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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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Harry Sachs?

Uploaded: May 10, 2013
I've known Harry Sachs for about ten years. I recall he came over to me at a function at the Community Center and told me how much he liked my San Ramon Observer website. I started that website in January, 2002. It might have been about a year or two later. It took me at least a year to build a following and improve my writing.

I was still suspicious of complements back then, especially from people I didn't know. I thought Harry was trying to curry favor with me. Maybe he was, or maybe he was being honest about my wonderful writing and website.

Harry and Phil O'Loane were both appointed to the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) around 2002. In 2006 both of them applied for the Planning Commission. I was opposed to their appointments and particularly hostile to Harry. Here's what I wrote in an email to Diane Schinnerer on June 15, 2006:

"I don't trust Harry Sachs. He's an ambitious suck-up. I see these appointments as spelling trouble for Beta Court. I was really sorry they didn't appoint Christy Tyler. She's super."

I still consider Christy Tyler super, but she's very happy now in her teaching career. Beta Court was spared the housing overlay by the Planning Commission, and Harry and Phil turned out to be very good Commissioners.

I attended the interviews for appointments to the Planning Commission in 2010 when Harry and Phil's terms were up. Harry gave the best interview, but I'm sorry to say Phil gave the worst. By then I liked both Phil and Harry, but Phil was very nervous and didn't answer the questions as well as the other applicants.

Phil made a political issue out of not being reappointed, and I believe he thought it was because of his objections to moving the Urban Growth Boundary into Tassajara Valley, but the vote was split. Abram Wilson and Scott Perkins voted to appoint Jeanne Benedetti. Dave Hudson and Carol Rowley voted to reappoint Phil. Jim Livingstone voted for John Mills.

I thought John Mills gave a better interview than Benedetti, but she gave a better interview than Phil. The Council voted to appoint Mills to the Parks and Community Services Commission and Jim Livingstone changed his vote to Benedetti. I felt Phil should have been reappointed, but he used his "martyrdom" in his election campaign for City Council the following year.

Phil has been a good Councilmember and I believe Harry would be too. They are both intelligent and know a lot about how the city works and one or two terms on the Planning Commission, which is a heck of a lot of work, is great preparation for City Council.

So maybe Harry is politically ambitious. It requires some political ambition to run for office. I didn't consider myself politically ambitious when I ran for DSRSD twice, but I was accused of it by several commentators on my blogs.

I had breakfast with Harry at Denica's Café in Dublin last month. I asked him why he is a school teacher. Harry teaches 8th grade in Fremont. Teaching middle school isn't a typical profession for most men, and Harry could have been more successful in a business career. So I asked him why he chose to be a school teacher.

He said he worked in the financial industry at first and didn't like it. He loves being a school teacher and working with kids. It's interesting that Christy Tyler, whom I supported for the position on the Planning Commission in 2006, left Engeo to become an 8th Grade teacher too. She also preferred that to a higher-status engineering job.

I've been teaching online for University of Phoenix for the last 11 years. University of Phoenix does not cherry-pick their students the way most traditional colleges do, and many of them need extra help meeting college-level requirements. I find it rewarding to help my students learn; so I understand Harry's choice to be a teacher.

Still I was skeptical about Harry's candidacy for Council. After I received a fund raising letter from Harry's campaign, I sent him the following email. Harry's response follows below it.


I received your fund raising letter. I plan to donate $50, but I'm not ready to do that until I see who else, other than the incumbents, is running.

If Jim Livingstone doesn't run, there might be another uncontested election with only the Even Year Election measure on it.

I'd like to write this week's blog on your candidacy. In fact this email might be part of it, so it won't be entirely favorable. I'm still dubious about your motives behind your current political direction, such as your turnaround on the plans for North Camino Ramon and Norris Canyon.

I knew you wanted to run for City Council for a long time and I suspect you were PO'd that Phil beat you to it. I didn't consider Phil's turnaround completely kosher either.

That's not to say you haven't changed. I think you have, but I consider Jim and Dave truer to themselves and not politically motivated in their positions. They may stay stupid things or be hardline on some positions, but they are pretty predictable in what they stand for and what they will do.

It sounds like Jim Gibbon is planning to run someone from Dougherty Valley, or maybe he would like someone to run from Dougherty Valley. See his comment on my latest blog. I don't know where you stand with Gibbon's group, but I know you have been moving in their direction.


Here's Harry's reply:

"Roz- ok let's see.
First you're wrong about me being pissed that Phil "beat me to it." I didn't want to run two years ago. My youngest was in preschool. I wasn't ready. I had just finished Measure W (which both Harry and I supported) and truly felt it wasn't my time.

