Campaign promises. Politicians always make them but seldom keep them. That said, here are three campaign promises every candidate for Oakley City Council should make before November, and keep!
Promise 1: We promise never to secretly, illegally, and unethically gift a city employee at public expense. The attempt by the City Council last October to give City Manager Bryan Montgomery an early Christmas present with a $366,500 taxpayer-funded mortgage bailout, this to a man making $200,000 a year who had purchased another home after having his mortgage payments previously excused by the Council, was an embarrassment to the city and a stunning indictment of the Council's attitude toward taxpayers. All but Councilman Pope, who voted against it despite intense pressure from the others, tried to slip the gift past the public, and would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been caught at the last minute by a Contra Costa Times reporter. The fact that the mortgage bailout to the flush city manager happened while people all around Oakley were losing their homes to foreclosure, tells you all you need to know. Montgomerygate, perpetrated by the city manager and council, was such a betrayal to the taxpayer that it should render all involved unsuitable for office. It must never happen again.
Promise 2: We promise to make the public a part of the machinery of government and planning for the community. Forget the "dog and pony" shows the city has trotted out
And, when a large number of citizens show up to a meeting to express their opinion, they should be listened to with an open mind and courtesy instead of being ignored while the council fawns over developers and special interests. As one resident so eloquently put it in a recent online forum, "We are good people that just want to live in a nice, quiet town that is safe to raise children. We aren't asking for Blackhawk, Walnut Creek or even Brentwood. We just want local politicians that have the same concerns we do."
Promise 3: We promise to preserve the rural character of the town and develop according to the City's General Plan. Twelve years after incorporation, the downtown area remains what it was when I first moved here 25 years ago, while surrounding areas have been surrendered to high density development. Yet the General Plan stresses lower density, larger lot, mixed development. Meanwhile, the new restaurant complex across from City Hall is an iffy prospect at best along with being a day late and a dollar short. Neither does it capitalize on Oakley's identity or strengths.
And while we're at it, let's bring back the Planning Commission. When I mention that Oakley dumped its Planning Commission, people from other cities are always appalled. It's embarrassing.
And so we stand at a crossroads in Oakley. Unless we elect officials and retain a city manager in touch with the people in November, we could be doomed to becoming just another faceless, overcrowded suburb suffering the crime, social detachment, rootlessness, and cookie-cutter development that characterizes those communities.
Candidates would be wise to make the above three promises and the public wise to hold them to it. If we don't, it may soon be too late.
Ron Borland is a 25-year resident of Oakley.