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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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Not in synch

Uploaded: Apr 5, 2013
For a long time Dave Hudson and I thought alike. He would always bring that up at Council meetings when I said something in Public Comment. "That's exactly what I was thinking," he would say. Sometimes I think he did it to tease me.

Lately however our thinking has diverged. We disagreed on "Safe and Sane" fireworks last year. We disagreed on going to even year elections by lengthening Councilmembers' terms in 2008. And now we disagree on Councilmembers voting to extend their terms by a year to go to even year elections.

Yes the Council can vote to change their own election year, but they can't change the Mayor's term without a Charter amendment. So that's why going to even year elections has been so difficult and confusing.

At the last City Council meeting Dave Hudson said "We should have gone to even years ten years ago." Well we could have. Measure H was first measure to go to even year elections by extending terms. This was put on the ballot in 2002 by the group known to their opponents as "The Gang of Three."

That name was coined by one of the Editors of the Contra Costa Times to describe Nancy Tatarka, Jerry Cambra, and Donna Dickey, who typically voted in a block. The two remaining Councilmembers, Abram Wilson and Dave Hudson, typically voted against the Gang of Three's positions.

Hudson and Wilson were also against Measure H, which was the measure to extend the Council's terms by one year to go to even year elections. The opposition to extending the terms of the Gang of Three was so strong, the measure was defeated.

After the defeat of Measure H, Melody Lundgren, a supporter of Measure H, along with Scott Miller and I, both Measure H opponents, asked the Council to go to even years by shortening terms. Instead of taking the opportunity to do that, the Council put an advisory vote on the ballot in 2004. That one simply said, "Should the date of the City of San Ramon municipal elections be changed from the first Tuesday after the first Monday of each odd numbered year to the first Tuesday after the first Monday of each even numbered year?" This passed by a small margin, but even then the Council did not follow it up to change to even year elections until four years later.

In 2008 the Council put Measure Q on the ballot. This was confusingly worded, "Shall the following be added to Article III of the City of San Ramon Charter: Notwithstanding any of the above, if the general municipal election date is changed to the date of the statewide general election, the unexpired term of an incumbent Mayor shall be extended by one year or reduced by one year. If the term is extended, that individual may serve a total of nine years as Mayor."

Now even though it said the Mayor's term could be extended or shortened, Dave Hudson announced at a Council meeting that he ". . . wouldn't even consider shortening terms." I opposed that and wrote the opposition to Measure Q in the ballot pamphlet. This was also signed by former Mayor Curt Kinney and his wife Jeanne. The measure was narrowly defeated.

So now Dave is back with another scheme to force the even year issue by pushing the Council to vote themselves an extra year, which would still require a Charter Amendment on the ballot to change the Mayor's term to even years to synch up with the Council's vote to extend their terms. Dave justified this by saying it was my idea.

Well yes and no. I wrote a blog a few months ago after attending several budget workshops saying I would not oppose extending Councilmember's terms to go to even year elections. I said I wouldn't oppose it at the last City Council meeting, but I suggested that two measures be put on the ballot to give voters a choice. I really didn't expect them to do that, but I thought giving voters a choice would be more effective and fair, especially since some residents prefer keeping San Ramon elections in the odd years.

Still as I said in my blog and at the March 26th City Council meeting, I would not actively oppose any measure to change to even years by lengthening terms. That's when Hudson said the Council could vote to move their election to 2014 followed by a ballot measure to change the Mayor's term to even years.

Why does changing the Mayor's term require a ballot measure but not the Council's? A Charter Amendment to elect the Mayor was passed by voters in 2001. This measure established San Ramon's first Mayoral election in 2003 and set the Mayor's term at two years with term limits of eight years. Prior to 2003 the Mayor was appointed for a one-year term by the City Council.

In 2003 appointed Mayor Abram Wilson ran against former appointed Mayor Curt Kinney. Wilson won. In 2011 Mayor Wilson termed out, and ran for City Council instead. He was defeated by Scott Perkins and Phil O'Loane.

Councilman Hudson believes the incumbent Mayor, Bill Clarkson, will be unopposed this year. "No elected incumbent Mayor has been opposed," Hudson said; therefore Hudson believes that will be true again this year.