Camino Ramon wasn't a flip for me. It was simply too many housing units were being allowed and the traffic analysis was totally inadequate in my opinion.

HOV ramps same thing. I've read the online investment options report and the 2009 consultant impact report. I think HOV lanes reduce capacity. I do not support them because in my view they won't improve capacity and they take away Norris as the only roadway to get across town that is not freeway ramped. Caltrans admits that bottle necks will continue because of constraints outside the plan area. So how would residents benefit?

In terms of Jim Gibbons, haven't met with him. I have met with a variety of San Ramon folks who follow city government. They have all been supportive of my candidacy.

I share with folks that I have evolved my thinking regarding San Ramon. I do think as facts and situations change, that your thinking and perspective should too. I also share that I don't need to serve on council, I want to. I have the knowledge and skills that I believe are worth the residents' consideration.

So I guess that's how I would respond."

Soon we'll know who else is in the running, but I wish Harry good luck. He's "paid his dues," as I like to say about candidates who have served the city in voluntary positions for many years, and overall I believe Harry would make a good addition to the City Council.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Harry S., a resident of San Ramon,
on May 10, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Roz- ?Ambitious suck-up?, that?s a good one. LOL. My wife thought it was funny too.

In terms of paying my dues, I have to say that yes, I have learned quite a bit as a planning commissioner since 2006. I have worked with some great people and feel that I have developed a solid understanding of the underlying responsibilities and mechanisms of city government. I also think folks would say that I?m fair and I am one who does value other people?s input and perspective. In education, one thing I have learned is that people, at many levels, want to be heard and their ideas and opinions valued. I hope that matters to the voters in November.

Anyone who has checked out my website knows I have stated ideas and positions that are, in my view, appropriate for the San Ramon we live in today. It is different than when Diana and I purchased our home in 1999. Today, San Ramon is at an interesting crossroads.

Again I invite folks to check out my website www.sachsforcitycouncil.com.

Roz, I appreciate the endorsement. Was that an endorsement? Ha-ha. And btw, you have provided a wonderful insight into not only San Ramon city government but a little and sometimes big window into your life through your blog over the years. It has actually been an interesting journey and I know many in our community hope you keep on calling it as you see it, or live it. Now that my friend, is a ?suck-up?.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on May 10, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


I wondered if I should have included "ambitious suck-up," in my blog about you, but I believed that at the time. I tend to be negative about people until I get to know them better. Then I'm either more negative or more positive. I have become more positive about you, but I'm not sure this is an endorsement yet. It's more of a semi-endorsement until I see who else runs.


Posted by MLOliver, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 11, 2013 at 9:18 am


Remind me not to get on your bad side! I'll be careful not to compliment you on your writing or your blog. Nor will I admit to missing the OBSERVER. Please don't ever share with me your first impression, either.

That said, San Ramon is a far different city today than it was in 1983. I can only imagine what it would be like here if we hadn't incorporated. It would not be a pretty picture. We've had some disappointments, like the inability control the planning in the Dougherty Valley, and the maceration of the original city center plan by the renegade city council, but all in all there is a reason there are such pressures on development here. It's considered an ideal community to work and raise families.

Pressures from outside, (the State, County, ABAG, LAFCO, for example) still put undue stress on our community. In my opinion, Harry is well equipped to deal firmly and reasonably with those outside influences. In my talk with him I found him candid, interested in my concerns, and very knowledgeable about the city as a whole. In addition, as a former elementary school teacher, I have immense respect for anyone who actually enjoys working with middle school children! I find that age group slightly terrifying.


Posted by Bob P, a resident of another community,
on May 11, 2013 at 12:31 pm

MLO, you should hear what Roz thought about ME at first! I would have taken 'ambitious suck-up' as a compliment.

I had the unique opportunity to work with both Harry and Phil on the Planning Commission and I have great respect for both. You know, I am always skeptical of EDAC people (grin). Harry didn't come into Planning with a 'know it all' attitude, he asked questioned and listened to answers. He always, always did his homework(and there is a lot of that)and was well prepared.

As far as "flip flops" are concerned, I don't think Harry is changing his views as much as his views are evolving with the situation. We don't make planning decisions in a vacuum and time doesn't stand still. I was always proud of the fact that people knew where I stood on the important issues, and I think Harry does that too. Phil, on the other hand, did a 'overhaul' of his basic beliefs to get elected.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on May 11, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Well everyone, including me, thought the San Ramon Observer would fade away after the election of the fiscally conservative Council in 2003. I found that even though they weren't as wasteful as the Gang of Three, there were still reasons for me to keep writing my blog and making my "observations."

By the way, Bob, I was probably even harder on Scott Perkins when he first ran, if he recalls that. So there's always someone lower on my totem pole. Harry should feel downright adored!


