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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Public votes are pleasing politics but poor policy

Uploaded: May 28, 2015
Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne seemed to make the large crowd happy last week when he suggested an advisory vote on whether to proceed with plans for East Pleasanton.
The council and members of a large crowd debated what to do for well over two hours at the meeting last week before Thorne broke the impasse with the proposal to hold a public advisory vote. After a majority of the council agreed, he also stated his belief that whenever a final plan is acted upon by the City Council, it should go to the public for a vote.
The ballot measures may be pleasing politically, but they are poor public policy.
We elect representatives to make decisions in our country and should expect them to do so. The advisory vote is particularly problematic because it will be a measure of the public's opinion, but will not be binding. If the vote is to stop the planning process, will it take another vote before it can be resumed?
There also are issues with the vote to approve whatever decision a City Council eventually makes. Putting it on the ballot amounts to the council members copping out on their responsibility.
There already is a process by which council decisions can be challenged by a referendum if opponents can gather enough signatures. It has been used on occasion over the years. Most notably, the City Council that approved Hacienda Business Park and other major business developments never put them on the ballot. A general plan amendment eventually was subject to a vote after a referendum and was upheld easily.
By contrast, the eastside plans are quite modest. Less in developable acreage than Hacienda Business Park.
Certainly in this discussion, there are valid reasons to consider the long term implications of development in that area. Enough development will be required to pay for infrastructure, most specifically the long needed connection of El Charro Road from Interstate 580 to Stanley Boulevard. That connection is needed to alleviate the daily afternoon congestion on Valley Avenue. The city has been working on plans for the area for the past few years.
There are also concerns about long-term water supplies, although the valley's wholesale agency, Zone 7, has consistently said it has enough water supply lined up to support the growth plans for the three valley cities it serves. State law requires any significant new development to have a water agency submit verification it can serve the new area.
Zone 7actually is in better shape this year because it has been able to access water is has banked in Kern County groundwater supplies. The water is traded with the Kern groundwater pumped and sent south and Zone 7 receives water through the Delta and the South Bay Aqueduct.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on May 28, 2015 at 8:30 am

Michael Austin is a registered user.

The Pleasanton City Council passed the buck.

An advisory ballot measure in which citizens vote on a non binding question. The largest difference between an advisory ballot vote and any other type of ballot measure is that the outcome of the ballot question will not result in a new, changed or rejected law or constitutional amendment. Rather, the advisory question symbolically makes heard the general opinion of the voting population in regard to the issue at hand.

It has been common knowledge around Pleasanton that this east side development issue is a huge albatross that the Pleasanton population does not want.

The Pleasanton City Council should have voted accordingly.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Pleasanton Heights,
on May 28, 2015 at 10:50 am

I couldn't agree more with Tim. They were elected to make these types of decisions. A vocal crowd will be unhappy, whether a council vote or popular vote is taken, and regardless the outcome.

I would rather have votes that reflect what a group of leaders believe is right, rather than a group of leaders who blow in the wind with the crowd. Think long term, and make the unpopular choice if it's the right thing to do.

I specifically voted for Olson and Thorne, because I believe they are those types of people and have the experience to make the best long term decisions.

Posted by traffic, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on May 28, 2015 at 11:29 pm

"most specifically the long needed connection of El Charro Road from Interstate 580 to Stanley Boulevard. That connection is needed to alleviate the daily afternoon congestion on Valley Avenue"

I agree would be nice to have El Charro extended, but unfortunately any traffic alleviated from El Charro extension will be more than made up by the ~1300 units (current base plan) required to help pay for it (not to mention the 345 units already being built at corner of stanley/bernal).

Posted by Sierra, a resident of Dublin,
on May 29, 2015 at 11:56 am

Of course Tim Hunt objects to citizens having a say on development. He's afraid that citizens will object to more/bigger/taller/whatever development. And that could cause problems for the developers.

His history shows a strong inclination to support development. Cozy with the developers. For many years and in multiple tri-valley cities.

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jun 1, 2015 at 10:53 pm

I agree with Tim.

We elect official to make decisions and really to make the right and tough decisions. Most of the general public will not become informed on the things they are voting for and we just get people voting on buzzwords and slogans rather than on actual information. Once again, this is why we have elected officials, to gather ALL of the information and make an informed decisions.

If every decision that is made needs to go to a public vote, then we don't' need elected officials. And as Tim points out, if (in pleasanton) the council screws up there is a process to undo that.

Posted by oldtimer, a resident of Birdland,
on Jun 2, 2015 at 10:54 am

I fail to see how El Charro extension fixes the traffic problem at Valley. Seems to me the development out there would be a bigger negative impact to our traffic than the extension positive impact.

I do feel the council punted and should have just made a decision to stop the process now.

With that being said, I feel the frustration that the money in politics has somewhat destroyed representative democracy. It takes money to run a campaign so you need contributions. More money gives you more access. Then once you are in and want to be re-elected, you want to go back to the same people for more contributions where you have to show the high-donators that their "investment" the previous time is worth repeating. Not sure how we can break this cycle. Minimally there should be some better disclosures. How about requiring all elected officials being required to disclose that they have received campaign contributions from a developer or people indirectly involved on a project before each item goes before the council. Could make this a threshold so not every $25 donation needs to be disclosed but anything over $200 from an individual/company or $1000 combined for project interests. Obviously not completely thought out but we need a way to make the process more transparent.

However, the voters are mostly to blame for not really looking into the candidates prior to voting at an election. Perhaps people are 'too busy'? Perhaps they do not think they make a difference? Perhaps there is not really good way to see the history of the candidates?

Posted by Yes on a vote!, a resident of Danville,
on Jun 3, 2015 at 9:28 am

Some of you scare me. The clearest expression of democracy is a vote by the citizens. We in Danville are currently suing the Danville Town Council (and winning!) to force the Council to give us our legally-required vote (pursuant to a 2000 ballot measure called "Measure S") on a residential development for open space land.

If your Town Council actually wants to give you a vote to advise it what to do, by all means take it! If you refuse, developers will undoubtedly win.

Posted by webbrowan, a resident of another community,
on Feb 22, 2016 at 9:31 pm

webbrowan is a registered user.

I think that whatever plans there are, it's important for all stakeholders to be consulted. Surely if there is a necessity for development or more amenities in the area, residents would be keen and willing to see their properties enhanced by such editions. It's like what we say in car finance, you have to make your customer see the importance and understand why they need to purchase certain add-ons if you ever want to close a sale.

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