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Letter from Ralph Hoffmann on CoCo Board of Sups. & the SRVFPD Board 
dated May 18, 2007

Dear Roz,

Looking back through Commentaries (which date back to August, 2002) there are oddly zero comments about the two subject governmental bodies. That's obviously not your fault, but your readers.  They in turn may not be commenting simply because they lack information.  While the jurisdictions of both are larger than the City of San Ramon, San Ramon is contained in District 3, currently represented by Board Chair Mary Piepho, whose large district geographically has about 200,000 population, just as the other 4 Districts.  Voting is by District, with Supervisor Piepho's District as well as Districts 2 and 5 up for re-election in 2008. The SRV Fire Protection District Board also has 5 members, but all are elected at-large, and which also has three seats open in 2008. 

With a majority of their seats up for election in 2008, that election could significantly change faces, and philosophy, of both. San Ramon's population is sizable enough to significantly influence both races.

Having introduced these two subjects, I'll stop for now, to see if any other residents have comments.

Ralph Hoffmann

Editor's note:  Hoffmann ran for the Fire District Board last year.  


Letter supporting Congressman Richard Pombo, dated 10/24/06


Dear Editor,


Congressman Richard Pombo has been taken to task by various interests that have no idea as to how important our land rights are. While we agonize of trivial rights, the most basic right we have or had is our land rights. People talk about the 1st and 2nd amendment, but them mean nothing if you don't have land to build a house on and to enjoy. The Supreme Court has already ruled to take away our home rights to big interests.  Congressman Pombo  is one of the few brave enough to represent the right to own and control the use of one's land.. I plan on doing everything I can to support this unique and honest man. There are too few of them in Congress.




Joseph Rene DuPont

Towanda, Pa 18848


Followup letter from Pat Tuohy, dated 10/10/06


Crow Canyon Specific Plan Discussion


Thanks for finally allowing me to engage in a dialog over this area and its use. This has been missing for years.


Let me say first that I am a firm believer in the wisdom of the marketplace. Real people using their own real money will more likely make good business decisions than will government. So, the owners of property who want to get a better return on their investment will redevelop, provided the city gives them sufficient incentive to do so. The incentive is the allowable uses. However, it may have to be sweetened further with parking exemptions and set-back exceptions so owners can put more building on their lots than they have already.


Rather than focus the housing on Beta Ct. or north of Perdue, I would opt for housing anywhere, wherever it makes economic sense. Remember, it was never intended as a big part of the plan. As long as all the housing is above street level; over retail or over something else at street level, it doesn’t matter to me where it goes. The location becomes the owner’s problem or the landlord’s problem. The less desirable it is the more affordable it becomes.


The city’s interest here is increased tax income, pure and simple. Any redevelopment will increase property value and, consequently, property tax. But an increase in sales tax will prove the redevelopment plan is successful in the long run. The area needs more than the small shops that populate the Village Square. A big time hardware store like Restoration Hardware would be nice on the corner of SRV Bl. & Hooper Dr.   


Maybe someday this area might look and feel like a suburban version of North Beach, with quaint shops and outdoor cafes and beautiful people strolling arm in arm along the wide sidewalks. But, in the foreseeable future, we should look for retail that is more compatible with what is there already. That is why I have suggested a “home improvement” theme and focus. It is there already and it can generate real tax revenue. The stores need to have access and they need to be made aware that we want them.


The whole point of the specific plan process is to have a set of visions and guidelines in place so that when a property owner comes in with an idea to do something with his property, he can immediately see that his idea is or is not in sync with the plan. He should be able to tell very clearly what he can do and cannot do. Do you think we have that clarity with the plan that the Council has in front of them?



Pat Tuohy



Letter from Pat Tuohy, dated 10/5/2006




The Crow Canyon Specific Plan (CCSP) process has been taken hostage by the housing issue and the service commercial automotive business community has served as the militia, distracting attention from the main issues. Virtually all the public hearing time in the several public hearings before the Planning commission (PC) was spent listening to a parade of body shop and auto repair shop owners tell us time and again how important their services are to our quality of life and that they should be left alone to do business as usual.


What was not heard was the voice of the scores of other retailers telling us how difficult it is to run a restaurant or a music store or a beauty salon or a children’s clothing store in the rough and tumble atmosphere that is San Ramon Valley Bl. Some might say they are every bit as important to our quality of life as service commercial. And yet they are made to suffer so others can enjoy lower rents and few rules of neighborly conduct.