Posted by Scott Perkins, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 13, 2013 at 7:46 am

I do remember that you were very skeptical of me when I ran. I did NOT pay my dues by serving on a city committee or commission. I did serve in the community (Boy Scouts -25+ years) and for 25+ years in the Navy Reserve. You were right to be skeptical. I did not deserve a free pass from anyone. And I didn't get free pass. Phil did not do well in the Planning Commission interviews but he rebounded well and has been great on the council. Harry has been a strong, thoughtful member of the Planning Commission and I hope he wins a seat on the Council in the fall. He has my endorsement City Council.

EDAC, Housing Advisory, Parks Commission and Planning Commission have been great places for people to learn the issues affecting the city and 'pay their dues'. I recommend the more traditional path for future council members - committees and commissions first, then run for council.

Posted by Jim Gibbon, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 13, 2013 at 11:03 am

I will let people know what I plan to do and who we plan to indorse around the first part of June.
There are a lot of advantages to being outside of local government. I hope I have engendered public interest in San Ramon government and I don?t think I need to introduce myself to the San Ramon voters. If I decide to run this is the right time for me to do so.
There are one or two others who would like to run. I would like to see their intensions before I decide. I encourage them to step up now and let their intension be known. There is room and a desire for two new councilpersons on the dais.
Jim Gibbon AIA
San Ramon for Open Government

Posted by Bill Wagner, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 13, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Seems very ironic to me that when I do a Google search looking for a group by the name of "San Ramon for Open Government", I cannot find it. Is there really such a group? Or is this some sort of illusion that we are all supposed to buy into? For a group that is supposedly based on "open-ness" and "transparency" - - it sure seems kind of like a back room private club. Mr. Gibbon, can you explain the details of this group.....is it open to all San Ramon citizens, do you meet regularly, is there a board and do you keep meeting minutes? Are you registered with the FPPC? This is hypocritical to call your group San Ramon for Open Government. Explain what part of San Ramon government is not open. If your intentions are to run for altruistic reasons, then why don't you just run. Why all the posturing and gamesmanship over who may or may not run - - and then making your decision on that? If being on the council is truly "public service"; then a person who has strong convictions and a belief in their agenda, should step up and make a difference, without concern over who the other potential candidates may be.

Posted by Harry S., a resident of San Ramon,
on May 13, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Bob- Regarding Phil O?Loane, I have enjoyed a very cordial and respectful relationship with him since our planning commission days together. I had the opportunity to work with him on the Open Space Task Force in 2012. That group has worked for the past two years on open space preservation efforts with an emphasis on developing an understanding of how realistic open space preservation can be achieved and the status and profile of available properties. Phil was very insightful and gave valuable feedback as the GHAD representative for the City Council. That task force and every member on it have done good work on providing city leaders with useful information going forward on how to achieve open space preservation, with an emphasis on our western hillsides.

Posted by Bob P, a resident of another community,
on May 13, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Bill, as far as what San Ramon for Open Government actually is, my assumption is that is just Jim Gibbon and at most a couple of supporters of the 'no growth anywhere' coalition.

Harry, I have respect for Phil as well. He was always someone who's opinion and views held great influence with me. However, I find it very ironic that Phil did complete 180 degree turns on most of the politically sensitive positions he held as a Planning Commissioner during the last election. Maybe that is political expediency, or just irony. Who knows.

Posted by Ms. Bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 14, 2013 at 8:10 am

Jim G. is sooooooo right...There are advantages to being on the "outside looking in" (-and still participating in affairs) A cleaner perspective is very often garnered without taintment of being, simply said? TOO close. I too, would like to see a good number of candidates run. Makes it far more interesting...

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on May 14, 2013 at 10:45 am

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Actually Bob & Bill,

Jim Gibbon has a pretty long list of members of his organization and others he regularly mails about issues he is for or against. The group is on Google, and you can get to the entry gate by entering srog.org, but you need an SROG user name and password to get in. I tried using my Google ID and received a message that I am unauthorized.

I like Jim Gibbon and I appreciate his help on trying to save the Mudd's building, but it seems hypocritical to call an organization San Ramon for Open Government and then make it a limited membership organization.


Posted by Bill Wagner, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 14, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Well, they are a private group, and yes, it does seem hypocritical that the name of the group implies they are for open-ness, yet they are a closed group. That is actually their right - and I support that right, no matter how ironic it is. It is my right to point out their irony. What I really want to know is what EXACTLY do they feel is being done behind closed doors in city government. The name of the group implies that they are for open government, and therefore, San Ramon is not open in some way form or fashion. I'd like some facts to support the apparent claim that San Ramon government does not operate in an open public forum, abiding by the Brown Act etc. They are creating a controversy that does not exist. Politics 101. These wind-bags ramble on and on at Council meetings just so they can hear themselves talk. They are allowed to exceed the 3-minute rule all the time. Gibbon is the biggest offender of going over on time, yet he claims San Ramon government is not open. Give me a break!

