yet, so I'm not sure exactly how it will turn out, but I'm hoping it will provoke some thought.


Posted by kevin, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 30, 2011 at 7:11 pm

"That's why 4 of the 5 candidates who are running in the current election supported local control over Tassajara Valey and supported Measure W."

That's also why we need a change in the City Council. Tassajara Valley was about obtaining control over more land for growth. This is old news and the voters understood it clearly.

The issue now is about change in the way the City Council operates, it's about changing their direction. Harry talks about preservation of the creek side and hillside protections that sunseted with 197 extended to the Tassajara Valley. Although Mayor Abrams stated he had an interest in extending those protections after the failure of measure W(which had been included in measure W instead of standing alone on it's own merits)the protections have not only NOT been extended, the City is approving development on the Western hills of the Labor's Camp,"Iron Gate Ranch" and the Gilderman property(owned by Sid Corrie, a major property owner in the Tassajara Valley, property the City wanted to expand the Urban Growth boundary to include). These properties would have been blocked if the City Council wanted to pass an ordinance to do so. They don't, ask them why?

Harry is right about one thing: This was not good enough for Phil O'Loane and 72% of us.

We need transparency, not hidden agendas. We need a City Council that reflects what the majority of voters desire for San Ramon, we need for our representatives to listen to us and defend our desires to the State.

Posted by Val, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Roz your endorsement of Bill is spot on. He will be great for our city!

Posted by mloliver, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 1, 2011 at 11:46 am

mloliver is a registered user.

Roz, I knew when you posted your blog this week, it would bring forth a plethora of comments. My thoughts are my own. First of all, I must say I have had great respect for all the candidates for Council. Both Carol and Bill are well qualified for council positions, but I feel that some members of the community have forgotten that the Mayor is first and foremost a council member. One of the duties of the Mayor as the major spokesperson for city, is to articulate to the public, the wishes of the majority of the council. The Mayor may not ignore council wishes and put forward his/her own agenda. This is a "we" position, not an "I" position. As a supporter of Carol Rowley for the Mayor's seat, I know she will carry the flag for the council majority, even if she personally disagrees. I'm not sure about Bill. I know Carol will take a fiscally responsible position, I'm not sure about Bill. If Bill were running for a council seat, he would likely have my unqualified support. He is not running for a council seat, however, he want's to start out as top dog. That concerns me. Some people change when they become council members. In my twelve years on the council I saw it time and time again. What they espoused during their campaigns and what they did on the council were quite different. I simply don't know if this would happen to Bill as Mayor.

On the subject of moving the public comment to the end of the meeting, the only thing I can say is, shame on the council. I worked very hard to see that didn't occur during my tenure as a council member and mayor. It came up several times as certain members of the public took undue advantage of the situation to banter on and on, repeating themselves endlessly, meeting after meeting. Enforcing time limits and requiring speaker cards at the beginning of the agenda item usually solved that problem. The mayor simply must take charge and make sure the rules are followed. It is supposed to be a forum for the public as well as a council meeting. Making citizens wait until the end loses many who would like to bring something to the attention of the council.

As for the Tassajara Valley, I'll save that for another post.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Oct 1, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


I always respect what you have to say. For those who don't know, Mary Lou Oliver is one of our City's founders and served on the early City Council. I believe you were Mayor three times.

As far as I'm concerned there are no "bad" candidates for either office, but I consider some better or more suitable at this time. That's why we have elections, so voters can make their voices heard through their choices.


Posted by Bob P., a resident of another community,
on Oct 1, 2011 at 7:01 pm

I am following this election with great interest, despite the fact I no longer live in California. The really intriguing thing about this election is that I personally know all the candidates running, so trying to pick on over another is like trying to figure out who your favorite child is.

The Mayor's race is particularly difficult for me. I have worked with Carol Rowley as a member of the Parks and Community Services Commission as well as when I served on the Country Club School Site Council. All my children attended Country Club School, where Carol was the principal for many many years. Carol has served as a member of the City Council for 8 years, putting in her time learning about the inner workings of city governing.

Bill has many year of experience community service, having been a long time member of the SRVUSD school board. His dedication to serving the needs of the community is unquestioned, having been a long time Rotary Club member and Chamber Commerce board member. He also currently serves on the San Ramon Parks and Community Services Commission.

So, who would make the better Mayor? In terms of experience, I suspect Carol would get the nod. The top spot is not the place to learn, city governance has a very steep learning curve, and a council seat is the perfect place to learn. Unfortunately, it's very hard to learn to fly a plane if the first time you try is while the plane is aloft. Bill on the other hand is an experienced community leader of unquestioned integrity, in my opinion. Could he learn the ropes of being Mayor, of course. The question the voters have to ask themselves is this, what is the downside of having a mayor with no civic governance experience?

I will say this, I am glad I don't have to choose.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Oct 1, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


You make some very good points but you have a misconception a lot of people have about the duties of San Ramon's Mayor. As you know the Mayor's seat was originally rotated among the five Councilmembers. This is more of a figurehead position than a leadership one. The Mayor chairs meetings and represents the City at meetings and functions. That's primarily the difference between the Mayor and other Councilmembers.

