Here's a summary of topics I covered over the last year.
The Arts in San Ramon
In February I described the installation of Shadow Dancers in Athan Down Park. I was fortunate to be at the park with my camera when the artist was literally putting on the final touches.
In March I attended a production of Aida at St. Joan of Arc Church and wrote a preview and review after the show.
In June I attended Hongmei Lu's Artist's Reception at the Lindsay Dirkx Brown Gallery and purchased her painting of English Roses (see photo).
The Lindsay Dirkx Brown Gallery is located in the Community Center. Exhibits change every month. Residents are encouraged to meet the artists and purchase their available works.
Mayor and City Council
2011 started out with Jim Hanafee complaining about having to pay to attend the State of the City Address at the San Ramon Golf Club. Actually the charge was for the lunch, but the State of the City address should be accessible to everyone. So I called the Chamber of Commerce, which was sponsoring the event, and asked them to have it videoed for replay on TV30. The Chamber contacted the City, which agreed to pay the $500 fee and the Mayor's address was broadcast on TV30.
The Mayor and City Council got in trouble again over a Grand Jury Report that was critical of their compensation package. I wrote a defense of the Council, which of course brought out the naysayers to say I'm a stooge for the Council.
I do not support everything the City Council does. I opposed the Council's decision as the Redevelopment Agency when they voted to lease the Mudd's Restaurant property to Restaurateur Michael LeBlanc to build his new L'Heritage Restaurant there. They claimed Mudd's would cost over one million dollars to restore, but when Joe Queirolo asked to have the original architect and builder examine the property, Economic Development Director, Marc Fontes told him there is no report. The building isn't suitable for Mr. LeBlanc and he wants to build his own building there. So now we finally get an honest response, but one that isn't acceptable to me at all.
I didn't write the story on Herb Moniz's salary and I was late getting the story on his retirement, but I did guess who his replacement might be. Greg Rogers was one of three names I speculated would be chosen.
Later in the year I interviewed Chief Building Officer Reggie Meigs on his retirement and the difficulty Cities have finding a qualified Chief Building Officer. Vance Phillips was recently hired to fill Meigs' slot.
Except for openings for retirement or someone moving or leaving for another reason, the City has a hiring freeze and salary freeze. I respect the work of City Staff. Too many residents don't know how much effort goes into making San Ramon such a well-run city and nice place to live. These jobs are not as easy as the Newspaper Editors' who write what they want readers to believe without much concern for facts or harm they cause to the reputations of municipal workers.
DSRSD, ABAG , CCCWP, Cal Trans, SRVUSD
These are acronyms for agencies that provide services in San Ramon. The Dublin San Ramon Services District provides sewer service to south San Ramon and water to Dougherty Valley. ABAG is the Agency of Bay Area Governments that dictates housing requirements to cities in the Bay Area. CCCWP is the Contra Costa Clean Water Program to clean up and prevent pollution of water going into storm drains. Cal Trans designs and builds freeway enhancements required by the State or County.
When elementary schools in Dougherty Valley couldn't accept all of the neighborhood children because of overcrowding, our City government wasn't responsible but still got some of the blame. The San Ramon Valley Unified School District, SRVUSD, planned the schools for Dougherty Valley and Contra Costa County managed its development.
Often our City leaders are blamed for what they must do to comply with these agencies. I provided background on why plans are necessary to meet requirements imposed on our City by so many State and County agencies.
Land Use & Tassajara Valley
A lot of residents were confused by the City's 2030 General Plan to move our City's Urban Growth Boundary into Tassajara Valley and change the zoning on North Camino Ramon to Mixed Use. Many residents were sold a bill of goods by outside organizations that these plans would result in runaway development.
Actually the plan for Camino Ramon was to meet ABAG housing requirements. The plan for Tassajara Valley was to keep Contra Costa Country from runaway development. Neither of these plans, if approved, would have resulted in immediate development by San Ramon. The North Camino Ramon plan was for 20 years in the future, but now Tassajara Valley is facing development plans in the County. Time will tell if the wrong side won.
I was the first writer in the local press to interview all of the candidates for Mayor and City Council. I also endorsed a couple of candidates, one for City Council and one for Mayor, and didn't endorse three others.
I predicted the outcome of both races, but not the point spread. So I suppose if this was Vegas I'd lose my bet. Most of the campaign was civil except for Steve O'Brien's over the top attack on Abram Wilson's FPPC financial report, which I rationally explained. However I could not explain why Abram ran such a lackluster campaign.
I've written some blogs about local Vets, animal rescue groups, and the Spay and Neuter License Plate program. I plan to focus on sending Press Releases about CA Spay Plate.com to major news outlets. Too few people read the Express or my blogs to pre-order enough plates to close the gap.
On slow news days I wrote about myself. I wrote about trying to eat sensibly by buying vegies at the Farmer's Markets or Acai berries at Vitality Bowls or attending a vegetarian lunch.
I wrote about buying a bicycle and trying to ride it. I wrote about my writing and growing older and going gray and forgetting where I put things. Like I said, these were slooo news days.
Being the San Ramon Observer
I don't do this for a living. I'm paid a little money for each blog, but not a salary. I do this because I'm an obsessive person and this is my obsession. It is my mission to learn the facts about whatever is going on and provide useful information to help readers understand it.
I usually don't take sides. I try to present both sides. Most people who take sides find this difficult to understand and accuse me of bias. I won't claim not to be biased, but my opinions and leanings are always based on what I know about the issues, the history, and the people involved and not because I like or dislike something or someone.
I know a lot about San Ramon.I've made a lot of contacts over the 10 years I've been writing the San Ramon Observer. So my preferences are based on knowledge and facts, and not prejudices, hostility, or misinformation.
I believe San Ramon is well-run and has been for the last eight years. It wasn't for the three years before that. I've seen past Councilmembers make a mess of meetings and current Councilmembers make as meetings boring as hell. I hope the new members will keep the meetings running smoothly while making them interesting and informative too.
2011 will be over soon, and 2012 will be starting soon. My first Monday blog in the new year will be my predictions for 2012. See you next year!