In most major elections polls are taken to see which way voters are leaning at any particular time. We've all heard about the "Front Runner," in the Republican Primary, and the candidate shuffle of Bachmann to Perry to Romney to Cain. Polls are expensive and even with our $43K expense limit, there are no polls that I know about to see who is ahead in the Council or Mayoral races.
Scott Perkins called Measure W a "poll," that showed 71% of voters were dissatisfied with the Council's position on Measure W. Perkins listened to that poll and has modified his positions on changing the UGB and growth issues that came up as a result of the defeat of Measure W. Some of the other candidates have not been as sensitive to the winds of change sparked by the opposition to Measure W.
Two candidates are running as "outsiders," Phil O'Loane who boldly proclaims he is "not a politician," but he was the "Co-Chair on the No on Measure W campaign," and Bill Clarkson, who sent out a list of things he doesn't agree with the City Council on.
Abram Wilson, on the other hand, could be considered a "politician," since he's the only candidate who has run for State-wide office twice. He ran for Assembly as the Republican candidate. City Council and Mayor are non-partisan positions. Local offices are not politicized, so despite O'Loane's claim he is "not a politician," neither is Scott Perkins, or Rowley, or Clarkson.
O'Loane emphasizes his job as "Medical Director for a Local Health Care Company." In one of his flyers he's shown going over a notebook with an interested Doctor (who looks something like Scott Perkins to me coincidence?). However as I stated above, City Council is not considered a "political" office, so it's redundant to say "I'm not a politician," because nobody else running (except Abram) is a politician. Politicians are unpopular with voters this year, so it's politically advantageous to say you are not one.
Abram's flyer, recounting "THE FACTS ABOUT SAN RAMON," made me reconsider my opposition to his candidacy. He points out all of the good things about the City under his tenure on the City Council and as Mayor. He has accomplished a lot of good things, and some of the "bad" things, like Herb Moniz's high salary or the sloppy Measure W fiasco, were not major in hurting the City, only in hurting Wilson's credibility.
However, I was very surprised to see some unexpected names on O'Loane's list of supporters. Diane Schinnerer, whose Citizens for San Ramon organization backed Wilson for Council and Mayor, and Judy MacFarlane, who was San Ramon's first and long-time City Clerk, are pictured on O'Loane's mailer. Many of Abram's former supporters, including me, did not want him to run for City Council. Abram has a stubborn streak, and this will hurt him in the election.
So whom do I predict will win in the 3-way City Council race? First I predict Scott Perkins will hold onto his Council seat. The choice between Wilson and O'Loane is more difficult. Phil's literature is impressive, and everyone loves a maverick (well I love a Maverick, but that's my car). Still Abram has a lot of supporters.
I was surprised to see the San Ramon Express endorsing Wilson for Council, but the reasons are convincing. Wilson has been a great champion of San Ramon for 12 years. He's respected locally and regionally. He brought dignity and order back to City Council meetings. If anyone remembers what the meetings were like before Wilson took over as Mayor, they would vote for him again in a heartbeat.
Wilson was a popular Mayor for six years, and only recently has come under fire. Many residents still support him; so it is difficult to predict whether Wilson or O'Loane would win, but I really doubt they would both beat Perkins.
Now the Mayor's race between Rowley and Clarkson is a lot easier for me Clarkson all the way.
Carol sent out a lot of attractive flyers, but the one that caught my eye is where she takes credit for every positive decision made in San Ramon over the last eight years. Most of these were those 5-0 Council votes that some critics cite as "group think," but if these were such great decisions, all five of them deserve the credit.
Carol describes herself as requesting Town Hall meetings, leading the way in forming our own Police Department, helping get the Iron Horse Trail completed, reinstating the Open Space Committee and fighting to add a public member to it. If you notice, Carol's actions in all of these "accomplishments," are to support or request them. The other Councilmembers also voted to accomplish these things. I'm not taking anything away from Carol's accomplishments, but she doesn't deserve all the credit for everything she "helped" accomplish.
Clarkson's experience as a Trustee of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District is more varied, and has its weaknesses too, but Clarkson has been involved in other accomplishments outside of politics. He started the Dougherty Valley Rotary Club, which now is the largest Rotary Chapter in the region.
He was Chairman of the Board of the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce in 2008. I heard one negative comment from a Chamber insider who claimed Clarkson was only out for himself, but isn't that what a Chamber of Commerce is for, to boost your business. If Clarkson had no faults and was always Mr. Perfect, I'd wonder if he was even human.