Let’s remember why the CCSP was undertaken in the first place. It was to clean up the area and increase tax revenue from the area. The area contains more than a million square feet of commercial space and yet it produces little tax revenue. And the majority of that comes from Morgan’s Masonry. The CCSP is intended to provide incentives to property owners to re-invest in their lands and, by doing so, create more commercial opportunities and increase property value and tax revenue; both property tax and sales tax. True, the City needs the service commercial business community for the services they provide. But we need tax revenue as well.


The rest of the CCSP commercial discussion still needs to take place. For one thing, the Plan steers development in the direction of large developments on larger land parcels. There is no evidence that such a developer is interested or that property owners are interested in selling out. More discussion should take place on a “Plan B scenario” where current owners want to develop on property they already own. I, for one, remain unconvinced that we have provided enough incentives for owners to do anything at all.


It is time for the service commercial lobby to rest its case and sit down and be quiet. There is much more that needs to be discussed.


Patrick Tuohy


Crow Canyon Specific Plan

Advisory Committee

Letter from Maureen Behrend, dated September 27, 2006

Ms. Behrend is a member of the Housing Advisory Committee


Roz - I had been so pleased by your support of the new housing going in in San Ramon.  I work for a non-profit that tries to assist folks in finding housing that they can afford, and also has successfully advocated for 258 low and very low income units that have families living in them this year in all five tri-valley cities.


In August, I cam home after a week's vacation to find nine messages on my answering machine, all families in need of housing.  It seems with the start of school, folks needed to find a permanent place.  Almost all of them had jobs.  Two were students as Las Positas.  Some just needed help with food, some with move in costs, some just needed to know where the openings were.


One woman was helped by a local church I referred her to and sent a lovely thank you note for the help she received.  All expressed their gratitude when I spoke with them earlier this week.


I would suggest to the woman that was so misguided in her assumptions of who would be moving into the affordable units in San Ramon, that she discover a sense of gratefulness for all that she has been given, and for her own abilities that have gotten her to the place she is now in her life.


That, and just taking a few moments to breathe in the air, look out at our hills, get to know her neighbors, go for a walk.


San Ramon is truly a great place to live and to be all that it takes to be a good neighbor.


Letter from Ralph Hoffmann, dated 9/18/06 
Hoffmann is a candidate for the SRV Fire Protection District Board of Directors

Dear Roz,


I agree with every word you said about Housing Snobs.  Another name for them are NIMBYs, an acronym which I know needs no expansion for you.


On a separate subject I'd like to bring up, is the fact that our San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District (SRVFPD) Board of Directors functions in near secrecy.  Board meetings are never announced in advanced, nor are the results of the meetings reported in our SRV print media.


Instead, a slick, glossy newsletter is published twice per year, with the Fall issue timed to reach voters of our 130,000+ population valley, just before the November election.


It's not that there aren't any issues about which voters shouldn't be concerned.  For an eye-opener, take a look at my Smart Voter Web Site,




on your home, or local library computer.


Board meetings are normally held on the fourth Wednesday of each month, beginning at 7:00 pm.  At the August Board meeting, the Board voted to move the September meeting to the third Wednesday of the month, however this was not mentioned by any print media.  Intentional?  This action was taken by the Board after the Closed Session, at the end of the meeting, when the few members of the public had left.  Technically, no laws were broken, as the meeting agenda was posted outside the Administration Building, 72 hours in advance, where few see it.




Ralph Hoffmann

1011 Hartz Way, Apt. 207

Danville, CA 94526-3455



Letter from Alice Ladd, Boulder, CO, dated 8/30/06

I am appalled at the way leagues for children are handled in San Ramon and probably in many areas.  This should not be about  experience - it should be about sportsmanship, learning, even having a wonderful time.  Is the trophy more important than the experience??  Apparently so. 

Your teams accept children and they practice with the team, even attend the jamboree and then they CUT players.  We are talking about 8 year old children.  The lame excuse of lacking experience seems a totally inappropriate excuse - what a load!!  Isn"t that why they are playing - for experience and to learn how to play? 


