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By Tim Hunt

Chamber's community vision sets road map for policy advocacy

Uploaded: Aug 2, 2018

When retiring Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce CEO Scott Raty reflects on his most recent tenure here, he quickly points to the community vision that the chamber has developed.

Chamber leaders and stakeholders put together the first vision for Pleasanton in 2008 after Raty returned to the helm following a stint leading the Hayward chamber. While he was in Hayward, he was exposed to the vision process that the Modesto chamber utilized, and he copied it for Hayward.

Upon returning to Pleasanton, he convened chamber leaders to start the process. He pointed out the Pleasanton that exists today did not happen by accident -- it was careful planning over many years.

The vision establishes measurable objectives across a variety of community attributes such as the economy, public safety, infrastructure and education. What's refreshing about the process is it doesn't involve bringing in expensive consultants. Instead, teams of chamber members interview the local experts in each area such as the city manager, the school superintendent, the police and fire chiefs, and leaders in the arts, health care and human services.

Through those interviews, the measurable goals were developed and became the roadmap in 2008 for chamber policy advocacy. The process was transparent with copies published and available to anyone. Those goals also served as the evaluation grid that the chamber's political action committee (the BACPAC) used to consider whether to endorse and actively support candidates.

When Scott and I had agreed to sit down, knowing that Weekly editor emeritus Jeb Bing already had interviewed him, we decided to focus on this area. I started with the political angle, but Scott quickly turned the conversation to the vision plans and process.

"The chamber's niche is to be a catalyst and convener around all areas of community excellence," he said.

The introduction of the Vision 2020 points out why the chamber cares and why the community should care -- business produces more than 60% of the local taxes in a community that is widely recognized as an excellent place to live, work and raise a family. The 2008 plan, "Vision 2015," included 45 measurable objectives. When it came time to update it, 37 of the 45 objectives were ranked as either full or partial achievement -- eight showed no progress.

That's a pretty good batting average.

With that vision, Raty and other business leaders set out to convince a majority of the Pleasanton City Council that every vote was not required to be 5-0. That view was the prevailing view and resulted in Councilman Matt Sullivan effectively exercising a veto over any action.

Once Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and council members Cheryl Cook-Kallio and Jerry Thorne agreed that it was OK to move important issues forward on 3-2 votes, that opened the door to critical improvements such as connecting Stoneridge Drive in east Pleasanton with Jack London Boulevard.

To keep issues on the table, the chamber holds monthly 2020 Forums to bring together diverse interests and stakeholders to understand issues and decide how to move forward.

The objectives can be big and can be relatively obscure such as updating the city zoning code (Part 1 done, Part 2 underway). Others are major such as the Downtown Specific Plan that is underway and the completion of the Fairgrounds Master Plan.

The Vision 2020 report also includes 13 measures to gauge the local economy -- all are back or above the pre-recession levels.

When it comes to infrastructure, there are primarily regional issues such as Highway 84, interstates 580 and 680, and BART to Livermore. It does list local infrastructure such as the long overdue second bridge at Bernal Avenue at the Arroyo de la Laguna to eliminate that bottleneck.

In the areas of arts, culture and recreation, it calls out the completed improvement at the dog park and Wayside and Delucci parks as well as the improvements to the Pioneer Cemetery. Still lacking are the comprehensive east side plan as it relates to housing, infrastructure and trails.

Concerning education, it identifies that Pleasanton students continue to achieve and ranking high nationally and statewide. That requires qualified educators and embedded ongoing professional training. It also calls for increased collaboration between the school district and Las Positas College, as well as local industry requirements. Of course, cutting edge STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).

Key measurables in public safety measure Pleasanton remaining on the list of the safest cities of its size with public emergency response at four minutes or less and non-emergency response at 20 minutes. Scott noted that, even during the recession, Pleasanton residents and businesses could expect a uniformed response in those windows -- that's not the case in many cities, particularly on non-emergency calls.

For firefighters, it was a seven-minute or less response time.

One of the highlights for the 2020 Vision was when City Manager Nelson Fialho directed his staff to include some of those measurables in the City Council's two-year work plan -- the priority list for city staffers.

The financial support comes from the chamber's Circle of Influence, large companies who pay substantial dues that allow the chamber staff to focus on public policy instead of events and fundraisers. The 2020 Vision was backed by 21 organizations.

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