Clarkson is a well-known area Real Estate broker. He's been selling properties here for 33 years. Scott Perkins told me Bill Clarkson sold him his house 31 years ago. Dave Hudson used to work for Clarkson's Golden Hills agency and dropped his ambitions to run for Mayor when Clarkson announced his candidacy. So they threw Carol Rowley up against him. Oh, I'm not supposed to think that. Carol really wanted to run. Yeah, right.
But regardless of whether she really wants to be Mayor or not, Carol would make a good Mayor. I've said there are no bad candidates in this election. Carol Rowley's Campaign Manager, Carol Lopez, disagreed with this statement when I said it to the two of them at the Grand Opening of the new Police Station. I didn't ask the two Carols who the bad candidate(s) are or why.
The whole campaign has been surprisingly civil. There hasn't been any mudslinging that I've seen. Each candidate puffs up his or her qualifications and why he or she should be elected. I'm happy to see that there have been no overt attacks against the opposition, other than to say they made some bad decisions that "I, the candidate" would not make or would do differently. So that gives voters a legitimate choice, and that's always a good thing in my opinion.
Now let's go back to Measure W and the 71% defeat. Shouldn't that give Phil O'Loane the clear edge in the Council race? In the first place, 68% of registered voters voted on Measure W in 2010. That means 71% of 68% is 47.5% or a minority of registered voters, not a majority of all registered voters.
Also who votes in even year elections everyone. That's one of the arguments against switching to even years in San Ramon. The original City founders, Joe Covello, Diane Schinnerer, and Mary Lou Oliver, actually switched from even years to odd years to separate City elections from State and National elections. San Ramon voters have twice defeated measures to change election years. These were both politically motivated to extend the terms of sitting Councilmembers, but many voters just don't want to change to even years.
The one advisory vote in 2004, which was non-binding and did not propose any method to shorten or lengthen terms, was passed with a little less than 52%, which means a little more than 48% still wanted to keep San Ramon's elections in odd years. Melody Lundgren, who supported even years, and I, who opposed term extensions, spoke together at a City Council meeting requesting that the Council approve going to even years by shortening their terms. The City Council at that time did not act on this advisory vote to go to even years, but in 2008, the Council put another term-lengthening measure on the ballot which was defeated by a little over 51% of the vote. So there appears to be a 2% swing vote who would accept even years if they do not lengthen terms.
So what is so important about the difference between even year elections and odd year elections? One issue is the cost of odd years is much higher, but the visibility in even years is much lower. The belief is City elections are obscured by State and National elections, and only a barrage of advertising, which would cost candidates more, would penetrate the fog. That's in fact exactly why Measure W was defeated by such a large margin of voters.
The turnout for the City Election in 2009, which was only for City Council since Mayor Wilson ran unopposed, was only 23%. The last prior City election in 2005 (2007 was skipped because all candidates ran unopposed) had a turnout of 52% of registered voters, which is higher than usual for an odd year. In Presidential years the turnout is 85% or higher.
This means there's a dedicated core of voters who come out in odd years who are motivated to vote for City Council and Mayor. The voters in 2010 were coming out for the highly contested Senatorial and Gubernatorial races, and incidentally voted against Measure W because of the heavily financed No on W campaign, led in part by Phil O'Loane.
Phil says he's an "Independent Thinker," but he was not independent from the party line spread by Save Mount Diablo and Greenbelt Alliance. Phil says he's opposed to "Uncontrolled Development," but he opposed the North Camino Ramon development plan, which was precisely to control the development of that area. If he was so opposed to that plan, why did he support it when he was on the Economic Development Advisory Committee for four years, or the Planning Commission for another four years. He knew about this plan and voted for it until it was opposed by a few opponents of Measure W and blown up into another reason to defeat Measure W. Where's Phil's independent thinking now?
So 2011 is an odd year election. There is nothing else on the ballot to bring out voters who usually come out in even years. I'm sure the anti-politician sentiment will being out more San Ramon voters than normally vote in odd years, and the big push by opposing candidates for change will bring out their supporters. I don't know if that will be enough to elect the two opposition candidates.
I believe Clarkson has enough support to be elected. I'm not sure the No on W voters will all come out in big numbers for Phil. Wilson still has core supporters for his service as Mayor and activity in the regional Republican Party; so even if this isn't a partisan election, there will be some partisan voting for Wilson. Will that be enough to beat Phil or Scott? I don't know.
I'm predicting Scott Perkins will be reelected to City Council and Bill Clarkson will be elected Mayor. The race between Phil O'Loane and Mayor Wilson will be closer. If O'Loane's political machine (for a non-politician) brings out enough supporters, he could beat Wilson by a narrow margin.