Teach him the game - give him the experience.  Isn't that what  it is all about.  When you are 18 and you  get cut it is a learning experience - when you are 8 it says you are not good enough and that is heartbreaking!  You should be ashamed to let coaches or fathers conduct leagues in this manner.  SHAME ON SAN RAMON!!


Alice Ladd, Boulder, CO 

I asked Ms. Ladd what teams and leagues she was talking about.  Here's her follow-up letter.

My comments were mainly regarding little boys football leagues in San Ramon.  Accepting players for practice and then cutting them teaches them a poor lesson.  ( 3 boys cut this week after practicing and participating in the jamboree) They are a little young to feel they are not good enough!!  However, the competitive soccer teams in San Ramon do their choosing by drafting players.  I have seen unbelievable influence by parents who get their children on a team while others are passed over.  Even girls that have played for several seasons and then are not drafted and cannot play.  Just seems the system is totally out of perspective.  The adults and communities that put up with this are disgraceful.

Letters on Rezoning & Redevelopment

Letter from Rena Waterson, dated May 18, 2006



Thanks for your commentary regarding Mr. Perkins' suggestion to place no restrictions on City parks and the building of future heliports.  While I may disagree with your line of thought regarding the safety of helicopters, I agree with everything else. 


Just today, a horrible car accident occurred at the intersection of Alcosta and Bollinger.  A number of people were critically injured and required air transport to Trauma centers.  We had two helicopters circling our neighborhood for 15-20 minutes.  This initially did not bother me because I knew there was a medical emergency. 


As the time they circled increased, it became bothersome.  I can't imagine this occurring on a daily basis near our neighborhood and Central Park in order to accommodate executives at Bishop Ranch. They were very loud and the jet fuel smell was offensive.   


What I have the most trouble with is how  Mr. Perkins can differentiate between children at a school and children in a park.  Children are children.  We currently have twice the number of parks as schools in San Ramon.  These parks should be granted the same protection as the schools. 


There are areas within the Bishop Ranch complex that can accommodate a heliport if it is deemed necessary.  It will just take a little more homework and planning to get this done.  Why not satisfy everyone and put the heliport away from our kids...I hope we can communicate this to the Council next week.




Rena Waterson


Letter from Harry Sachs, dated April 27, 2006

Hey Roz,


Your coverage of recent events is better than the papers, that's not a kiss-up, that's a fact! Keep up the good work and feel free to put this commentary out, you know, fair and balanced!


Roz- It is with constant amazement that I listen to those residents lamenting that San Ramon will become Concord-like or that developers will swoop in and buy our golf courses should the City Council approve the Planning Commissions proposed zoning ordinance changes and General Plan amendments. 


Those who question the golf course zoning reclassification are simply and blatantly misrepresenting this proposal to scare residents.  Golf courses are not parks and recreation centers.  They are businesses.  You show up and pay to use the facility.  You can even hold a banquet or wedding at a golf course.  You can hold civic fund-raisers and charity events there.  You cannot reserve the 18th fairway of any golf course for your 3 year old's birthday party.  You cannot bring your toddlers to the golf course and let them fly kites or blow bubbles on the fairways.  You can do these things at a park, of which San Ramon has many; I take my 3 year old daughter Catherine to Boone Acres and do these activities often. 


So changing the zoning from parks recreation to commercial recreation is appropriate and adding the Planning Commission's limitations for expansion to the golf courses simply makes this proposed change a non-issue.  Period.  Maybe the dissenters should dust off their golf clubs and just go play some golf, or are they the type of people who buy homes next to golf courses and then get ticked off when others actually go golfing on THEIR golf course.


As for the "No more growth, no more traffic " crowd,  ok, let's assume their desire.  San Ramon does not build another housing unit, they would have to suspend the city housing element and disregard the voter approved general plan but assume it for their sake.  (Fantasy is kind of fun sometimes, right?) San Ramon does not add another new retail entity or construct any new office space. So what happens?  Several things.


