Pleasanton is on the precipice of its first election under district-based voting for the City Council.
Voters in the northwest and southwest parts of the city are fortunate to have multiple passionate candidates from which to choose on Nov. 8 for this landmark election.
With the city now literally divided by district lines, and a current council that has been distinctly fractured in several key moments over the past two years, voters should look toward candidates who can build bridges among diverse perspectives while achieving important goals to enhance their districts and the city as a whole.
In our view, those council candidates are Dean Wallace in District 1 and Jamie Yee in District 3.
District 1: The northwest district seat is wide open in this campaign, as incumbent Councilmember Kathy Narum is ineligible after hitting the city’s temporary term limit.
With the slate clean, we see an opportunity with Dean Wallace to add the perspective of a young professional with deep Tri-Valley ties and political experience to the Pleasanton dais.
He presents well-reasoned ideas for addressing top priority goals such as sustainability and affordability, public safety, economic development, transparency, city services and the Stoneridge Shopping Center redevelopment planning process — the latter of which will probably be the most important project in District 1 over the upcoming four-year term.
Wallace, who works as a staffer for Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Berkeley), did a savvy job differentiating himself and his approach from that of his boss when called out at our candidate forum on Sept. 12. We’re also impressed by his wide-ranging coalition of supporters this campaign, including elected officials at the local, state and federal levels, unions and trade associations and other stakeholder groups.
Also challenging for the District 1 seat is Planning Commissioner Jeff Nibert, a longtime resident whose platform focuses on quality of life, the environment, safe drinking water, “smart and measured growth” including affordable housing, and Pleasanton’s small-town character.
Nibert has gained some key city experience on the Planning Commission, without question, but we do note that he has not yet truly separated himself as an authority among the commission dais. He brought up smart talking points during our forum and in his public campaigning, but often just at that cursory level without the added depth of actionable solutions. In that way, his opponent stands apart.
District 3: In the three-person race for District 3, incorporating southwestern Pleasanton including part of downtown, the candidate with the most elected and public service stands above in our view.
Jamie Yee, running for City Council for the first time after three terms on the Pleasanton Unified School District Board of Trustees (2008-20), brings a level of experience with government finance, policy work, labor negotiations, broad stakeholder engagement and representative decision-making unmatched in this campaign.
But beyond that track record, Yee has stepped forward with an inspired council candidacy. When we chose not to endorse Yee’s reelection to PUSD two years ago, part of our reasoning was that her mindset on the board seemed stagnant. She appears reinvigorated with this campaign to serve on the council for the city she grew up in.
You need look no further than her strong performance at our forum. Her positions on workforce housing, water reliability in the face of PFAS and calling attention to the stark turnover rate at the top of the city administration in the past two years were just a few of the moments that stood out to us. Her day job working for the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency would add key public health experience to the City Council as well.
Incumbent Julie Testa, running this time to represent District 3, has proven herself a tireless worker on the council to become well-informed on many issues during her four years in office to date. Testa is passionate about her priorities for Pleasanton, but at times that entrenched focus seems to cloud her perspective.
For example, she’s a fierce advocate for maintaining local control, a laudable goal (imperative, really, in this day and age in California), but continually pushing her council colleagues to join a lawsuit challenging state housing mandates and the Regional Housing Needs Allocation is a mistake of tunnel vision. While the underlying arguments might have merit, Pleasanton cannot position itself — legally and financially — in a hard-to-win fight against the state over residential development after losing its notorious, costly housing cap lawsuit not all that long ago.
Councilmembers must be able to prioritize the city government’s well-being over their individual objectives when the moment calls for it.
The other District 3 candidate, newcomer Joel Liu, is running for elected office for the first time amid service on the city’s Committee on Energy and the Environment.
In his campaign, Liu cites top priorities on the minds of many Pleasanton residents: public safety, sustainability, fiscal stability and strengthening the city-school partnership. While all important, we had hoped to hear more specifics at our forum and in our research about how he would accomplish those broad goals, lifting them beyond simply talking points into actionable strategies.
We also commend Liu for pursuing initial experience in the city government on the energy committee, an increasingly relevant advisory group these days. We feel, though, his candidacy would be that much stronger with more tangible decision-making experience, and encourage him to pursue a spot on the Planning Commission.
Mayor: Let us also offer a word about Mayor Karla Brown, who is uncontested but still on the ballot Nov. 8. She has our support as well.
Brown took office while the city was still in the throes of the pandemic, and in many ways her tenure thus far has been defined by overcoming challenging situations. She has led the council during tough budget deliberations, the transition to a new city manager, the vital COVID-19 response of 2021, and the ongoing Housing Element update and water safety and supply debates.
We’re also particularly struck by the fact Brown had no challengers this fall. We can’t see that as anything other than a ringing endorsement from the community and stakeholder groups alike about the job Brown has done in her first term as mayor. This public backing alone is enough to bolster our support for Brown’s reelection; her performance from the council’s center chair and throughout the city often these past two years only serves to strengthen our stance.
Vote Dean Wallace for Pleasanton City Council District 1, Jamie Yee for City Council District 3 and Karla Brown for mayor.
Editor’s note: The Pleasanton Weekly editorial board reached its decisions based on the candidates’ performances at the Weekly’s forum, email interviews on endorsements, and our review of past reporting and research.
This article was originally published by Pleasanton Weekly.