When the voters passed the Elected Mayor initiative in 2001, the measure described the Mayor's duties as the same as the last rotated mayor. This was a rather fuzzy directive, so the Council formed a Blue Ribbon Committee of past Mayors, plus Victor Peterson who authored the measure, to come up with a description of the Mayor's duties. I believe Mary Lou Oliver was on that Committee (chime in here MLO).

The City Manager is the one who manages City functions and Staff. The City Council and Mayor are more like a Steering Committee or Board of Directors. They give guidance to Staff, but the City Manager is the one in charge of getting things done.

One of the reasons for confusion about what the Mayor does is because Abram Wilson (in my opinion) overstepped the boundaries and took on more responsibilities than he should have. The next Mayor, whether it is Carol or Bill, will probably not be as hands-on in running the City as Mayor Wilson was. Bill has already been meeting with City Manager Greg Rogers and is climbing up the curve to where he needs to be.

Posted by mloliver, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 1, 2011 at 10:09 pm

mloliver is a registered user.

Yes, there was a committee as you described. There were two basic positions among the members of the committee. One extreme proposed the Mayor to be treated as a full time employee with a commensurate salary as well as being able to personally select Parks and Planning Commissioners. (Imagine what the Grand Jury would have done with the salary issue had it come to pass.) The other extreme wanted the Mayor to have no more responsibility or power than any other council member.

The Charter Amendment is fairly unambiguous:

Selection of Mayor

"The Mayor shall be elected by plurality at an election to be held every two years. No elected Mayor shall serve for more than four two year terms or eight years total. Duties of the elected mayor for the City of San Ramon shall remain the same as the duties as of January 1, 2001. Compensation for the elected mayor of San Ramon shall be one hundred dollars per month more than a city Councilmember. The position of elected Mayor will become effective at the first San Ramon regular municipal election following adoption of this charter amendment where three city council seats are up for election. One of these three seats will become the elected mayor position."

The operative line:

"Duties of the elected mayor for the City of San Ramon shall remain the same as the duties as of January 1, 2001"

To the best of my recollection, this included:

1. Setting the Agenda in concert with the City Manager. (Such as setting the Public Comment at the end of the meeting.) All council members could request agenda items be included.

2. Responsibility for protocol and order at council meetings.

3. Being the primary spokesperson and figurehead for the City.

4. Appointment of Council Members as liaisons to other agencies, with the approval of the council.

I'm sure there were more, but that is what I recall. It did NOT permit the Mayor to micro-manage individual departments, or ask favors of departments heads, or interfere in any way with the day to day management of the City.


Posted by Bob P., a resident of another community,
on Oct 2, 2011 at 11:22 am


Maybe I wasn't as clear as I could have been. I realize that in the current form of government in San Ramon, the Mayor has no more power than a Council member. As everyone knows, San Ramon rotated the position of Mayor between council members, prior to the election of Mayor. If experience didn't matter, then why didn't first year council members get 'rotated' into the Mayor position? Most council members didn't get the mayor seat until their 3rd or 4th year on council. They fully realized that having "some" experience as a council member served the city well in their 'appointed' Mayor, and I believe it does in an elected mayor as well.

Posted by mloliver, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 2, 2011 at 11:48 am

mloliver is a registered user.

An excellent point, Bob. The only first year Mayor was San Ramon's very first Mayor, Dianne Schinnerer. However, she had been President of DSRSD, which is also a very complex public agency serving San Ramon and Dublin, and handling many of the services that would eventually be taken over by the City.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Oct 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


If Diane Schinnerer's experience as a Director of DSRSD made her qualified to serve as a first year Mayor, why doesn't Bill Clarkson's 12 years of experience make him qualified to serve as Mayor?

I know DSRSD handled more services than sewer and water back when Don and Diane Schinnerer were on the Board, but the San Ramon Valley Unified School District is certainly "a very complex public agency serving San Ramon" and Danville. So I consider Bill's level of experience now at least equivalent to Diane's at that time.


Posted by Bob P., a resident of another community,
on Oct 3, 2011 at 1:35 pm


On the face of it, I would agree that your logic is sound. Bill's leadership credentials are solid and his knowledge of the community is exceptional. There are fundamental differences particularly in government financial management vs. school finances. Planning decisions are much different between agencies, with the state, ABAG, LAFCO, etc. I don't think that school district management has the level of complexity that City governance does.

The argument could be made that Bill would come into the office with more experience than someone who did not have any community involvement, but I would still give the nod to someone with experience in civic governance. But the bottom line is, I would not be unhappy with either Bill or Carol in office.

Posted by mloliver, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 5, 2011 at 6:22 pm

mloliver is a registered user.


I wasn't arguing the fact that the President of DSRSD was more or less qualified than a School Board President. My point was that every other Mayor had several years on the council before the Mayordom, EXCEPT for the first Mayor. Diane was selected because she had the most experience of those elected. It was an unbelievably steep learning curve for all of us, Diane included. We made some mistakes that could have been avoided with more experience, but all in all, I think most would agree the city turned out pretty well. I'm sure some will take exception to that comment, especially the CAVE people* but I think most people I know like it here.

*CAVE people: Citizens Against Virtually Everything


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

CAVE people: Citizens against Virtually Everything

I thought they call that the Tea Party now! (Feeble attempt at political levity)

Our CAVE people would not be welcome in the Tea Party's cave and vice versa.


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