Along with these assumptions come certain realities.  No new revenue if there is no new growth.  Yet, the cost of providing services goes up yearly.  You know the people who pave the roads, mow and keep the aforementioned parks nice, and the various landscaping around town neat and trim.  In the no growth world they would never get a pay increase.  The city staff who manage the city, from planning to passport services to building permits, they never get a pay increase.  Don't think about replacing playground equipment or updating city infrastructure.  Parks and recreation services cannot expand.  Why?  Because if you leave your annual revenue static and do not grow your revenue, you cannot expand services provided and given the fact that there is this little thing called inflation which affects not only goods and services, but labor unit costs, you will start to see city services cut back.  Or not.  YOU CAN ALWAYS RAISE TAXES AND FEES TO MAINTAIN YOUR SERVICE LEVELS! 


Not just the minimal increases in fees that happen every couple of years, like the lighting and assessment fee increase we will be voting on soon, $59 to $79 per annum.  No, much larger and more often than that.  Add the Dougherty Valley growth and unfunded mandates from the county  on top of what I've mentioned and you have a worrisome financial outlook for San Ramon if we go "no-growth"


The fact is, San Ramon has two futures, the no-growth higher taxes and fees future or the managed growth sustained quality of services future we currently enjoy.  Adding new retail provides new sales tax revenue.  Adding housing units provides new property tax revenue.  Realizing municipalities do not keep every penny of new revenues, San Ramon must grow to sustain.  The proposed zoning changes allow for some growth.  The growth is not exactly sprawl either.  It's infill development a.k.a. "smart growth" .  The kind of growth respected and responsible environmental advocates such as Jim Blickenstaff have been advocating for years.


So let's think about the future of our city in real terms before we start demanding a change to a fantasy world that's not sustainable. 


Harry Sachs

Economic Development Committee

Proud Pro-Growth Advocate


Letter from Robert Smith dated March 26, 2006 (my answers or comments are in blue)

Thank you for your well written article.  I totally  agree with your viewpoint on the 4th Amendment and the redevelopment of the Crow Canyon specific area.


Additionally, I strongly oppose the proposal of the rezoning of our City's two golf courses.   We still do not have documentation of how or when this proposed commercial recreation zoning came to be.    Originally, the Planning Commission said it was recommended by a Committee comprised of an appointed group of citizens.  After talking with various people who served on that committee,  we were  advised  that they never  discussed rezoning the golf courses. (see the letter from Joe Miller below)


The City Planning Commission then told us that the rezone of the golf course was passed by the City Council in 1995.   After reviewing the Planning Commission  and City Council minutes of the 1995 meeting where they said the golf course rezone was passed,  there is no mention of the golf courses that I can find  in those minutes.  I would think that 250 ACRES being approved for rezoning should be mentioned in the document that supposedly approves its rezoning.  I don't recall the Planning Commission ever saying that. I didn't move here until 1997 so maybe something was discussed in 1995, but the zoning couldn't have been changed then because state law requires a public hearing for zoning changes, and that would have to be in the minutes of the meeting. Also the new zoning was introduced in the General Plan in 2002. The changes to the Zoning Ordinance now are to comply with the zoning designations in the General Plan. If the golf course zoining had been changed in 1995, it wouldn't have to be changed now.

Our Planning Commission's proposed golf course overlay solution within this Commercial Recreation .35 FAR zone, does not change the fact  that overall, our two golf courses will be  zoned  Commercial Recreation .35 FAR. If a .10 FAR OVERLAY within a .35 Commercial Recreation zone is needed to protect our golf course,  why rezone it to .35 FAR Commercial Recreation in the first place?  Why submit a mistake to our City Council to approve? Again the only reason this is being done now is to make the Zoning Ordinance comply with the General Plan. The FAR (Floor Area Ratio, or how much building area is allowed per acre of land) does seem high for a golf course.  The need now is to get the Zoning Ordinance updated. Then if there are some changes to be made to individual zoning, these can be done through a General Plan Amendment.


There are many different types of Recreational  zoning:  specialized recreation, open recreation, day recreation,  night recreation,  outdoor recreation, indoor recreation,  recreation,  park, open space, etc.... 


Commercial Recreation  is a commercial designation that  encompasses too broad of a spectrum of land uses.  Golf courses are normally zoned within a .10 Floor Area Ratio to protect the open space.  Our City was right the first time around in having it zoned as such. I agree with you that the FAR should be reduced for the golf courses. Since staff came up with a Golf Course Overlay, it seems that could become a Zoning designation in itself. I understand the reasons why the City does not want golf courses zoned Parks.  Perhaps after the Zoning Ordinance is approved, the golf courses can be rezoned separately with a Golf Course zoning.


