Uploaded: Friday, October 9, 2009, 11:44 AM
|John Hackmann calls himself a "problem solver" and he can cite, off the top of his head, a dozen examples to prove his point. Among them, he helped launch a citywide bus system, worked to make blood transfusions safer and initiated a car-sharing program.
Hackmann, an energetic attorney, said his fascination with public policy dates back more than three decades.
As a student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the mid 1970s, he helped start a citywide bus service. He lobbied residents to support the bus system, which was funded through a flat and refundable fee.
A few years later, Hackmann dropped out of the university's doctorate math program and moved to California to help Dr. J. Garrett Allen -- Stanford University Medical Center chair of surgery -- develop a system for lowering the risk of hepatitis in blood transfusions.
Hackmann promoted outreach to altruistic (and generally healthy) college students for blood donations and advocated for more cooperation between blood banks to make sure blood is efficiently shipped to where it's needed.
"I had to change the culture of blood banking from a culture of scarcity to one of sharing," said Hackmann, 61.
That was just the beginning.
A few years later, as an impoverished law student at Stanford University, he spearheaded the creation of a car-sharing program at Stanford's Whitman House -- a program that enabled 53 undergraduate students to share a 1964 AMC Rambler.
Hackmann believes it to be one of the first car-share programs in the country.
He also created a consulting firm at Stanford to give law students environmental jobs. He is most proud of getting the dean of the school to work for him, at a cost of $400 an hour.
More recently, Hackmann has become a familiar face at City Council meetings. He's been a leading critic of Measure A, the proposed business-license tax, which he famously dubbed the "Michael Yore tax" after the retired police sergeant who reportedly botched the Children's Theatre investigation and whose pension payments Hackmann said will come from tax revenues.
The tax, slated for the November ballot, would be based on employee count, with rates varying on business types.
He said he is particularly concerned about the prospect of the city auditing and inspecting small businesses for compliance.
"I believe that passing this tax could lower Palo Alto's revenues over the next 10 years," Hackmann said. "You have business people who are already thinking about whether they will be staying here or going and this could force them to leave."
In a Palo Alto Neighborhoods questionnaire, he argued that the city should instead market itself as one of the few cities without a business tax -- a campaign that could be called "Business Destination Palo Alto."
With a campaign motto of "control spending," Hackmann sees revamping Palo Alto's pension formula for city employees as key to the city's financial security. Specifically, he says he wants to make sure the city identifies how it would account for all of its pension obligations before the end of every fiscal year.
One big-ticket item that Hackmann is concerned about is the proposed high-speed rail, which under current plans would stretch along the Caltrain corridor. Like the council, he vehemently opposes a wall for elevated tracks stretching along the corridor.
In addition, he believes the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which is charged with implementing the $40 billion project, is ill-equipped to do so. The project should be spearheaded by Caltrans, he said, which has far more experience and expertise in major transportation projects.
"Something like this should not be done by an amateur outfit that hasn't built a huge project before," Hackmann told the Weekly.
Hackmann was one of the last candidates to declare his desire to run for office and made the decision to run after former Mayor Gary Fazzino encouraged him to do so.
"When I saw there weren't many people experienced in public policy entering the City Council race, I wanted to make sure there's at least enough people to vote for who could actually make public policy decisions," Hackmann said.
— Gennady Sheyner
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