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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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Big money pouring into Livermore referendums

Uploaded: Jan 21, 2020
Three Livermore residents who have largely bankrolled the Friends of Livermore political activities for the last decade are playing the same role in the two ballot measures that citizens will consider this year.

On the March ballot, voters will be asked whether to overturn a development agreement that the City Council approved for a downtown hotel on the eastside of the vacant block where arts supporters once hoped to build a 2,000-seat performing arts center. In November, residents will consider whether to reject the council’s plan for that downtown space that includes a black box theater, a park named for the Livermore Rodeo Stockmen’s Association and high-density housing.

An article by Angela Ruggiero in the East Bay Times Jan. 12 addressed the rather staggering sum of money that the Joan and Lynn Seppala and Jean King have poured into the campaigns. She wrote that three campaign committees have raised more than $1 million in the last three years. Contrary to the grassroots efforts of years past, the signature gathering was largely done by paid workers.

King contributed $417,000 from 2016-2019 according to the article that cited campaign finance results. Joan Seppala contributed $98,000, while her husband, Lynn, chipped in $331,600. Joan is the founder and publisher of the Livermore Independent weekly newspaper.

Although Livermore has a $250 contribution limit for council campaigns, there are no limits on contributions to political action committees such as Friends of Livermore. In fact, the Seppalas, King and other leaders dominated council campaigns in 2014 and 2016. Their favored candidates won in both elections and did so with abundant financial backing from the political action group with huge contributions from King and the Seppalas.

The irony is that the elected council members exercised independent judgement and made decisions that Joan opposed. She’d turned against former councilmen Steve Spedowfski (who didn’t stand for re-election) and Stu Gary (who lost a re-election bid). When it came to the downtown deliberations, every council member had been backed by the Friends of Livermore yet there was no support for its position.

Thus, the referendums.

The article noted that King is chair of the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center and Joan Seppala is president. They are concerned that the council approved plan could remove many parking spaces and hurt the Bankhead Theater that is operated by the group.

In fact, the political actions are in keeping with Joan’s moves over the years. Simply put, she’s classic with it’s her way or the highway. Just ask your choice of City Council members. What’s striking is in 2018, as the Friends turned their backs on Bob Woerner and John Marchand, they struggled to find candidates to run against them. They initially backed Brent Siler and then withdrew that endorsement when controversial racial comments from him emerged on social media. They then embraced Rosemary Bartsch who had dropped out of the race and did not participate in the debates.

It will be interesting to see what happens this fall with both council elections and the downtown ballot measure.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by sjd, a resident of Livermore,
on Jan 21, 2020 at 9:57 pm

What's amazing to me is that they keep all of their contributions in any particular committee just below the "major donor" threshold of $50,000. Yet others complain that the Presidio company has their name on some yard signs - at least they have the integrity to put their name on it.

Posted by Pete, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 21, 2020 at 10:11 pm

Tim, you know the drill well...considering you are/were a paid political consultant. The hotel next to the Bankhead is, perhaps, 135 rooms...the Rose Hotel in Pleasanton has 34-36. You can figure the difference in parking.
Between the hotel, Livermore Cinemas, Bankhead Theater and downtown activities...count the parking. Perhaps your messaging should be better for being a past editor of a newspaper.
Don't be a hack...

Posted by Melissa, a resident of Jensen Tract,
on Jan 22, 2020 at 12:14 am

As a reminder the Bankhead was Joans project and it is a beautiful theatre, but unfortunately it couldn't sustain itself and the city has had to bail it out.

@pete - the city's plan addresses the parking not by having 3 garages in one small block, but but by adding a second garage next to the first on Ist and a second on Livermore ave - thus supporting all of downtown, not just one block of it.

Posted by Pete, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 22, 2020 at 8:47 am

“As a reminder the Bankhead was Joans project and it is a beautiful theater, but unfortunately it could not sustain itself and the city has had to bail it out." Did the City want the Bankhead theater? Is it sustainable now...currently? Visualize today, Livermore without Bankhead. What Community theater across our Country sustains itself without City government support?
I think, Melissa, you are missing point. This article's messaging is clear. Tim Hunt's and Joan Seppala's body of work for our Communities, over decades, has engaged our Communities to assist in solving problems. This article is about the lack of messaging. Why bring up 2000 seat theater? It has nothing to do about today. Say, Wine Country Hotel is currently agreed upon to be built on the current parking area next to the Bankhead Theater and/or behind Sauced Restaurant.
I think the current garage is on Railroad , behind the Bankhead. My message was not endorsing a parking garage, I live in means nothing. Your messaging is a bit confusing...that's all. No disrespect.
Joan, Jean, Lynn and others place their money where it is important to them. It's called investment...! A term Tim Hunt uses a lot...not a bad thing.