Roz, I would appreciate if you could post  any documentation that you may have authorizing the change in our golf course zoning.  More importantly, we need  a better understanding of the logic and reasoning of why it was necessary to increase the building intensity of our golf course zoning from a .10 FAR to a .35 FAR.  Thank you. 


Robert Smith


My reply:  I wrote a Commentary on the history of the General Plan and Joe Miller, who was on the Land Use Committee sent a reply.  Joe's letter answers a lot of these questions about how the golf courses were rezoned. 

 Letter from Joe Miller, dated February 9, 2006

I was also on the Land Use subcommittee of the General Plan Review Commission and I can assure you the "change" of designation (and  associated FAR limits) of the golf courses wasn't a concerted effort by Jerry Cambra to expand total parks acreage. The actual change on the zoning maps was done by the consultant, Michael Dyett, at the direction of  City Staff managing his contract as the overall "expert" coordinator of  the process.  The actual land-use classification (Commercial  Recreation) was one of ten classifications (see page 4-11 and 12 of the  GP) and it's where the golf courses belong.  


There were many, many  sites around the City that the subcommittee visited and discussed in detail in its meetings, but the golf courses weren't among them.  The  Commercial Recreation classification is not unique for a city San  Ramon's size. We relied on the consultant for many fine grained details that  were required to create a proper and fully sufficient document to meet  the legal requirements associated with the Plan draft presented for voter approval. 


We're approaching the fourth anniversary of the public vote on the  General Plan.  Why has it taken so long to bring City ordinances and  zoning regs in line with it?  If you take a look at page 1-11, the Plan itself stipulated that this zoning alignment work should be completed  within 18 months of Plan adoption.  At this rate, we'll be working on a  new 20 year plan before our ordinances are brought in line... 


Also, I believe you're wrong that any change to the General Plan would require a petition to place the item on the ballot. As evidenced by  the change to the Housing element (for State approval) and the Davidon  proposal, only a 4/5th majority vote is required of both the Planning Commission and Council to effect a change. A public vote on an amendment is not required. 


Measure G (sect. 6) stipulates that the only way to amend the Plan after its adoption is through the multiple public hearing and super-majority voting process on both the Planning Commission and Council. It doesn't mention subsequent modification by voter approval. So, maybe I'm splitting hairs here, but if someone were to propose that the City amend the Plan to return the golf course designation to parks, that would be a waste of time, energy, and funds in my opinion.


And last, you say the Planning Commission and City staff is only "doing  their best with what they have" -- what they have is a damn fine General Plan, representing the hard work of 33 resident citizens over a  two year period and affirmed by 77% of San Ramon's voters on March 2,  2002.


Joe Miller

Letters on San Ramon Speaks Out Blog


Letter from Bob Patrino

(dated March 14, 2006)




I, like Mary Lou and most other's who serve our City, have received my share of threatening and abusive emails and phone calls. We also endure public harassment in many forms. In most cases, its our own private burden to bear, and we only talk about it in private between ourselves. We consider our service to our community a privilege, and these rare abuses are the cost of being able to serve.


While I will read everything sent to me, anonymous or not, I don't take these "nameless" submittals very seriously. Obviously the author doesn't think it important enough to own the thoughts. As to the internet "privacy" issue, I think that's a bunch of hooey. Maybe the next step is to come to public meetings with a bag over your head, to avoid being identified for fear of losing your privacy?


Bob Patrino

Letter from Former Mayor, Mary Lou Oliver
(dated March 14, 2006)

Dear Roz,


I read with interest the article in the newspaper about the "San Ramon Talk/s" sites, and thought I would check them out to  see what issues were of interest to the community.  I will state up front, that I give no credibility to any comments that have no author.  I could find no one taking credit or responsibility for what is posted on the site.  As far as I know, there might be only one person contributing.  I know the newspapers often receive letters from one person using different names. They require names, addresses, phone numbers, and check every letter to make sure that doesn't happen.  Anonymous letters are not  printed and for very good reason. If for a safety issue, a writer's name is "withheld by request,"  someone credible has at least verified the identity of the writer.  Freedom of speech doesn't include the ability to avoid responsibility for what is said. I will defend the right of anyone to state his or her opinion just so long as he or she is willing to be prepared to take ownership and defend it.  