Posted by Jim Gibbon, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 14, 2013 at 3:48 pm

If you are interested in whom I am go to LinkedIn, Yelp, Facebook, Patch, and any other site you wish. Type in James P Gibbon AIA and you can learn anything you want about me. I have participated in San Ramon politics for 20 years. As an architect and planning I dare say I have a better understanding about San Ramon politics and government working than some of you.

SROG is not on Google. It is an information resource group that watches and reports on what the City Council and Planning Commission does on a week to week basis.If you are interested in joining our group all that required is a request.

Representing the interest of the residents of San Ramon is a long term endeavor. It takes awareness of what is happening and a willingness to help special interest group fight for their rights and help them through the process of organizing, understanding the political process and who can help them. We try to put groups together to help each other. They then are ready to help the next group who feels they have no voice in the government process.
Issues like preserving our open spaces, hills and creeks; save the Norris Canyon overpass; fighting Walmart in the southern part of town, preserve Mudd?s Restaurant, making sure developments in San Ramon are livable, preserve the Tassajara Valley and many other causes are what we do and care about. We are not always successful but we try and there are many issues that the council and city government get wrong.
It matters what happens in San Ramon and who is on the City Council. We will do whatever it takes make sure the residents of our city get good representation on the council and good decisions that help maintain the quality of our lives.

Is there something wrong with that?


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on May 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


What is the SROG.org that is on Google for? Do you use that or is it just something you set up but don't use anymore?

My apologies if once again I made assumptions that are not correct.


Posted by Bill Wagner, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 14, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Sounds kind of like a Jim Livingstone gaffe, when Mr. Gibbon retorts- ".... I dare say I have a better understanding about San Ramon politics and government working than some of you". Elitism??? What harm has Walmart done since it opened? Since you work for Safeway, doesn't that make it a conflict of interest for you to have a political group that is opposed to your competition? What makes Safeway any better than Walmart? They all sell stuff on shelves. Would it have been OK for Safeway to have taken over that space now occupied by Walmart? You still haven't answered my question: What specific example or fact can you cite that proves that San Ramon City Government is not open? Your causes seem to be mostly based on sensationalism and have little or no factual foundation. It's like saying: I'm for Motherhood, Baseball and Apple Pie, so vote for me or follow my cause. Give me facts and details, not rhetoric.

Posted by Bob P, a resident of another community,
on May 14, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I'm with Bill...wait for it, wait for it....

Posted by Jim Gibbon, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 15, 2013 at 3:21 pm

In true form when you can't make an intelligent argument, go on the offense with accusations. It's interesting you are not interested in joining our e-mail group. Give us your e-mail address.

You would rather trash our group but have no constructive comment on what we do.

I suggest you address your comments to our group than bring Safeway into this conversation. Safeway had a store at the site of the new Wal-Mart long before it was a shopping center. They left because it was a bad location. Wal-Mart will find out the same thing. I?m waiting for them to come back to the city to request they make the store a 150,000 square foot superstore.

I think we have done quite well in defending the interest of San Ramon residents. The defeat of Measure ?W? and the withdrawal of the townhouse project on Ryan Industrial Court are only a few of the visible examples of our success. Wait until November. Wait for it?

Jim Gibbon AIA

Posted by Jed, a resident of San Ramon,
on Jun 1, 2013 at 6:38 pm

This is the second time I am posting this question -- I know my first post went up but unclear if it was removed for some reason. My question was to Mr. Sachs. Over the past two election cycles who did you vote for for the offices of President, US Senator and US Representative? Seems like a reasonable question. I don't believe it could be considered "objectionable content". Any answer or comment Mr. Sachs?

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Jun 2, 2013 at 1:11 am

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


I remember seeing your original post. I don't know why it is no longer there.

I doubt Harry Sachs checks in on my blog ever day so I emailed him a copy of your questions. They seem reasonable but are obviously political for a non-partisan office like the City Council.


Posted by Harry S., a resident of San Ramon,
on Jun 10, 2013 at 9:03 am

Jed- My voting records are really not anyone's business. If I were a candidate for a national office or even state office they would certainly be of some importance. However, as you know, city council is a non-partisan office. I can say that I have voted, I regularly vote and I haven't voted strictly for one political party's candidates. During my candidacy for city council I am seeking out supporters from a variety of causes and issues. Thanks.

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