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Occupy wades into Petaluma City Council race

The activist group Occupy Petaluma jumped into the political fray this election with a list of questions for City Council candidates, and some of the responses — and a question about surveillance drones — have sparked quite a discussion.

Occupy Petaluma, the 1-year-old organization that calls itself “a diverse group standing ground for the 99 percent,” posed nine queries to the six candidates seeking election on Nov. 6. The questions and replies are posted in a “virtual forum” on the group’s website.

Incumbents Tiffany Renée, Mike Healy and Gabe Kearney are seeking to retain their seats while Alicia Kae Herries, Jason Davies and Kathy Miller are challenging. With three seats on the seven-member council up for grabs, the results could install a solid majority in either direction or establish a moderate mix.

Candidate questionnaires often ask some of the same questions, like those about economic goals, budget priorities and views on development.

But Occupy folks asked an unusual pair: “Would you oppose the use of drones by the Petaluma Police Department?” and “Would you support an anti-drone ordinance for Petaluma?”

One candidate, Healy, answered with almost a giggle: “We would only need drones if the Taliban are spotted in Penngrove.”

He went on to write that there are several higher priorities for police funding than unmanned flying surveillance devices. Other candidates agreed, saying they oppose the use of drones and/or had privacy concerns.

Amy Hanks, a leader of Occupy Petaluma’s Democracy working group, acknowledged that the question was not taken seriously by every candidate.

“Some of the candidates actually were kind of dismissive,” she said. But she defended the unusual question.

“We don’t know” if it’s a realistic possibility in Petaluma, she said. “But there are enough privacy concerns that I think it’s reason to broach the question.”

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