I agree with Scott Miller in his letter to the Observer, except I don't give as much credibility to anonymous comments as he does.  As a former city council member I received many abusive and offensive anonymous letters during the twelve years I served.  Some were threatening, and some were truly obscene.  I'm sure those same people would never have the courage to say such things in a public meeting or even to me personally. 


I also felt it was  tacky not to include the Observer in its links.  Roz, I probably disagree with you as often as I agree, but I respect your dedication to San Ramon, your right to comment and your  willingness to listen to all sides.


I would also be curious to read what others think about anonymous blogs.


Best Regards,


Mary Lou Oliver



Letter from Scott Miller

(dated March 12, 2006)


I respect people's right to remain anonymous.  However, I take signed comments a lot more seriously than unsigned comments.  How do we know that someone posting to a blog or other forum even lives in San Ramon? 
The same applies to flyers distributed in neighborhoods about issues such as the rezoning of the golf courses.  My in-laws live behind the San Ramon Golf Club (or whatever the name is this week).  They asked me what I knew about the issue and showed me an un-signed flyer.  Who are these people and why are they afraid to identify themselves?
I sign everything I write or distribute and I'm not afraid of the criticism that might come in response to my comments.  If you want my respect, tell me who you are. 
Scott Miller

Letters on November 2005 Election

Letter from Ellen Pyle, dated November 1, 2005

Glad to see you are throwing your support to someone other than Dave Hudson.  I was appalled at his comment in the paper that Scott Marshall quoted that the even year election results weren't a huge majority.  Last I remember, in a democratic society majority rules be it 50.1% or 99.9%.  Dave is letting his real side show.  He has lost his way in doing what is best for the City and what the voters want and is now acting to his own agenda.  When a seasoned councilmember and past mayor shows such disdain for the voters voice, I say his 15 minutes of fame should end!
Ellen Pyle

Letters on Mayor's Terms and Duties

Request from Harry Sachs, datad June 11, 2005

Mr. Sachs would like to retract the statement in his first letter, dated June 8, 2005, that the Mayor's Task Force supported the extension of the Mayor's terms. 

It appeared to me (Roz) that Mr. Sachs corrected this in his second letter, dated June 9, 2005, but he requested a retraction, so I am posting that here. 

Letter from Sam Lemon, dated June 10, 2005, in response to all the rest

So the Mayor wants to have more power. And this comes as a surprise??


    Hizzoner is now entering the last lap of the first 2 year term for an elected Mayor in the history of the City, and already we have a request for a longer term, trumping the actions of the City Council and usurping the authority of the City Manager in cases of emergency. Not a good sign.


    When standing in front of a mirror, The Mayor may smile approvingly and say. "I am the People's Choice". In one sense, that is true. But being elected Mayor does not make him the Commander of the City and does not bestow on him a superior role to his City Council peers. He was elected as "First among equals"  --  nothing more. There is only so much power to go around at City Hall, and to grant greater power and authority to the Mayor means that authority has to be taken from the City Manager or the City Council  -- or maybe both.  And either option flies in the face of the City's Charter that has served us well for 23 years.


    For many elected officals, it is almost impossible to resist the temptation to make decisions they are not authorized to make, or to seize authority not properly granted or to assume roles not legally recognized. Whenever there is a need to "do something", there is that great urge to "act" regardless of little details like, "are we empowered to do this"?  Sometimes the best decision of all is to "leave well enough alone". When there is a proposal to reorganize or re-distribute power, there has to be a reason. A good reason. And absent a very good reason, perhaps it is best to "leave well enough alone".


    Dissatisfaction with the status quo has an easy answer. Live within the current system, or don't run for office. Is that so difficult??


Samuel O. Lemon Jr.


 Letter from Harry Sachs, dated June 9, 2005, in response to Diane Schinnerer and Mary Lou Oliver

Roz: I wanted to clarify my letter about the Mayor's term limits.  I wrote that the Mayor's Task Force "DID state" that the term of the Mayor should be four years not two.  I should have said that the issue was discussed and that there were a few voices around the table that agreed but again, given that it meant revising the City Charter, it wasn't within the Task Force's purview.  I judged at the time of this discussion that some members seemed agreeable to the idea of making the term four years. 