Posted by RDJR, a resident of Livermore,
on Jan 23, 2020 at 7:41 am

"Joan, Jean, Lynn and others place their money where it is important to them. It's called investment...!" Investment in their pet projects, which inevitably cost the City tons of money. The Bankhead is not sustainable and they know it. They admitted to needing a tax payer subsidy in the near future. They drop a lot of cash on promoting projects in order to tap into the City's general fund.

The Bankhead project was sold to the residents as never needing a subsidy. I would call $1 rent per year from the City a subsidy. What happens when their donations dry up? They have no sustainable source of revenue, they need an endowment. Yet, they are too busy alienating anyone who doesn't agree with their plans.

They are their own worst enemy.

Posted by Rich Buckley, a resident of Livermore,
on Jan 23, 2020 at 10:41 am

I would like to see six (6) council districts in Livermore plus the mayor's seat instead of our current 4 council seats plus the mayor's seat. Part of the disruption and divisiveness we see coming out in a weaponized city clerks office against the activist residents can all be traced back to the council-members inexperience on the one hand and size of the community on the other hand. We're getting too big for 4 council seats. It's time to increase the count and redesign the districts and bring the council members closer to their constituents.

Posted by Pete, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 23, 2020 at 12:09 pm

RDJR, it has been pointed out to me that there is a Legacy program at the Bankhead...perhaps, inquire about that...knowing full well that this option has been in works for long time...maybe called something else before.
As for a resident expressing her opinions this morning, delivery trucks of every nature, ups, amazon prime, business food drop off etc... what is in store for them...middle of road 1st Street? No one denies it is not complicated. Fix the your citizens.

Posted by Pete, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 23, 2020 at 12:21 pm

Fed Ex, USPS, Costco, maintenance trucks, vendors, art walk activity equipment...goes on and on and on.

Posted by Rich Buckley, a resident of Livermore,
on Feb 6, 2020 at 1:07 pm

In shaping election districts I realize you can't just draw circles. But circles and ovals make good tools to guide the creative process of forming electoral city districts. Judge Treat in the Martinez law suit citing the state's elections code, lists factors that cities shall or may consider when drawing up district maps. They include "compactness, geography, population equality, communities of interest and compliance with federal and state voting rights laws."

According to participating Martinez law suit claimants, "The voters are supposed to choose their representatives. The representatives aren't supposed to choose their voters." We were only given the option of 4 districts. Two more chairs and 2 microphones won't break our budget.

Apparently there is no criteria that directly says "the city is too big for just 4 districts, the council members need smaller districts for better representation." But, if someone said let's go to just 2 districts plus mayor, I think you would immediately see a problem. There's a balance that must be found. We don't seem to have found it.

My town has defaulted on the Pasadena Model of giving everyone a slice of the downtown (old town) and it seems to lead to chaos and divisiveness and we haven't even started yet. We weren't even given the creative shot at considering more districts.

Playing with simple Boolean diagrams and just drawing expanding ovals and circles over our city until we have the entire city divided up with six not four districts, we seem to get closer to the state guidelines in 4 important criteria: compactness, geography, population equality, communities of interest. We should have been given more options I think. The Old Town pops out (give or take) pretty much with its own district. I like that.

It may be scary for elected officials to face this, but I believe we will enjoy greater civility, less chaos and divisiveness, if we grow our council to 6 districts plus the mayor from the current experimental 4 heavily gerrymandered districts plus the mayor and get away from the Pasadena Model. I know the word gerrymander is a trigger word, but here's a link to our official city map Web Link try drawing some circles and ovals yourself I bet you come up with a better plan than 4 districts.

Old town boundaries of post WWII should be its own district more or less. 6 not 4 will get us more.

Posted by Rich Buckley, a resident of Livermore,
on Feb 25, 2020 at 7:18 pm

Rich Buckley is a registered user.

Livermore Voters, Please vote No on P.
Latest Yes on P mailer. It misleads voters by making it look like the 82 lawyers in the Office of Legislative Counsel have endorsed Yes on P interpretation of housing laws and their effect on the Central Park Plan. Office of Legislative Counsel is nonpartisan, and provides legal advice to the legislature and governor as well as assisting legislatures with drafting bills. There is no written report cited in the mailer because the legislative counsel does not take positions on local measures. Our website discusses the application of these laws as we understand them. People can go to to get the facts.

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