Well there's only been one elected incumbent Mayor, Abram Wilson. Wilson was opposed in his first election as the appointed incumbent, but he was not opposed in the following three elections. This is hardly a trend.

It is possible that Bill Clarkson could be opposed. I don't know who that potential candidate might be. I've heard a rumor that Wilson might run against Clarkson, if the term limit clause in the Charter Amendment is restarted after the two year break. I doubt that would happen, but it could be possible.

Hudson is also betting that there won't be any opposition to his and Councilmember Jim Livingstone's reelection this year. Well at least one other candidate has pulled papers, Planning Commissioner Harry Sachs.

I discussed Harry's candidacy with him on Tuesday, and he's posted his intention to run on his Facebook page. Harry was appointed twice to the Planning Commission. He is highly qualified to run for City Council. So if Dave Hudson and Jim Livingstone both run for reelection there would be three candidates for two seats, so the election would have to be held.

For the last two years I speculated, along with several other Council watchers, that Jim Livingstone might not run for reelection. Jim remarried recently, and I believe he would like to start a new life with his new wife. I emailed him about this, but haven't heard back yet.

Harry Sachs also believes Jim is ready to retire. If the Council votes to move their election to 2014, will Jim stay on for another year or will he retire now and be replaced by an appointment. Or if Jim doesn't run, and the only two candidates to file are Harry Sachs and Dave Hudson, would they be appointed without having to face an election? There are a lot of "ifs" here.

What about the Mayor? Will Clarkson run unopposed? Would he then be appointed this year with a Measure on the ballot in 2014 to move the next Mayoral election to 2016? Is anyone else confused by this?

I'm not the only one skeptical about Dave Hudson's plans. Phil O'Loane and Bill Clarkson prefer putting a measure on the ballot this year. That seems the most reasonable thing to do. I hope Dave Hudson is thinking the same thing I am now.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Paul Mitchell, a resident of another community,
on Apr 15, 2013 at 12:28 am

Roz, the answer seemed so simple to me back when I lived in San Ramon and this issue came up then: create one-time-only future three-year terms for the mayor and council member positions that shift the beginning of subsequent two-year terms to fall in even-numbered years, THEN have citizens of San Ramon vote people into those three-year terms. The problem with council members voting themselves a one-year extension to their own existing two-year terms is the blatantly self-serving nature of those votes. I walked neighborhoods in support of Dave Hudson's election in years past, but I didn't support his position on voting to extend his own term, or any other council members' terms. Let the people vote for candidates to fill three-year terms, and the problem goes away.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Apr 15, 2013 at 1:19 am

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


I've been having an off-line discussion with Dave Hudson on this. His position is that an election this year would cost the City $250K and by voting to hold the next election next year when the election is shared with State and local elections would save the that $250K. So that's why he wants to move his and Jim Livingstone's reelection to 2014 and Scott Perkins and Phil O'Loane to 2016.

As you know the Council can vote to do that, but the Mayor's term must be changed by a ballot measure. Dave is assuming that the Mayor will be unopposed. If that happens Bill Clarkson would be appointed Mayor for the 2 year term, but a measure could be put on the 2014 ballot to move the next Mayor's election to 2016. That would give Bill an extra year in office and current Council members would have an extra year in office.

While I agree with Dave that it is worth going to even years by extending terms to save the high cost of odd year elections, they shouldn't jump over this year without giving voters a choice. Dave keeps insisting it is up to the Council to pass an Ordinance with approval by the County Supervisors, but I agree with you that it looks very self-serving.


Posted by Paul Mitchell, a resident of another community,
on Apr 15, 2013 at 8:28 am

It sounds like the political atmosphere in San Ramon has calmed down a lot since I moved away, to the point where the citizens are either very satisfied with their elected leaders or very apathetic (or a mixture of the two). If no one opposes the incumbent mayor in the next election, and there are only two council member candidates who file for two open seats, then I suppose extending council member terms by an extra year via a city council vote has "citizen support" (defined as a lack of citizen opposition, plus the underwhelming advisory vote from a few years ago). Adding a charter amendment to change the next election for mayor to even years would likely pass in such a tepid atmosphere of "citizen support." My advocacy for a citizen vote on extending terms to three years assumed the electorate was interested in making the decision through the ballot box. Perhaps I was mistaken. It would not be the first time.

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