Pleasanton Weekly

News - October 14, 2011

Thorne vows to make pension reform a top priority as mayor

Councilman launches 2012 fundraising campaign at Fairgrounds breakfast

by Jeb Bing

Councilman Jerry Thorne has launched his fundraising campaign for mayor of Pleasanton with a pledge "to be your mayor all day, every day," promising to focus on the needs of the city and not on partisan politics.

"We have far too many elected officials in public office who are very good at self-promotion, pandering, pacification and back-slapping, but can point to very little that they have actually achieved for their constituency," Thorne said.

Speaking at a fundraising breakfast at the Palm Pavilion at the Alameda County Fairgrounds on Oct. 6, Thorne told more than 200 supporters in the room that "my only personal objective is to serve the people of Pleasanton. I do not aspire to a higher office."

First elected to the City Council in 2005 to fill the seat vacated by Councilwoman Jennifer Hosterman, who had been elected mayor, Thorne won the most votes in his first four-year-term election the following year. He was re-elected last year, leading the race from the start, finishing with 14,201 votes, or 33.56 of the total number of votes cast in the City Council race.

Thorne said his years in public service, which included serving as chairman of the city's Parks and Recreation Commission before being elected to the council, along with an extensive background as a business executive, give him the experience to deal with the challenges facing Pleasanton in the months and years ahead.

Pension reform and reducing the city's unfunded pension liabilities would be at the top of that list, he said.

"As most of you are aware, there was a significant change made back in the 2001 time frame that changed the structure of our employee retirement program," he said. "We must return to the pre-2001 pension formulas and employee contribution levels as soon as possible."

"Let me emphasize, however, that that change was not made by our employees," he added. "They are not responsible for this mess. The mistakes were made by state and local elected officials."

"We have to have an employee compensation system that does not consume more than its fair share of our revenues and one that does not leave a huge unfunded debt for future generations to deal with," Thorne said.

Thorne said he wants to set up a system of performance measures that would give the public and the City Council a better indication of how the city is performing both financially and from a community service point of view.

Recent data, he said, shows that the running average for total compensation as a percent of municipal revenue is about 79%. As mayor, he would push to reduce that to no more than 70%. He also said the council's current goal of a 10% reduction in unfunded pension liabilities is too low.

In other areas, Thorne said that as mayor he would:

Streamline the government process to help promote a business friendly environment, improve economic vitality and create more jobs while protecting the overall small town, family-friendly atmosphere of Pleasanton.

Work to reduce the unnecessary delays in considering planned unit developments and environmental reviews, often caused by those politically-motivated who demand continuances, additional consultants and unnecessary studies. "One can bog a proposal down for months and even years by unnecessarily nit-picking an EIR or filing lawsuits for political or 'nimby' reasons rather than legitimate environmental reasons," Thorne said.

Streamline and possibly consolidate government agencies that affect and serve Pleasanton taxpayers, including water and sewer agencies serving the city.

Establish a shared-working relationship between the city of Pleasanton and the Pleasanton school district, including maintenance of sports fields and other services.

Provide adequate and improved traffic corridors so that cut-through traffic does not overburden one neighborhood "because another neighborhood has been more politically active and vocal." This would include the completion of the Stoneridge Drive extension, extending El Charro Road between I-580 and Stanley Boulevard, and the completion of a widened Highway 84 from 580 to its junction with I-680.

Turn the negative aspects of the recent lawsuits surrounding the city's failure to comply with affordable housing laws into a positive by providing a high quality housing for the city's workforce and for the children who grew up here to return to the city where their parents still live.

Review and decide on the future of Kottinger Place and Pleasanton Gardens, two aging senior citizens housing projects in need of rehabilitation or rebuilding.

Improve the grounds of Pleasanton Pioneer Cemetery "to be something we can all be proud of."

Make sure that we have a vital downtown that includes night life while at the same time protecting the traffic and noise concerns of residents who live nearby.

Thorne, who participates in almost every homecoming for Pleasanton military men and women, said that as mayor he would continue serving as the city government's representative in thanking them for their service to the country.

"I have no other job priorities to get in the way of being Pleasanton's full-time mayor, and when I'm needed, I'll be there," he said to loud applause from his supporters.

Also seeking the mayor's post next year is Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio. Planning Commissioner Jennifer Pearce has announced her intention to seek a seat on the City Council.

Termed out next year are Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and City Council members Cindy McGovern and Matt Sullivan.

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