PLEASANTON -- Special mail-in only election ballots began arriving this week to Pleasanton voters who will decide among four candidates to fill the remaining two years of the city council term of Jerry Thorne. Thorne was elected mayor in November.
Mark Hamilton, David Miller, Kathy Narum and Olivia Sanwong have all been campaigning for the seat and all mention city growth, pensions and economic growth as key issues the city will face over the next two years. The mail-in only ballots are due May 7.
Here is a look at the candidates:
Mark Hamilton: A Pleasanton resident for 12 years, Hamilton said growth and how the city handles it will be one of his main concerns if he wins election.
Hamilton said the city's current work on its East Side Specific Plan and a number of sites in the city that were rezoned for housing are indicators of the city's impending growth.
A financial services director and a former Marine with 24 years service, Hamilton said the city has to grow but it should be in a way that makes sense for Pleasanton.
"A town cannot not grow," Hamilton said. "My concern is that I don't want to see us look like other towns with unattractive housing. We need to be an attractive place for businesses to come and create an employee base and get more tax revenue."
Hamilton also said the city's pensions will continue to be an issue but that there are a lot of creative ideas and that it does not have to be an all or nothing issue.
Hamilton, who has coached youth and high school sports since moving from Livermore, said he decided to run in the special election instead of the general election in November because of the cost. He said he is funding his own campaign.
"We need independent city council members that have to be able to look back and forth over issues," Hamilton said.
David Miller: For the past four years, Miller has voiced his criticism at city council meetings over its handling of labor negotiations and the city's unfunded pension liability. If elected, he said he will continue a vigilant watch over financial matters.
"The city has made some progress with its unfunded liability and we need to keep an eye on that and keep improving, we still have $160 million unfunded," Miller said.
"We also want to make sure that we uphold our obligations to our city workers. We made these promises and we need to make sure we keep that them."
Additionally, Miller said that if elected he would also focus on helping the city keep local control and will work to curb forced urbanization. Miller noted the annual housing numbers, a goal the city is given by the Association of Bay Area Government -- of which residents don't have a voice in, he said.
Miller said the housing number, which could add up to 10,000 new residents, would also burden the school district with an influx of more students.
"My approach is, we need to raise awareness of what is happening to our community," Miller said. "Once you raise awareness you can start coming up with action." Miller also said he would focus on creating a performance metric system to allow residents to see how well the city is doing its job. He pointed to the city's personnel budget and said he supported Thorne's desire to reduce the city's personnel budget down to 70 percent of its general fund.
Kathy Narum has spent the past 17 years in Pleasanton involved in everything from youth swimming to parks and recreation, the planning commission and running a successful mayoral campaign for Thorne.
Now, after six years on the planning commission, Narum is hoping to make the jump to the council and guide it through growth, pensions and economic development.
If elected, Narum said fiscal responsibility and focusing on increasing city revenues will be her top priority so the city can produce a capital improvement plan to build more parks, maintain current facilities and fix up the cemetery.
Narum said one way to accomplish increasing revenue would be to update and condense Hacienda Business Park's 20-year old planning document to attract more companies. Narum said she raised the idea while on the planning commission and that the city council picked up the idea.
"We need to make the business park as attractive as we can so we are not losing them to Bishop Ranch," she said. "It still has something like 22 percent vacancy rate which is better than it was, but we need to keep improving."
She would also like to see Stoneridge Mall develop its 350,000 square feet that is has approved for additions and to find ways for the strip malls in town to renovate.
Pensions will also be an issue, but Narum said the previous council took steps to improve its situation and said increasing city revenue will be equally as important.
"I love Pleasanton and care about it and want to continue to have it be a great place for people to raise their children, like my husband and I raised our two daughters," she said.
Olivia Sanwong is hoping that if elected to council she will be able to lure other millennials back to town by offering a mix of both residential and multi-family housing.
Sanwong said that the city is not doing enough to retain some of "the best and brightest" its schools are producing and that housing is a key way to help graduates come back to the city after college, as she did.
Multi-family housing located near transportation centers, like the two BART stations, or near Hacienda Business Park would be a good way to offer those in their 20s and 30s housing that is interesting and accessible, she said.
"A lot of my generation likes to live in multi-family housing that has those retail options and that is attractive to early 20s and 30s," said Sanwong, who graduated from UCLA before returning to Pleasanton. "It's especially true if that is built near BART."
Sanwong said she understands the concerns the impact multi-family housing could have on schools but said she would work with the district on a plan.
Historic preservation, particularly in the downtown where Sanwong just bought a home, will also be a key issue for her as well as economic development, growth and pensions.
Sanwong said Pleasanton has been a well-managed city and that its pension situation is a concern but that is also needs to be balanced with a focus on economic vitality.
"We need to continue to watch the bottom line, but we also need to watch top the line and economic growth opportunities," she said. "We are in the middle of the high tech capitol and in this innovative economy we need to focus on that and continue to bring in revenue."