Planning commissioner Kathy Narum wins Pleasanton Council seat | May 10, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - May 10, 2013

Planning commissioner Kathy Narum wins Pleasanton Council seat

Receives nearly 40% of 11,655 votes cast in special election

by Jeb Bing and Glenn Wohltmann

Planning Commissioner Kathy Narum was elected to the Pleasanton City Council Tuesday, receiving 4,586 votes or 39.62% of the 11,655 votes cast in the special election.

She finished ahead of David Miller, her closest opponent, by 1,377 votes in the unofficial tally posted by the Alameda County Registrar's office.

The two other candidates in the race for the one open seat on the City Council trailed, with Olivia Sanwong receiving 1,977 votes, or 17% of all votes cast, and Mark Hamilton finishing with 1,861 votes, or 16%.

For Pleasanton, it was an unusual election in that votes could be cast by mail-only or voters could drop their sealed ballots off at the office of City Clerk Karen Diaz in the Pleasanton Civic Center, which more than 600 voters did through 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Compared to the municipal, regional and national elections last November, when 47% of registered voters in Pleasanton cast their ballots by mail, the turnout for this election represented just 27.6% of the 42,485 now registered here.

More than 100 supporters showed up last night at Narum's celebration, held at the Hop Yard American Grill & Alehouse on Hopyard Road. Many of them were also at the victory celebrations held after Councilman Jerry Thorne was elected mayor last November and Planning Commissioner Jerry Pentin was elected to the council.

In fact, it was Thorne's election as mayor that created the council vacancy that Narum will now fill.

Narum's most active opponents, Olivia Sanwong and David Miller, attempted to draw from outside the typical voting pool.

"I was trying to appeal to the voters that didn't think their city government was representing them," Miller said at his post-election party at Sunshine Saloon in Pleasanton.

He said he wanted to make sure important issues were "front and center," including high density housing, "and keeping an eye on our fiscal situation."

Miller also said his campaign hoped to promote "more open and honest government."

Sanwong described her experience as fun, and said she was working to draw in a specific audience.

"I was playing the field," Sanwong said. "I wasn't focusing on the same demographics as some of the other candidates."

She said she hoped that younger voters, especially some of her classmates from Amador Valley High School and some first-time voters, including those from that school's Comp Civics class could sway the vote.

Miller's event drew about 20 people, including former City Councilwoman Kay Ayala. Sanwong's event, held at a private home near where she grew up in Pleasanton, drew about 15, including Pleasanton school board member Joan Laursen.

Mark Hamilton, the fourth candidate in the race, did not have a post-election gathering.

Narum, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from UC Davis, is in her fifth year on the Planning Commission. She has been active in civic events since moving to Pleasanton in 1996.

Prior to her appointment to the Planning Commission, Narum served on the city's Parks and Recreation Commission for five years. She is also past president of the Pleasanton Seahawks swimming organization, a member of the city's East Pleasanton Specific Plan Task Force and is chairwoman of the city's Heritage Tree board of appeals.

She is married to Jeff Narum and the couple has two grown daughters, Jennifer and Lisa, who work on the East Coast.

After college, Narum was employed as a chemical engineer, but with the arrival of the couple's first daughter, she chose to be a stay-at-home mom. As both daughters later started swimming with the Pleasanton Seahawks, she volunteered her time to work with the organization, joining its board of directors and eventually becoming president. At the same time, she became active with city and other civic organizations.

"Through my service in these groups, I've talked with many residents across Pleasanton and gained invaluable knowledge of the issues facing the city and what's important," Narum told her supporters.

She said her top three priorities as a councilwoman will be to promote the city's fiscal sustainability, maintain Pleasanton's high quality of life and preserve and create more parks and open space for all age groups.

She also said that another priority of hers will be to improve and beautify Pioneer Cemetery. The cemetery was acquired a few years ago from the International Order of Odd Fellows by a then-reluctant City Council. The cemetery has no water sprinkler system or caretaker.

With regard to one of Narum's key priorities, fiscal sustainability, she said it's critical "as it ensures the availability of money to reinvest in our community for capital projects and to help maintain our high quality of life."

"Sometimes, when people talk about fiscal sustainability, they only refer to pension reform," she said. "However, there are really two parts to fiscal health and we need to look at both: the expense side and revenues."

"With regards to expense, it's not only pensions we need to look at, but include every line item in the budget," she added. "To only talk about pension reform ignores the revenue side of the city finances, where I believe opportunities could be missed."

She said that the city's unfunded pension liabilities are still a major concern, but that reducing them needs to be done in a way that is both fair to employees and to residents and supports the long term fiscal sustainability of the city.

With regard to municipal revenue, Narum said she will work with the owner of Stoneridge Shopping Center to support its redevelopment to maximize revenues. This would include being proactive in supporting the development of the approximately 250,000 additional square feet for retail that has been approved for the mall.

At the same time, Narum would encourage owners of older shopping centers to look at revitalizing their properties to make them more attractive so that more Pleasanton residents and those from other cities will shop here. That would generate more sales tax revenue and keep property values up which will positively impact property tax dollars, she said.

Narum also wants to review, update and consolidate the planning documents for the Hacienda Business Park.

"These documents have not had a comprehensive review for 20 years," Narum said. "It's important that the management of the business park has the ability to attract prospective companies and respond to their needs with an understanding of the process for getting approval of a city application. This should be done now so that we're ready to respond as the economy improves and we don't lose opportunities."

As part of seeking municipal revenue growth, Narum said the city will need to simplify its permit process where it makes sense.

"We need to keep the focus on this issue so that we continue to challenge ourselves to improve the process, ensure that expectations are clear for all parties involved and avoid unnecessary work where possible," she said. "I certainly understand and appreciate that time is money as all of you do."

As for preserving the high quality of life in Pleasanton, Narum said that means keeping Pleasanton's small-town feel. It's ensuring responsible growth, maintaining the historic downtown, keeping schools great, ensuring public safety and having beautiful parks.

She cited the ongoing work of the East Pleasanton Specific Plan task force that is now considering the best uses for 1,000 acres of mostly undeveloped land east of Valley Avenue and along Busch Road and Stanley Boulevard.

"This task force needs to take into account the desires of all residents in terms of the open space, residential needs and retail and commercial development in a balanced approach and in a way that nearby neighborhoods are not burdened by traffic from any development," Narum said.

She also promised that as a member of the City Council, she will support a strong collaboration between the city government and the Pleasanton school district. This could include sharing of resources for activities away from the classroom and also looking for land for new schools if required.

Narum said she has heard from many in Pleasanton who say they like and want to retain the small-town feel of Pleasanton.

"Nothing says 'small town' more than our downtown," Narum said. "I served on the downtown Hospitality Task Force, which was formed to identify ways to make our downtown more vibrant."

"It's important that residents go downtown for shopping, dining and entertainment to support the businesses," she added. "I support the downtown and will make it a priority to encourage new businesses (there) and to look at ideas to help solve the parking problem in downtown."


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