I made it sound as though that was an established position of the Mayor's Task Force and that would be untrue.  I should have chosen my words more carefully and apologize for creating a false impression.  Diane and Mary Lou would stand correct. 

Nevertheless, I do believe that the Mayor should have a four year term.  Otherwise, it is a subordinate position on the City Council.  The Mayor cannot appoint citizens to committees, veto Council measures, or appoint a Vice-Mayor.  He/she gets one vote like the four council members, yet must face the voters twice as often?    There is no logic to that.

A mayor with a four year term cannot cause, by the length of term, a budget crisis.  The Mayor does not submit a budget, that is done by the City Manger through staff.  If the Mayor cannot veto a budget then at the worst a Mayor with a four year term can simply be a lone yes or no vote on a budget issue.  It takes 3/5 vote to pass a city budget.  Extending the Mayoral term to four years does not have any connection to budget deficits or surpluses. 

Yes, San Ramon had a previous Council majority who did not serve San Ramon well and wasted close to $3,000,000 on recreating a City Center plan and firing, for no good reason, a City Manager.  But it took three votes to do that damage.  Blame the voters then.  Put forward candidates who share your philosophies about city government.  Support candidates that, when elected, will form a Council majority that you can applaud (like the current Council).  The Gang of Three was created at the ballot box.  Extending the term of the Mayor to four years can no more prevent another Gang of Three then changing the years of city elections can produce more democracy! 

I know that there are many folks who have differing views on this issue and I for one appreciate the sincere and forthright manner in which the opinions will be presented. 

Again, I want to apologize for my mis-choice of wording on my previous letter. 


 Letter from Mary Lou Oliver, dated June 9, 2005, in response to Harry Sachs' letter below

Mrs. Oliver was Mayor of San Ramon and is a member of the Mayor's Duties Task Force


Dear Roz,


In going back through my notes, and briefly scanning the minutes,  I don't recall the Task Force taking a voted position on the terms or of the term limits of the elected mayor.  I personally think the public is quite capable of placing term limits on an office holder if that person isn't doing a good job, but again that is just my opinion and we didn't take a vote on the issue to my recollection.


I do remember the discussions of four years vs. two years for the   mayoral term, but again, I  don't find any evidence that either a vote was taken or a consensus reached. If the issue had come to a vote, I certainly would have argued strongly that the voters approved a two year term, and we should respect that until the voters saw a need for a change.  I do remember that every time the issue was   raised in the meetings, it was stated that the issue was not in the purview of our charge. There is a record of those comments in the minutes.  The subject of a mayoral veto was not considered to be a matter of our charge either.


Our charge was to establish a definition of the duties of the mayor as they existed on January 1, 2001.  I believe Mr. Sachs is incorrect in his position that the Task Force took a position on the term length or term limits.




Mary Lou Oliver

Letter from Diane Schinnerer, dated June 8, 2005, in response to Harry Sachs' letter below

Mrs. Schinnerer was the first Mayor of San Ramon and is Chairperson of the Mayor's Duties Task Force

Dear Roz,

Harry Sachs is inaccurate when he states that there was concurrence among the Mayor's Task Force on extending the mayor's  term of office to four years.  The committee, while discussing the four year term issue, concurred that length of term was not included in the charge given to the committee.  My recollection is also that, during discussion about the matter, many on the task force were opposed to a four year term.

My personal opinion is that San Ramon citizens voted for a two year term and the city needs to live with that vote for several terms, and then evaluate the matter.    Pleasanton and Dublin have two year mayor terms, and the only persons interested in changing to four year terms are their mayors.  

San Ramon has its first elected mayor after two turbulent and divisive years.  The question of recall was raised during those two turbulent years.  The consensus of the best minds was that recall divides a community for a period of up to twenty years.  So, if San Ramon was to find itself in a like situation again, recall is not an option, and we would be saddled with a bad mayor for four years.  San Ramon has seen what a divisive mayor can do to the city and the budget.  We need some experience with the two year term before jumping to the conclusion that we need a four year term simply because the mayor does not want to run every two years. 

The question of what to do if the city elects a troublesome and divisive mayor increases tenfold if recall is a bad option.  Remember what happened to the city budget two years ago?  Deficit budgeting is not positive and is not necessary, as seen when the council majority and mayor were changed.

Let's not rush to the ballot with this after only one term of an elected mayor. 

Diane Schinnerer

Letter from Harry Sachs, dated June 8, 2005

Mr. Sachs is a member of the Mayor's Duties Task Force

Dear Roz:

I would actually like to concur with Mayor Wilson's proposals to review the recommendations of the Mayor's Task Force.  I think the Mayor has an excellent point for extending the term of the position to four years and eliminating the term limit that exists. 

Contrary to Mary Lou Oliver's quote in the CC Times, the Task Force DID state that the Mayor's term should be extended to four years and the term limit removed.  I was the one who pushed this issue at two separate meetings including the last at the Council chambers, but it was decided that because those recommendations would require a change in the City Charter and thus an election, that such change was out of our purview.  But quite certainly, those around the table agreed that the Mayor should have an equal term of office with the Council members.  

I raised two issues within the Task Force: veto power for the Mayor and the Mayor choosing the Vice-Mayor.  On both these discussions most around the table thought that this would lead to a divisive Council.  I disagreed and argued that you logically could not assume a consequence of such an action. Yes it could happen, but it also could work well. Look back at past City Councils, even before the Gang of Three, and there was divisiveness and rancor. Proof is San Ramon not having a City Center plan for the past decade and the Crow Canyon Specific Plan still being in the vision stage for many years.  My argument was and will continue to be that a strong Mayor who has leadership skills and a vision could have, and can still get these projects on track. 

I do believe that the Task Force did a good job in defining the everyday duties of the mayor.  We tried to make it clear that the Mayor was an official spokesperson for the City and that his/her actions and words needed to reflect that.  But that was the extent to which the Task Force wanted to go.  It was argued that the status quo has served San Ramon for the past twenty years and that there really was no need to change; this was City Attorney Athan's favorite reply when we seemed to stray.  But looking forward for San Ramon's future as a changing and growing city in need of strong leadership, the Mayor's Task Force seemed strongly reluctant to expand the duties of the Mayor.  I think we missed an opportunity.    

 Personal Letters to the Observer

 Letter from Sparky George, dated May 31, 2005

Letter to the Editor:


The Second Annual Hats Off America Muscle Car, Hot Rod and Art Fair was successfully staged Saturday and Sunday, May 21 and 22 in San Ramon. The event raised $5,675 net of expenses to further the mission of Hats Off America to provide additional death benefits for the families of soldiers who have died in the Afghanistan and Iraq operations, and to assure them that they are not alone.  Hats Off America would like to thank the, donors, sponsors, musicians, vendors, nonprofit agencies, the City of San Ramon, car exhibitors, and all the people who attended and participated.

Hats Off America, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization was created by Sparky George, owner of Classic Auto Restoration and Repair in San Ramon, a Vietnam veteran and the “Bear Flag Runner,” to provide financial support to the families of military personnel killed in the line of duty while serving the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. 





Sparky George

Hats Off America

(925) 855-1950


Letter from Vera de Klerk, dated March 2, 2005


Dear Rosalind,


I just received an email from a friend notifying us that her son was invited to a Council meeting to be recognized for a paper he had recently read. My husband and I are now missionaries in Belize Central America, hosting teams from around the world and ministering in a very dark village both spiritually and morally.  We have been feeling quite disconnected from our home town of San Ramon, but my spirits were lifted when my friend sent me this and I was able to connect and find out what's happening back in San Ramon. Many of the names mentioned are quite familiar to me, as I was a very active Executive Board Member for 3 terms with the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce.  With all that being said we would like notification when you do have updates, we are able to return home perhaps once or twice a year if we have the time.  Being that we host Christian teams we need to be here almost year round, so our visits are becoming fewer each year.!


Blessings, Vera (formerly Rube) and Basil de Klerk (also formerly a Business owner and San Ramon Retailer of the year back in the early 90's, my husband owned a business called Creative Expressions and printed quite a few of the events and needs for the San Ramon City Officials)


Belize Mission & Retreat

Founders Basil and Vera de Klerk

P.O. Box 2640

Belize City, Belize

Central America

Cell - 011-501-603-9004

Mission Base - 011-501-220-8023

email: turtleshores@lincsat.com

Check out our website, www.belizemission.org



Matthew 5: 13 - 16

". . . Let your Light so shine so that your Father In Heaven will be glorified. . ."

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